Winemaking by FedEx

Consultants have long been a fact of winemaking life worldwide. Once vintners have built up a reputation for skill and commercial success, they can make good money flying about the globe—some really big names may contract with as many as two dozen wineries—giving other winemakers tips, not to mention lending the prestige of their name to their respective marketing departments. Washington's Allan Shoup, though, seems to be the first wine entrepreneur to base his entire business plan on a consortium of consultative celebrities. The first release from his firm, Long Shadows,was a riesling crafted to the specs of Germany's Armin Diel. Latest to join Shoup's exclusive club is John Duval, who spent nearly 30 years bringing Australia's Penfolds label to international acclaim. Duval actually visited Washington last year to select grapes and supervise the crush of an as-yet-unnamed syrah that "represents the Columbia Valley's 'best of type'" for Long Shadows. Long Shadows has its own resident winemaker: Gilles Nicault, late of Walla Walla's Woodward Canyon Winery. Still, how can globe-trotting wine-makers keep enough in touch with the evolution of "their" wine to know when it's time to rack, to fine, to bottle? "It's not that hard these days," a representative of Long Shadows told me. "You've heard of FedEx, haven't you? If there's a question, you can just send a sample." Soos' '02s Quite a number of Washington's boutique winemakers got their start squeezing and fermenting as members of the Boeing Co.'s employee wine club, though few of that number stuck with both Boeing and winemaking as long as Dave Larsen. But last spring Larsen finally hung up his Boeing six-guns after 28 years (this is early retirement, Dave?) to devote himself full time to his Soos Creek Wine Cellars operation in the Kent Valley. Larsen made his name producing tiny, handcrafted lots of wine made exclusively from the grape varieties used in the Bordeaux region of France. Two wines from the sumptuous summer of 2002 are now in open release: Sundance ($20) is a ready-to-drink blend made mostly from merlot and cabernet sauvignon, with a dash of cab franc and a whisper of petit verdot; the Champoux Vineyard Blend ($33), described by Larsen himself as "dark and decadent," breaks two-thirds/one-third cab sauv and cab franc. If you're already on Larsen's mailing list, you can also procure the '02 Stampede Pass ($26) and Ciel de Cheval cab ($32); otherwise, you'll have to wait till they're in stores next spring.

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