Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Vino Collabos 2: Wine Giants Cast Long Shadows
The Vino Collabo series takes its inspiration from the music industry’s recent tendency towards putting talented artists in the same room and seeing what comes out of that natural synergy. While many times it’s the musicians themselves, (read winemakers) it’s often the producers of the collaboration who are the real stars. They bring a vision, an understanding of complexity, and a knack for spotting talent. Allen Shoup is just such a “producer;” a man who has a knack for seeing talent and has a vision for what Washington wine can be.
Long Shadows Vintners is the ultimate collaboration when it comes to bringing the world to Washington wine. The project is the brainchild of true Washington wine pioneer Allen Shoup. To try and encapsulate all that Shoup has done for Washington, and really the global wine industry, would take up pages and pages, and this is a blog, not a legitimate source of news like a magazine or newspaper. Let me put it to you like this: Allen Shoup is a baller. He was a Chateau Ste Michelle pioneer, involved with Columbia Crest, and it's not too much to say he is one of the people who built Washington wine. Baller.
What Shoup brings to the table in Long Shadows is his considerable clout and his understanding of the talent of the world's most talented winemakers as they try their hand at crafting beautiful wine from Washington fruit. But that's what Shoup does; he laid the groundwork for the Antinori & Chateau Ste. Michelle partnership in Col Solare and is working with Ernst Loosen and the Eroica Rieslings as well.
The Long Shadows Vintners program has a broader approach. As a result, we see partnerships with renowned winemakers from California, Germany, Australia, France and Tuscany come together in Long Shadows’ nine wines. I'll focus on four wines specifically as those were the ones I tasted through.
The Poet's Leap Riesling 08 is made by Germany's Armin Diel, a man who has Riesling in his blood. His family has been making wine in Germany since 1802. That's a little while. This Riesling is a beautiful example of what Washington can produce; it has great acidity and residual sugar below 1.5. The wine's hint of sweetness allows the citrus elements and minerality to really show themselves. The wine retails around $19. While it’s a bit more than what you might usually pay for Washington Riesling, pick one up and experience what old world deference can do with this state's fruit.
The Pirouette 2006 is a Bourdeaux style blend that's crafted by Augustin Huneeus Sr. and Philippe Melka, a Frenchman who's made his mark all over Napa Valley. Melka's reputation for technical expertise and his ability to blend wines to a beautiful conclusion was paired with Huneeus's philosophy of allowing the terroir to show itself. The resulting Pirouette is a deep dark blend anchored by more than 50% Cabernet. The Wahluke Slope Cabernet gives the wine tannic structure and ripe fruit characteristics and lots of ripe dark fruit characters on the palate with a tobacco and earthen nose. This wine retails around $54.
The Sequel Syrah 06 is a what winemaker John Duval sees as the follow up to his career crafting the legendary Australian Shiraz, Penfolds Grange. John started at Penfolds 36 years ago and among his accolades are a Winemaker of the Year award and Wine of the Year by Wine Spectator in 1995. The man knows his way around Syrah, or Shiraz, whatever you decide to call it. The Sequel, also around $54, contains 2% Cabernet and exhibits a lot of the fruit character of Washington Syrah: loads of dark fruit, plum and a savory nose.
The last wine we looked at from Long Shadows was the Saggi 2006. I’m not sure how to sum this up except to say it's one of the best wines I've had in some time. The wine, crafted by Italian father and son, Ambrogio and Giovanni Folonari, is a Super-Tuscan wine, and, in this case, is a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet and Syrah. The wine is superb, with complex fruit characteristics, a impression of the oak that was used and as a result, has a beautiful nose with one of the most luxurious finishes I've ever experienced. This was my favorite of the four samples Long Shadows provided. This wine retails at $45. Go get it, it's easily worth the price tag.
The Long Shadows collabo is a fascinating one. It’s an opportunity for those of us who tend to favor the wines of Washington to see how some of the most talented winemakers in the world approach the world class fruit grown here. It’s also a validation that this is indeed a special place for wine to grow.
(These wines were provided as samples.)