Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Wine-Filled Long Shadows Dinner

Definitely one of my favourite times of the year, the annual Vancouver International Wine Festival got under way yesterday. The showpiece Festival Tasting Room doesn't open its door until later in the week, but the myriad of tastings, seminars and winemaker dinners are now ripe for the picking. Boo tends to find the big tasting room a bit overwhelming; so, we opted to whet his whistle with one of the winemaker dinners that sounded very interesting.

The dinner was being held at Coast and was to feature the wines of Long Shadows. Despite it's being an acclaimed Vancouver restaurant, I'd never eaten at Coast but I had always hoped to get to there eventually. Being paired up with a Washington state winery was a great selling point for me since we don't see much opportunity to taste Washington wines here above the 49th Parallel. I wasn't even aware of the breadth of the winery's lure when I booked the tickets but, boy, talk about falling into a lucky circumstance.

Long Shadows Vintners is a truly intriguing, joint venture operation. Founded by Washington State wine pioneer Allen Shoup (who, surprising everyone, turned up at the dinner as a plus-one for one of the guests), their website describes Long Shadows as "a collection of ultra-premium wines created by internationally acclaimed winemakers from the major wine regions of the world. Each winemaker is part owner in this unique winery dedicated to producing individual wines that showcase the viticultural excellence of Washington State's Columbia Valley."

Seven wineries currently make up Long Shadows and each of the collaborations sees the renowned partner work individually with Shoup and resident winemaker, Gilles Nicault, to produce a "best of type" wine under its own label. Nicault tends to the home base and consults with each of the winemaker partners - who visit at least twice a year - to craft the wines to everyone's distinct styles and directions. We were regaled with each of those seven wines and to some incredible food. I know that I tweeted that it was too hard to pick a favourite pairing.

The wines, however, consisted of:

Poet's Leap Riesling, made by Armin Diel of Germany's Schlossgut Diel.

Chester Kidder red blend - the home team project of Nicault's and Shoup's.

Tuscan father and son team, Ambrogio and Giovanni Folonari's "Super Tuscan" - Saggi, a Sangiovese/Cab Sauv blend.

Pomerol winemaker and consultant to the world, Michel Rolland's Pedestal Merlot.

Sequel Syrah - made with John Duval, the man, who for 15 years, made one of Australia's most acclaimed wines, Penfold's Grange.

Feather Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley's Randy Dunn.

I could only wish to add all of these wines to The List (maybe over time I'll be able to) but I'm actually going to add the seventh of the Long Shadows wines to The List - if only because it would be a shame not to add one of these wines as a testament to this dinner. I figure it's a legitimate add though since we experienced incredibly healthy pours of wine all evening. I often find that the wine at winemaker's dinners can be limited to pours designed to make a bottle go a long ways amongst the various diners. There was no shortage of re-pours here however. Indeed, Boo enjoyed the next wine so much that the waiter just left a generous portion of a bottle at our table for us to polish off at our leisure. This might be a tad hard to believe but I was even turning down second pours of some wines because it was a school night and I figured we'd done more than enough damage to the offering of wines.

1265. 2009 Long Shadows Pirouette (Columbia Valley - Washington)

In addition to being a fancy ballet move, Piourette is now a premium, small lot wine that falls under the influence of Philippe Melka, who hails from Napa via Bordeaux and many prestigious wine stops in between, and Agustin Huneeus, Sr. who contributes his four decades of winemaking skills - largely styled in the Bordeaux tradition. Long Shadow's website proudly mentions that Huneeus' own wines include the 1999 vintage Quintessa that garnered 100 points.

Not surprisingly, given the winemakers' heritage, this is a Bordeaux or Meritage blend of  59% Cab Sauv, 27% Merlot, 13% Cab Franc and 3% Malbec. There may be French sensibilities directing this wine but its nose and palate were generous with concentrated, ripe Washington fruit. It was a given that Boo needed to tip our waiters generously for having left the bottle behind.

It never ceases to amaze me why there's such a dearth of Washington and Oregon wineries that participate in the VIWF - especially given how close they are to Vancouver and given the prominence of the Festival - but this was a wonderful way to learn about a unique operation and some incredible wines. It was a great start to my Festival and, without a doubt, the evening was one of the best wine dinners I've ever attended. Bravo to both Coast and to Long Shadows.

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