Shoup, a former longtime CEO at Ste. Michelle and founder of Long Shadows Vintners, was a friend of Mondavi, the late California wine legend.
A HALF-CENTURY has passed since Robert Mondavi left his family’s Napa Valley winery (Charles Krug) to launch his own eponymous one.
Mondavi changed everything about the burgeoning California wine industry, instilling a sense of professionalism, pride and European sensibility. His work to promote Napa Valley not only changed California, but also the American wine industry, in ways that resonate a decade after his death.
Though Mondavi wasn’t involved in the Pacific Northwest, he influenced the early direction of the Washington wine industry through his friendship with former Ste. Michelle executive Allen Shoup.
Two to try
Made in Walla Walla, the Long Shadows wines are a collaboration of internationally renowned winemakers and French native Gilles Nicault. They are poured in tasting rooms on both sides of the Cascades.
Pirouette 2015 red wine, Columbia Valley, $65: A theme of chocolate sauce, sage, darkly ripe plum and black cherry is backed by supple and approachable tannins in this cab-based blend made in association with Napa’s Philippe Melka and Agustin Huneeus Sr.
Shoup 2014 red wine, Columbia Valley, $90: Luscious dark-chocolate notes meld with horehound candy, dark plum and blackberry, backed by firm yet pliable tannins in this cellar-worthy Bordeaux-style blend. Available only to Long Shadows club members.
Shoup got his start in the wine industry in the 1970s as a marketing director for Gallo, in California. That was how he met, and grew to admire, Mondavi. Through this influence, Shoup learned from Mondavi how to promote Washington wines. Shoup, who was CEO for 17 of his 20 years at Ste. Michelle, from 1980 to 2000, spent a lot of time on the East Coast. He beat the streets to talk to wine critics, sommeliers and retailers, extolling the virtues of Washington wine.
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One of his most significant early moves was to help define the region. To do this, he asked Walter Clore and Wade Wolfe (a pair of respected Ph.D.s who worked for Shoup then) to research and set the boundaries for the Columbia Valley — the 11-million-acre American Viticultural Area that continues to define Washington wine country. They found the historical precedence for the name, then convinced the federal government to approve it as a recognized grape-growing region in 1984; it was the Northwest’s second AVA, after the Yakima Valley.
Today, Washington has 14 approved AVAs, a sign of a mature, well-defined industry. (By comparison, there are 16 within the Napa Valley, which is geographically smaller than the Yakima Valley.)
One obvious Mondavi influence on Shoup was the concept of international collaboration. In 1978, Mondavi teamed with Bordeaux First Growth Chateau Mouton Rothschild to create the ultra-premium Napa winery Opus One.
Shoup used this template to create Col Solare (with the Antinoris of Italy) and Eroica with Ernst Loosen of Germany. His post-Ste. Michelle project, Long Shadows Vintners in Walla Walla, founded in 2002, offers seven brands with similar global collaborations.
Shoup and Mondavi were so close that Shoup gave a eulogy at Mondavi’s funeral. Mondavi’s influence can still be felt across California today, and still reverberates in Washington, thanks to the tireless work of Shoup.