Selections for April 2017

An All-Star Winemaker Affair

2014 PIROUETTE from the LONG SHADOWS VINTNERS COLLECTION – Columbia Valley, Washington State

This is a project packed with great wines.  Behind the wines are a terrific winegrowing region and an impressive list of all-star wine names starting with Allen Shoup.  Allen worked as a marketing director for Gallo in Modesto before heading north to join Chateau St. Michelle in 1980.  This now-powerhouse winery was far more modest in size and objectives back in that day, but Allen’s leadership (including 17 years as CEO) helped it become one of America’s larger producers maintaining an unusually high quality standard.  He was also instrumental in bringing European wine greatness to Washington with the Col Solare project (involving Tuscany’s icon Antinori) and Eroica, which utilizes Germany’s famed Dr. Ernst Loosen. 

In 2002, Shoup embarked on a new adventure, Long Shadows Vintners.  I know of no other winery like it:  Each Long Shadows wine employs a different internationally-renowned specialist.  Mosel Riesling expert Armin Diel shows what Washington State can do with that grape.  Randy Dunn heads north from Howell Mountain, Napa Valley to render “Feather” Cabernet Sauvignon.  Globe-trotting Michel Rolland does “Pedestal” Merlot, one of the best examples I’ve ever tasted.  The former maker of Penfolds Grange John Duval heads up from Down Under to do “Sequel” Syrah . . .   – And these are not one-time-only efforts; each winemaker has a stake in the company and remains committed vintage after vintage.  The wines consistently receive rave accolades but the California appreciator is a rare one, with so many more local distractions.  That’s an opportunity for TWS, we believe; the chance to expose greatness from another place. 

“Pirouette” involves Augtin Hunneus on a “VIP” level while Napa’s sought-for Philippe Melka performs the more “hands-on” wine shepherding.  This is a Bordeaux-style blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon,  18% Petit Verdot, 17% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Malbec.  Young (just released).  Unrated (but Long Shadows wines have an incredible track record in the score department).  Dark.  Tight.  Pure.  Cellarable.  We suggest you hang on to this for a while!!    

As mellow as its proprietors . . .

2013 HIGHTOWER MERLOT – Red Mountain, Washington State

To know this wine is to know Tim and Kelly Hightower – or the other way around.  In other words, the easygoing style happening in this Merlot is akin to the affability of its husband and wife winemaking / small business-owning team:  Genuine, welcoming, thoughtful.

This pair is among very few to be accessing Red Mountain fruit while actually living, winemaking, and hosting visitors in that very place.   The small appellation is considered by many producers to be among Washington State’s best, but most of these wineries are more conveniently located in Walla Walla, Yakima, or Woodinville.  Just Hedges, Col Solare, and a few others call the Hightowers neighbors on the “Mountain” (More of a really big, sun-spanked hill) itself.  Their tasting room is small but innovatively designed with all kinds of “green” aspects.  Their fruit hangs right outside its doors.  Their appeal is immediate, as is the style of their reds.

We advocate cellaring many of your Red Collector reds including the Pirouette described above.  Based on the mellowness of this Merlot you might anticipate this being a rare exception.  Indeed, how can a wine so soft and easy possess the “vertebrae” of age-ability?  - Yet a recent experience with Tim and Kelly showed that their stuff really does endure.  We were drinking wonderfully-evolved ten-year-old Hightower renditions with a feast of their own preparation.  Maybe there’s something sustaining about being so low-key?!  This wine BARELY gets into California, but we (and the Hightowers) made it happen for you.