What Is the “Twist?”

Steve Chapman

The theme of the June dinner was “Washington State Wines with a Twist.” So, what exactly is the “twist”? I’ll tell a short story to explain.

After 20 years building Chateau Ste. Michelle into an international brand, Washington wine visionary Allen Shoup had a new vision: to create a group of ultra-premium wines, each with an exceptional international winemaker, working together to elevate Washington wine to true world-class status. The result is Long Shadows Vintners and some of Washington’s most acclaimed wines.

Allen knew the ambitious project would need a director of winemaking and viticulture who was highly knowledgeable and flexible enough to help the collaborating winemakers realize their vision. Allen tapped Gilles Nicault for the job. At the time, Gilles was working as winemaker for Woodward Canyon, one of Washington’s premier wineries.

Note: This story continues with wines featured at the Washington State Wines with a Twist dinner.

With Gilles’ position secured, Allen recruited a veritable who’s who of winemakers including Randy Dunn (the first enologist for Caymus Vineyards, Napa; Feather Cabernet Sauvignon), Armin Diel (a sixth generation winemaker and highly-acclaimed Riesling producer, Germany; Poet’s Leap Riesling), and father-and-son winemakers Ambrogio and Giovanni Folonari (the family has been producing and distributing Italian wines since 1825, now from six estates producing Chianti Classico, Super Tuscan, Montepulciano, Montalcino, and Maremma among others, Italy, Saggi Red Wine).

Recruiting winemakers from around the world, each to produce a single Columbia Valley wine representing a “best of type,” was only half of the plan. Allen knew each winemaker would come with their own winemaking techniques and requirements, so a world-class winery was designed and built, capable of making wine to each winemaker’s rigorous specifications.

In 2007, just four short years from its inception, Food & Wine magazine named Long Shadows “Winery of the Year.”

Gilles recently assumed the winemaking duties for Poet’s Leap and Saggi in the style of their original winemakers.

Not every moment calls for the quality and price point of Long Shadows wines, so the vintners set out to make ordinary occasions special by using Long Shadows’ tremendous winemaking facilities and knowledge to make a line of everyday wines. And so, Nine Hats was born out of the renowned Long Shadows Vintners. The results are delicious, approachable, thoroughly drinkable wines, at a price point such that we can enjoy them any day of the week.