Long Shadows Pirouette Bordeaux blend Washington Columbia Valley 2009
2012 - 2020
The Long Shadows project of Philippe Melka and Agustin Huneeus Sr., the 2009 Pirouette blends Cabernet Sauvignon largely from Red Mountain, with 27% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Franc and 3% Malbec. High-toned evocations of herbal distillates are married to confitured dark berries, chocolate, caramel and spice cake. The tannin here is powdery, if not quite melted; and 14.9% alcohol in no way mars a soothingly sustained, rather dessert-like finish. I envision this as being worth following for at least 6-8 years. Melka utilizes smell wooden fermentors. (Interestingly, a modest amount of Syrah was included in the first three renditions of Pirouette, but was significantly reduced in 2006 and did not reappear thereafter.) Allen Shoup’s vision and ambition for Long Shadows – not to mention his financial commitment (banks, he reports, only ever kicked-in 20% of the total investment) – was and remains audacious, and he has clearly lived up to the promise he made to each of the world-renowned vintners whom he invited to craft a wine from Washington State that no expenses would be spared in giving them whatever it was they wanted from Long Shadow’s facilities, as well in extended elevage and leisurely release dates. “They took me up on my word a lot more than I thought they would,” says Shoup with a laugh. Along the way, manifestly talented Gilles Nicault – hired-away from Woodward Canyon in 2003 with the idea that he would be the point man doing the bidding of his much more famous winemaking colleagues – became more of a consultant and confident to them as well as being assigned a label and project of his own under the Long Shadows umbrella; and in 2006 a huge and hugely impressive facility was completed west of Walla Walla to house this unique operation. The number of visits made by each winemaking luminary to taste and tend his project varies, but there is every indication that they all take their aesthetic capital in Long Shadows (in which each also has an ownership share) very seriously. All of the above granted, as inspiring as this project and the participation of such internationally famous talents is – and must be as well for the growers of Washington collectively – those veterans who have set this State’s qualitative benchmarks were not in need of a Long Shadows to learn how or be inspired to render distinctive world class Washington wine. Sources for these projects include the estate vineyard The Benches – formerly Wallula Vineyards, but still managed for the Long Shadows partners by its founders, the Den Hoeds – as well as selected blocks of Boushey, Candy Mountain, Conner Lee, Sagemoor, Stone Tree and Tapteil. I’ve included a few details about the approach behind each of the Long Shadows wines in my notes on their most recent releases below. “If somebody went through these wines and said it was quite clear that they exhibited a common Long Shadows thread,” explains Shoup, “I wouldn’t like that compliment, because what I want is that each of these wines has its own signature.” Generally speaking though, I find a common denominator of extremely sweet, ripe, confitured fruit and surface polish. It also strikes me that the money Shoup and company aren’t sparing on new wood makes for one of their most efficacious but also least well-considered expenses, since many Long Shadow reds are awfully obviously marked by their toasted oak. Incidentally, Shoup and Nicault indicated that with the exception of John Duval (and then only for occasional lots), none of the Long Shadows collaborators believes in adding tartaric acid to their musts.