Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wine Blogging Wednesday #57: California Inspirations and the Visionary Vintner

I love stories and especially stories than can tie people and places together - giving us a common ground and a sense of home. From the time I was a little girl, I loved reading stories about young heroines searching for their own sense of home like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Or young women who, like fruit on the vines, understood their sense of place - their terroir, such as Meg in Little Women and Laura from Little House on the Prairie. The colorful and detailed illustrations of these stories also captivated me as a child and would take me away deep into the colored pages. And I think because of those wonderful stories of my youth, along with the beautiful pages of color and often whimsy, it is one of the reasons why I get caught up on the story of winemakers and their wines. I am intrigued with their stories, and especially if those stories are shared on wine labels like an artist’s palette.

The May theme for Wine Blogging Wednesday #57 is “California Inspirations.” Our host is Jeff Leverre from the colorfully illustrated wine blog, Good Grape: A Wine Manifesto. His chosen theme is inspired by the 1-year anniversary of Robert Mondavi’s passing. Jeff has asked us to choose a California wine that has acted as a memorable mile marker on our wine journey and to share the story.

I had to really think about this theme. As you know, I have limited this blog to wines from my home - the Walla Walla Valley. How could I fit a California wine into this blog? I thought about it and came up with the answer - - a true inspiration - - with a wonderful story!

One of my many favorite wines from the Walla Walla Valley has been inspired by a winemaker from California and the winery responsible for this unique consortium, has deep roots back to Robert Mondavi. Long Shadow's Vintners, located in the Walla Walla Valley, was founded by winemaking and viticulture pioneer, Allen Shoup who has forged winemaking partnerships from acclaimed winemakers throughout the world and now - - many of these winemakers have partnered with Allen to create world class wines that showcase the viticultural excellence of Washington State.

Randy Dunn of Dunn Vineyards in California, is one of those winemakers who have partnered with Long Shadows to create wines from Washington grapes. Dunn has a reputation for creating world class Cabernet Sauvignons and Randy brings his artistry and expertise to Long Shadows, from California, to produce small quantities of Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington State's finest vineyards.

"Feather" is Dunn's creation from Washington State. A couple of weeks ago, I did a private tasting at the winery of the new 2006 release. Beautiful! Rich and full-bodied like a Cabernet Sauvignon should be crafted, but at the same time it was velvety and smooth. The nose was aromatic of fresh berries and the palate was spicy and condensed with notes of dark ripe cherries. As a fan of Feather's past vintages, the new vintage didn't disappoint me. It's on my list of "swoon-worthy" wines - - and a wine I would consider a "California inspiration" and journeyed all the way up to Walla Walla, WA!

And as I near the end of inspirations and wine journeys, I am reminded back to May 16, 2008, the morning of Robert Mondavi's passing. After I heard the news, I thought about the legacy Mondavi left to everyone who was a New World wine aficionado, whether they knew of him or not. And I also wondered how he may have influenced Washington State's own wine legacy and of course, especially the wine industry in Walla Walla. Later that morning, I was reminded of this quote from Allen Shoup, of Long Shadow's Vintners in Walla Walla, WA. It was from an article in the March 21, 2008 issue of the former WASHINGTON CEO Magazine, "Refined Vintages" and I added the quote to my blog about Mondavi, titled: Visionary Vintner.

"The genesis for Long Shadows goes back to Robert Mondavi, who I got to know when I worked for Gallo in the 1970s and who is still a good friend," says Shoup. "In 1978 he and the Baron de Rothschild came out with Opus One, their joint project in Napa Valley. It instantly hit me as an ingenious thing to do. California was still fighting back then for recognition and Opus One helped put Napa wine on the map -- I give a lot of credit to Bob, who always promoted Napa ahead of his own wine. But if Bob was building a mountain in California, up here in Washington we were still in a chasm." - - Allen Shoup

A couple of days after the Mondavi blog entry, Allen Shoup of Long Shadows left a comment that he was one of the five speakers who had been invited to speak at the private event held for Mondavi. Allen thanked me for remembering Robert Mondavi on my blog. I felt humbled and honored that Allen took the time to share this with my readers and me.

So that's my personal wine journey of my "California inspiration." It tells a story of tying people and places together - giving us common ground and a most of all, still leaving me with a sense of home.

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