“Dream Team of Winemakers
By Christina Kelly
Imagine having the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright come to your neighborhood to design a building.
Picture Jane Austin in your study writing a new novel, or Julia Child preparing a fabulous meal in your kitchen.
Some of the world’s most respected winemakers have come to Washington State to make serious wine, the result of a new venture to bring a “Dream Team” from many corners of the world to Washington state.
Long Shadows Vintners is the brainstorm of Allen Shoup, 59, former CEO of Stimson Lane (Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia Crest wineries, to name a few). Shoup said those who “have cast long shadows on the wine industry” inspired the name.
The new partnerships have bloomed into six new wineries producing premium wine in small quantities. Shoup has selected California winemakers Randy Dunn (Feather) and Agustin Huneeus (Pirouette), Bordeaux chateau owner Michel Rolland (Pedestal), the proprietor of Chateau Le Bon-Pasteur in Pomerol, Australian John Duval (Sequel), and German Riesling producer Armin Diel (Poet's Leap). In addition, resident winemaker Giles Nicault makes a sixth wine under the Chester Kidder label.
Dunn makes impressive Cabernet Sauvignon from Howell Mountain, highly sought by wine collectors.
“Randy has made three of the best wines to come out of Napa (including his work with Caymus and Pahlmeyer),” said Shoup. “He is a maverick and a pioneer and he wants to make the best cab to ever come out of Washington.”
Huneeus created Concha y Toro in Chile (later sold) and Franciscan Estates in California (also sold, although he and his son are still involved) and his home vineyard, Quintessa, producing premium Meritage. He and Shoup have been friends for years and Huneeus said he jumped at the opportunity.
“I always admired him (Shoup) for what he was doing in Washington,” Huneeus said. “This is a new chapter for him. I believe it will be a very fun group and I am intrigued to be a part of it.
“My idea is to make the best wine I can make. I’ve found Washington wine to be amazing. It is definitely a state with a very bright future.”
In addition to his own chateau, Rolland consults for wineries in Europe and California. Shoup said he hopes Rolland will want to produce Merlot and Cabernet Franc, as he does in Pomerol. But he says he will leave it up to the winemakers.
Shoup is talking to other winemakers with international credentials, including those from Italy, Australia and Germany. He says there is no shortage of winemakers who have contacted him for inclusion in his venture. He has also discovered that grape growers in Eastern Washington are also eager to open discussions.
The plan is to start in Walla Walla, but the wineries, which will all eventually have a bricks and mortar site, may sprout up nearer to the vineyards selected by the winemakers. The winemakers will meet in Washington in May and tour some of the vineyards, selecting sites for sourcing grapes.
Long Shadows Vintners has now released its 2003 vintage. Long Shadows Vintners has a board of investors, including Don Petersen, former CEO of Ford Motor Company, retired Admiral Joseph Prueher, who served as ambassador to China under the Clinton administration, Anthony von Mandl, owner of Mission Hill Winery in British Columbia’s Okanogan Valley, and Arnie Prentice, chairman of Kibble & Prentice insurance brokerage firm. All met Shoup during his tenure at Stimson Lane and became friends, sharing the common interest of good wine, Shoup said.
Mondavi as the Inspiration
Shoup spent 20 years as CEO of Stimson Lane, starting at a time when wine production was in its infancy in the Northwest. He became a champion of the Pacific wine industry and sought mentors who could advise him on his road to put Washington State on the map as a contender of world-class premium wine.
He watched as Robert Mondavi, in 1980, created Opus One, an exceptional Bordeaux-style wine, produced by Mondavi and the Chateau Mouton Rothschild families.
“He was an inspiration to me,” Shoup said about the wine industry pioneer. “(At the time), I had a close relationship with May de Lecquesaing, owner of Pichon-Lalande and knew she loved Washington wines. We tried for years to put together a joint venture ala Opus, but it never quite happened.”
About the same time as the Opus collaboration, Shoup became acquainted with Piero Antinori, of Tuscany, who agreed to partner with Chateau Ste. Michelle to produce Col Solare, a Bordeaux blend using Syrah.
But it was Mondavi that Shoup sought for advice and guidance. After his retirement, when he decided to create Long Shadows Vintners, he contacted Mondavi for inclusion in his project.
“Bob’s encouragement was critical to my decision to do my current venture,” Shoup said. “He thought it was a no-brainer.”
Mondavi is now 90-years-old, and as much as he wanted to participate, he eventually declined, telling Shoup in an endearing letter that if he was “10 years younger,” he would gladly be a participant.
Is it Working ?
Shoup is a communicator with vision and a genteel touch, say those in the wine industry. If there is any doubt about Washington State’s emergence as a world-wide producer of premium wines, Long Shadows Vintner reaffirms the quality of Washington wines, said Steve Burns, former executive director of the Washington Wine Commission. (Shoup helped create the commission while at Stimson Lane.)
“The fruit has to be there, or else he couldn’t pull this off, regardless of his connections in the wine industry,” said a Washington grape grower. “There is a lot of buzz about this in our industry.”
With the economic decline in the past few years, Shoup says he recognizes that the creation of six new wineries producing premium wine ( sold at $60 per bottle for the 2003 vintage) seems to be a large feat. Wine production will probably peak at about 1,000 cases per winery and Shoup says most of the winemakers have loyal fans who will seek out the wine in fine wine shops and restaurants.
Shoup says his most important contribution to the wine industry, leading up to his current project, is the ability to pick good people to do their jobs well.
“I have surrounded myself with some of the most talented people in the industry,” he said. “Even though I was the final say on all of our accomplishments, and mistakes, which fortunately never got recorded, I couldn’t have done any of it without them.
“That’s not true. I didn’t need any help to make the mistakes,” he added, laughing.
The Shoup Legacy
Under the tenure of Allen Shoup, Stimson Lane formed partnerships with international winemakers and created new offerings from Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia Crest. In addition, Shoup stood at the helm when Chateau Ste. Michelle went from a single brand winery doing $5 million per year, into a multi-international wine company doing $175 million per year. Wines that didn’t attract much attention received high scores while Shoup was CEO.
Shoup named the Columbia Valley appellation and filed the paperwork to get it approved. He began the Domaine Ste. Michelle Sparkling Wine line, Whidbey’s Port, purchased Snoqualmie, Conn Creek and Villa Mt. Eden. He started the Washington Wine Institute, the Northwest Wine Auction and helped create and maintained 50 percent of the vote of the Washington Wine Commission. He participated in the founding of the American Vintners Association and sat on the California Wine Institute Board.
1993: The Artist Series began by featuring Dale Chihuly as the first honored artist, who developed a unique collaboration between Chateau Ste. Michelle and the Pilchuk Glass School. This series continues today honoring these glass artists every year.
1996: Col Solare, a Bordeaux-style blend with the addition of Syrah, made from a partnership with Piero Antinori of Italy.
1999: Eroica, a Riesling made with Ernst Loosen of Germany and Erik Olson from Chateau Ste. Michelle that helped to create a Renaissance for Riesling in the United States, and ramped up sales of Riesling in Europe.
1999: An agreement between Stimson Lane Vineyards and Estates and Brian Croser, executive chairman of Australia’s Petaluma Vineyards to produce super-premium Australian wines, allowing Stimson Lane to become the exclusive marketer of all Petaluma and Bridgwater Mill wines in North America.
Shoup and winemaker Jed Steele planned to establish Northstar as an icon brand, dedicated exclusively to producing a single Merlot. The first vintage was in 1994. Last year, Northstar opened its own winery in Walla Walla.
In 2000, five wines, under the tutelage of Shoup, appeared in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of the Year. The wines: Columbia Crest 1996 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, 1998 Estate Chardonnay, 1997 Estate Merlot, Chateau Ste. Michelle 1999 Eroica Riesling and 1996 Cold Creek Cabernet Sauvignon. At the time, Shoup told reporters he didn’t think it would ever happen again, but it did.
Wine Spectator included another five Stimson Lane wines on the Top 100 list this past year, and Shoup was on board when while those wines were produced. The wines: 2000 Columbia Crest Grand Estate Chardonnay, Reserve Syrah from Columbia Valley, the 1999 Chateau Ste. Michelle Merlot from the Canoe Ridge Estate Vineyard, Eroica (Riesling) from the collaboration with Ernst Loosen, and the 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Grand Reserve from Villa Mt. Eden, owned by Stimson Lane.