Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Visit to Long Shadows Distinguished Wineries & Vineyards

Ooh, Aah, Sock It 2 Me.

Last week I was in Walla Walla, Washington with fellow wine blogger, Ben Simons of vinotology.com. Our first stop was at Forgeron Cellars, where we enjoyed meeting winemaker Marie-Eve Gilla. Marie-Eve is married to Gilles Nicault, Director of Winemaking and Viticulture for Long Shadows Wineries. Marie-Eve was a gracious host, and surprised us in arranging an unscheduled visit with her husband at Long Shadows. The contrast between the two wineries was striking. Forgeron Cellars tasting room is located in downtown Walla Walla. It's cozy, intimate, informal, the wines diverse and the feeling...feminine.

 

Long Shadows, however, is located outside of Walla Walla, on a rural road in the countryside. It is  surrounded by fields and distant farm houses. An impressive, modern looking facility, made of tilt-up concrete slabs painted brick red, the building is incongruous with the rustic countryside, yet fitting in its setting.

Chihuly glass suitable for an art gallery.
  

When you enter the winery, you know you are somewhere special. Magic could happen here. The tasting room is filled with Chihuly glass, comfortable leather chairs line the dark walls, while plenty of natural light spills from the large windows, which provide contemplative views of grass fields, tilled soil and atmospheric perspective. A room of inspiration...a decidedly masculine room.

   

From the tasting room, you can see below to the large wine cellar. It is well lit, clean and one of the best equipped I've seen. Specialized equipment, tanks, and barrels have been selected to fit the needs of the winemaker-partners. It's obvious a great deal of thought went into the design of this winery. Allen Shoup and Gilles Nicault were the Architects of this building.

A smiling Gilles Nicault with wine blogger Ben Simons.
While I knew of Long Shadows, I first met Gilles Nicault last year at Taste Washington Seattle, I realized I was “discovering” Long Shadows for the first time. Gilles guided us through a personal tasting of the wines made at Long Shadows and the philosophy behind this international, multi-partner winery. I thought to myself, “This is why I have a wine blog and why I remain wild for Washington wine.” This was a remarkable wine experience. During our tasting, lyrics from "Sock It 2 Me" by Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott from her 1997 debut album Supa Dupa Fly, kept running through my head “Ooh, Ahh, Sock it 2 me like you want to, ooh...Do it, Do it, Do it, Do it, Do it, Do it, Do it...” 

A beautiful setting for a wondrous wine tasting.
The wines we tasted, in order, include: 

Poets Leap Riesling 2010.
Poet’s Leap Riesling
by Armin Diel (Schlossgut Diel, Nahe, Germany).

Saggi 2007 Super Tuscan style.
Saggi
by Ambrogio & Giovanni Folonari (Cabreo, Nozzole, from Chianti Classico and La Fuga, Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany). This was my favorite wine of the tasting. It is now on my must purchase list.

Feather Cabernet Sauvignon.
Feather Cabernet Sauvignon
by Randy Dunn (Dunn Vineyards, Napa Valley, formerly of Caymus).

Pirouette 2007.
Pirouette
by Agustin Huneeus (Quintessa, Napa Valley) and Philippe Melka (Vineyard 29, Hundred Acre, Napa Valley).

Pedestal Merlot 2007.
Pedestal Merlot
by Michel Rolland (international consultant and owner Le Bon Pasteur, Pomerol).

Chester-Kidder 2006.
Chester-Kidder
by Allen Shoup and Gilles Nicault.

Sequel Syrah 2007.
Sequel Syrah
by John Duval (formerly of Penfold’s Grange, South Australia).

Poet's Leap Botrytis Riesling 2008.
Poet’s Leap Botrytis Riesling
by Armin Diel (Schlossgut Diel, Nahe, Germany). I urge you to purchase a bottle if you can find it. Not cloying, it is a gorgeous example of a botrytis Riesling (and the farmer was going to toss the grapes). It is a refreshing, crisp, sweet treat and would be perfect between multi-course dinners.

The smile on Ben Simons face expressing what we both felt.
If you are able to arrange a visit to Long Shadows, do not schedule any wine tastings afterward. I was moved by the wines, the facility, the environs and by the passion of Gilles Nicault. You will learn, as I did, that Long Shadows has created something wonderful, which will leave an indelible impression on your palate and attitude. You will never fully experience Washington wine until you experience Long Shadow wines.

What is Long Shadows? 

Long Shadows was founded in 2002 by Allen Shoup, former CEO of the Stimson Lane wine group (Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Crest, etc.). Long Shadows is the realization of Mr. Shoups vision to bring together the best winemakers from around the world, to Walla Walla, to make wine which showcases the excellence of  Washington viticulture.

Each individual wine project is headed by a world-famous winemaker who has partnered with Mr. Shoup in a winemaking program aimed at producing unique, ultra-premium wine under a unique label. Each winemaker-partner has their own style and approach. The goal at Long Shadows is to make each individual wine reflect the style of the partners native wine-region. Gilles has different grape allocations for each of the winemakers and knows which technique is required for each varietal that comes to the facility. His great fortune is to work and learn alongside some of the world’s foremost winemakers. Long Shadows is so named in tribute to the stature of this esteemed group of individuals.

Gilles Nicault.
Gilles Nicault: After working the vineyards and wineries of Cote Du Rhone, Provence and Champagne, Gilles Nicault moved to Washington State to investigate the truth of the cultivation of high-quality fruit in Eastern Washington.

Were Washington wines as good as he'd been told?

His adventures led him to an internship at Staton Hills Winery in the Yakima Valley in 1994. In 1996 he started working at Woodward Canyon. After a brief stint at the Hogue Winery, in 1999 he was appointed as the head of Enology and Production at Woodward Canyon. Mr. Nicault joined Allen Shoup at Long Shadows in 2003, where he is Director of  Winemaking & Viticulture. He was the first resident winemaker at Long Shadows.

Thank you to Mr. Nicault for a stunning wine experience. I heartily recommend all of the Long Shadows wines.

www.longshadows.com

Cheers!

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