Gilles Nicault has just about the best job in the Washington wine industry.
Not only does he receive some of the best grapes in the state, but he also works with eight of the world’s most renowned winemakers.
Nicault is the director of winemaking for Long Shadows Vintners, a winery created by the visionary Allen Shoup, former CEO of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. He grew up in France’s Rhône Valley and came to the United States after earning his winemaking degree.
Long Shadows began in 2003, and it is a collaboration with top winemakers who produce wines made from Washington grapes. These winemakers include:
▪ Randy Dunn, a Napa Valley winemaker since 1975, makes Feather.
▪ Armin Diel of Germany makes Poet’s Leap.
▪ Agustin Huneeus Sr. and Philippe Melka produce wines in California and Chile. They make Pirouette.
▪ John Duval, perhaps Australia’s most acclaimed winemaker, makes Sequel.
▪ Ambrogio and Giovanni Folonari of Tuscany make Saggi.
▪ Michel Rolland is perhaps the world’s most famous winemaker. He is from Bordeaux, and he makes Pedestal.
Nicault works with these men to craft the wines, with the collaborations taking place on regular visits and electronically.
The Long Shadows wines are highly collectible and are available at the tasting rooms in Walla Walla and Woodinville, top wine merchants and renowned restaurants.
We recently tasted through the lineup. Here are our reviews:
Feather 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $60: Endearing aromas of black cherry, blackberry and Western serviceberry include espresso, toffee, bittersweet chocolate and charcoal. The delivery to the palate is gorgeous with cherry and plum flavors joined by fine-grain blueberry seed tannins. (14.8% alc.)
Pirouette 2013 Red Wine Columbia Valley, $60: This Cab-leading Bordeaux-style blend spent 22 months in 75 percent new French oak barrels, and that leads to classic aromas of cassis and raspberry with cherry pipe tobacco, vanilla and bittersweet chocolate. Sandy tannins akin to shaved chocolate make for a luscious yet bold drink reminiscent of black cherries, black currant and black olive as blueberry acidity pushes beyond the finish.
Sequel 2013 Syrah, Columbia Valley, $55: Classic white pepper, blackberry and blueberry aromas include sweet herbs, black licorice and bittersweet chocolate. The fluid is reminiscent of sweet black cherries and Hostess berry pie. Marionberry juice adds acidity to the midpalate. A splash of Cabernet Sauvignon boosts the tannin structure of dark chocolate, making for a graceful finish, thanks in part to the 18-month program of 60 percent new French oak.
Pedestal 2013 Merlot, Columbia Valley, $60: Heady aromas of black cherry, Marionberry and dusty huckleberry pick up accents of vanilla, cocoa, chili spices and charcoal. Those fruits are mirrored on the creamy palate, joined by dark blueberry and fine-grained bittersweet chocolate tannins. While the tannins swell toward the finish, bold acidity and dark fruit tones keep up at a delicious pace. Enjoy at the present with a well-marbled porterhouse steak, but patience will be rewarded, too. (15.2% alc.)
Poet’s Leap 2015 Riesling, Columbia Valley, $20: Classic notes of Granny Smith apple, lime zest and minerality lead to clean and elegant flavors of Golden Delicious apple and ripe pear. The residual sugar remains dialed in about 1.25 percent, making for a long and tasty finish. (12.9% alc.)
Saggi 2013 Red Wine, Columbia Valley, $45: Aromas of Moroccan spices and bright cherry mix with dusty red currant, Marionberry and coffee. A sweet and sandy tannin profile allows for Bing cherry, cassis and blackberry flavors. There’s juiciness to the smooth and long finish that also includes vanilla.
Chester-Kidder 2013 red, Columbia Valley, $55: A special project for Nicault and Shoup, Chester-Kidder is a New World blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah that unveils aromas and flavors of dark chocolate, blackberry, plum and dried sage. It’s an elegant wine with velvety tannins that add depth and complexity to this delicious red.
Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, a news and information company. Learn more about wine at greatnorthwestwine.com.