The last day of the 2022 harvest at Long Shadows Vintners was marked by both the completion of our 20th harvest and our founder Allen Shoup's passing.
Allen was a humble gentleman; compassionate, dedicated and passionate. Allen was not only my boss, but an incredible mentor and father-figure. It's emotional for me to think about his harvest-time passing, as I reflect on my own father's passing on the last day of harvest 2018, a man who introduced me to the wine industry through his career in France. Both men shaped me into who I am today. Besides influencing my life, Allen is recognized as one of the pioneers for the Washington State wine industry.
From many publications like Wine Spectator and Wine Business Monthly, to wine critics like Sean Sullivan, to family and friends, we all mourn Allen's passing.
He has inspired us all in the industry with his ambition and generosity. Rick Small, owner and winemaker at Woodward Canyon Winery, still fondly recalls when Allen, then President and CEO at Chateau Ste Michelle (CSM), released some grapes in 1996 to smaller producers. That year, a major arctic freeze had dramatically reduced the volume of fruit available to crush. It was going to be a financial burden to small producers. Although a very delicate situation for CSM, Allen did not hesitate to help his peers in the industry, knowing that this was the symbiotic camaraderie needed to thrive.
His support for the industry did not stop with Washington State and for this, Michel Rolland has a deep respect for Allen. They met in 1987 when sales of Bordeaux wines were tough, and even in a new friendship, Allen did not hesitate to assist where he could by importing Michel's Chateau Fontenile to the United States.
His unique vision, fed by his mentor Robert Mondavi, led Allen to establish the collaborations with Piero Antinori and Dr Loosen in the 90's. Allen was a true visionary. It only felt natural that when he retired from CSM, he created Long Shadows Vintners, a venture of seven collaborations with renowned international winemakers.
The idea was for each partner to produce a single wine representing a "best of type" revealing their own style of wine and winemaking techniques while using top-quality grapes sourced in the Columbia Valley. I could not be more thankful and honored that Allen took me under his wing and placed me at the helm to pilot this project since inception in 2003. Under Allen's mentorship, I collaborated closely with our team of all-star vintners to craft wines with their style and signature grapes grown in the Columbia Valley.
Allen was creative in all aspects; art and design included. He named our wines and always had a clear vision which design would suit the label best to heighten the overall esthetic. The same holds true for our tasting rooms.
The Chihuly Tasting Room in Walla Walla was awarded this year with best tasting room in the nation! Walla Walla Union Bulletin published this article showing Walla Walla Valley also getting first place as the best wine region. We are very humbled and grateful for this award knowing that it reflects Allen's genius and talented gift when creating a wine company. KAPP-KVEW Television came and interviewed me for the occasion.View part one and part two.
Allen's dedication and inspiration was limitless. He always encouraged me to keep up with the winemaking techniques and technology to stay ahead of the game and produce solid, distinctive wines of high quality.
From grape sourcing to cooperage selection and supplying the winery with cutting edge equipment, Long Shadows Vintners has yielded balanced wines of character with a sense of place able to compete with the rest of the world.
In fact, our President and CEO Dane Narbaitz, joined Jeff Boyer of Uncorked and our friend Brian Billdt for an incredible tasting comparing the world class 1998 Penfolds Grange and our first vintage of Sequel, the 2003.
2022 is a perfect reminder that each vintage is unique and distinctive. Sometimes challenging. Always humbling and rewarding.
This year was all of the above. The late budbreak was a blessing as we experienced a vicious spring frost in the first part of April that could have been disastrous if the vines had been more active like the previous years. That said, we started the growing season with a three-week delay. Summer caught up on the heat units, but it felt like mother nature was over-correcting from a cool and wet Spring.
Temperatures in July and August skyrocketed into the hundreds which led the vines to temporarily shut down during these high heat peaks and disrupted veraison, the physiological stage when the berries soften up and the color pigmentations start developing. So here we were in early September, at typical harvest time, with the grapes needing another month to two months hang time to achieve proper physiological maturation. This is a nerve-racking position to be in as a winemaker when we know all too well that our growing season will come to an end sooner rather than later. Precipitations and frosts are usually to be expected. Here again, Allen's dedication to quality came to the forefront. Over the years, we established acreage contracts that allow us to manage the yield to a level that will balance out the growing season and ensure an optimal ripening. We also have ample capacity of fermentation at the winery to not compromise on pick times and maceration regiments. With these assets under our belt and given that 2022 had the very best late season weather I have experienced in my 28 years of winemaking in Washington State, we were able to extend our picks into November and create wines with stunning concentration, intensity and balance.
We look forward to welcoming you at one of our three locations, including our upcoming new Woodinville site. Let's toast to the legacy that Allen left and give cheers to a bright future that would make him proud.
Warmest wishes for the holidays and cheers to a healthy 2023!