We woke with great anticipation. We couldn’t wait to taste what wines were in store. Today was a day to connect with wineries that are old friends. We have had the pleasure of showcasing many of their wines since Coho Restaurant’s inception in 2008.
We started our day at Long Shadows Winery. It was a treat to return to their exquisite facility and to taste with assistant winemaker, Derek, Gilles Nicault’s right hand. Gilles was unexpectedly called away to check on vineyard sites on Red Mountain. Derek took us into the cellar. As we tasted wines in their various stages of fermentation, he shared some wonderful insights as to what he looks for as the wine is fermenting. While he considers and monitors all the computer-generated data about each tank regarding sugar, temperature and relative density, he doesn’t lose sight of the value of daily tastings and intuition.
Having worked with similar vineyard sites over the years, the Long Shadow’s winemaking team has a wealth of historical knowledge about how the grapes are going to react based on each growing season. There is lot of science and data that goes into making wines. At the end of the day, it is all about the taste in your glass. He tastes throughout the entire winemaking process starting with the fruit in the vineyard to the point wines are ready for bottling. As we tasted through several tanks, we had a deeper understanding about the science and magic that goes into each bottle. It was evident that the decisions in the early phases of the wine making process are critical to the final product. A skillful winemaker wants to do a little manipulation as possible during the winemaking process.
As we left Long Shadows and headed to our next appointment, we stopped several times to taste grapes that were still hanging on the vine. Many of these vineyard sites were already picked. However the few remaining clusters provided insight to that particular block from that vineyard.
Figgins Family Wines
Our next stop was Figgins Family Wines. Chris Figgins founded his own label after taking over the reins from his father, Gary Figgins, founder of Leonetti Cellars. Today Chris is following his family’s agricultural roots not only with his own wine label, but as winemaker for the Leonetti Family label and for a new project a beef ranch. He is raising high-quality grass fed beef using soil, biological and organic knowledge learned from his vineyard practices. With his ranch, the principles apply to grass and animal health. “Just as we have the finest estate vineyards for our wines, we also have the finest grass “terroir” in the West for our cattle,” says Figgins.
As the sun was setting, we ended our day overlooking Blue Mountain with a visit to Doubleback Winery. Drew Bledsoe, the famed NFL quarterback collaborated with his childhood friend Chris Figgins to create the Doubleback label. (The valley is all about connections.)
Jordan Hostetter, Director of Operations & Distribution walked us through the lineup. Josh McDaniels is the current winemaker for the project. He cut his winemaking chops at Leonetti Cellars at the age of 15 – you see the web of connections. After a formal wine making education and a stage in Argentina, Josh returned to his roots in Walla. He was immediately hired by Chris Figgins as the assistant wine maker for his label. In 2015 Josh was hired as the head winemaker at Doubleback Winery at young age 30. Three degrees of separation, right?
We were immersed with the vertical tasting 2011, 2013 and 2016 along with perfectly paired nibbles of cheese, fruit and chocolate. In the middle of re-visiting the wines Jordan proclaimed that the sunlight was perfect. We quickly grabbed our glass poured our favorite wine and dashed to the rooftop to watch the sunset.
After savoring the sun setting over blue mountain, Jordan sent us back with a few of our favorite vintages. We sat by the fire place and re-tasted the wines and reviewed our notes before heading to dinner.
Over dinner we toasted to the wines and winemaker’s that we have the privilege of carrying on our list. We are grateful to share their stories of the fruits of their labors to our guests at Coho Restaurant.