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Sept. 21, 2022

Casting Long Shadows over Columbia Valley w/ Gilles Nicault, Longshadows

Casting Long Shadows over Columbia Valley w/ Gilles Nicault, Longshadows

Director of Winemaking, Gilles Nicault, describes how the partnerships work from both a business and winemaking perspective.


After spending two decades promoting the wines of Washington State, Allen Shoup founded Longshadows, a collective of partnerships leveraging internationally renowned winemaking talent to express the best of the Columbia Valley. Director of Winemaking, Gilles Nicault, describes how the partnerships work from both a business and winemaking perspective; what he’s learned from making wines with the likes of Michel Rolland to Randy Dunn; and how Washington State’s wine profile has been elevated from this concept.  


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Detailed Show Notes: 

Allen Shoup founded Longshadows

  • He was CEO of Ste Michelle Wine Estates (“SMWE”) for 20 years
  • His mentor was Robert Mondavi, who founded Opus One, a collaboration between the old and new world
  • At SMWE, Allen started collaborations with Eroica (Dr. Loosen) and Col Solari (Antinori)
  • Wanted to build partnerships for Longshadows - showcase the Columbia Valley, which is east of the Cascade Mountains and has very dry terroir (~6 inches of rain/year), enabling great diversity of grapes to be grown (Bordeaux, Rhone, Italian, Spanish varieties)
  • The name “Long Shadows” refers to renowned winemakers casting long shadows over the Columbia Valley

Partnerships

  • Poet’s Leap, a Riesling w/ Armin Diel (Schollsgut Diel in Nahe, Germany)
  • Saggi, a Super Tuscan (Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah blend) w/ Ambrogio & Giovanni Folonari (Tuscany)
  • Pedestal, a Merlot w/ Michel Rolland (Pomerol)
  • Pirouette, a Bordeaux style blend w/ Agustin Huneeus, Sr and Phillipe Melka (Napa)
  • Feather, a Cabernet Sauvignon w/ Randy Dunn (Napa)
  • Sequel, a Syrah w/ John Duval (Barossa Valley, Australia)
  • Gilles crafts his own Cab / Syrah blend with 30 months in French oak

All partnerships were established when Longshadows was founded in 2003 except Folonari, which came in 2004

All are true partnerships - each partner owns 25% of their labels, which are separate companies. They are not consultants and are not paid any other fees

Longshadows does the sales & marketing for the wines

Working relationships w/ partners vary

  • John Duval can be there during harvest (Southern Hemisphere)
  • Partners did not give any recipes for wines but pitched in and developed styles together
  • Fruit sourced from across Columbia Valley and its 15 sub-AVAs through acreage contracts
  • Source both old vines and can work with growers to plant specific clones (e.g., German clones for Poet’s Leap Riesling vineyards)
  • Volume of wines set by Allen Shoup and Dane Narbaitz (current President and Allen’s son-in-law), choose quality over quantity
  • Wines that don’t make the main wines go into 2nd label Nine Hats

Each winemaker is so different. Gilles learned there are many ways to make wines

  • E.g., Randy Dunn wants the jacks of the fruit in the wine, whereas Michel Rolland wants all of them out
  • Winemakers are interested in what each other does but do not work together
  • Each winemaker has their own allocation of vineyards and blocks for their wines

Selling Longshadows

  • The wine club “Key Club” is a big part of sales
  • 2 tasting rooms - at the winery (Walla Walla) and in Woodinville (near Seattle)
  • Some distribution in the US and a few international markets

Longshadows was honored to be selected 4x to be served at the White House

The future - partners are getting older, and many are on the verge of retirement. Gilles to carry the flame forward with lessons he’s learned from them

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