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French Cider August 18 tasting


Obelisco Estate

Premium wines, premium experience, part 1

Doug Long, along with two partners, Dick Shaw and Paul Kalonick, saw the value in Red Mountain acreage in 2003, a few years prior to the big rush to buy there. What did they see/know that made them sure of this venture?

It's necessary to go back years to get the answer. Doug's father Don was a butcher with five locations in groceries in California. He wanted property to organically raise grass-fed cattle and purchased 1,000 acres on Pritchard Hill in Napa Valley in the 1960s. Now, it's probably one of the most expensive wine growing areas, but he didn't know that. He bought it so cheaply, it didn't bother him that he never raised a single cow there; he just held on to it for investment purposes. Later, Chappellet Winery became the first to plant vineyards on the high-elevation hillsides. Doug and his brothers Bob and Dave were talked into planting grapes in 1971. David Arthur Vineyards became official in 1979, with the first release in 1981. In 2000, it was named "Winery of the Decade" by Spectator magazine. The 1997 vintage scored 99 points.

Doug Long, courtesy of Obelisco

Ken Abbot, Doug's nephew and general manager of Obelisco, learned all he knows from Doug. "He's a generous, intelligent, and wonderful guy. I lived with Doug and his wife Betsy in Napa Valley when I was young. I taught tennis, but also helped clear property and did other things. My cousin Laura Long runs David Arthur with her dad David. I got out of the business, moved to Washington, and went into real estate and development from the mid- '90s to 2009."

Doug decided to retire and followed Ken to Washington, specifically Gig Harbor, where he met Dick and Paul. "They loved to sit around and talk wine. They went to Red Mountain and Doug immediately recognized how great it was for grape growing. They bought property in 2003 and planted in 2004. Dick Shaw is a hidden icon of the wine industry; he's a cool guy. In 2011, Doug bought everyone out. The winery was named Obelisco and is still owned by Doug and Betsy. They're my godparents, and Betsy is a saint for putting up with us. She's the voice of reason. I was finishing a development in Tacoma and helping Doug on the side with business systems, my specialty, and spending more and more time with Doug; his passion for wine is contagious. In 2008, he said 'why don't you just be the GM and help make wine?' and I was back in. I don't make as much money now, but I'm way happier. I spend a lot of hours working but I'm tired, not burnt out. Doug's passion has rubbed off on me, and I'm doing my best to do things the way he would. We talk every day, but it's more out of habit and because we like and trust each other-we're on the same page 99% of the time. One of our favorite things is that our wine is part of so many special occasions. People will tell us they're saving a special bottle for their anniversary, birthday, graduation. Coolest thing ever."

Ken at Apple Valley tasting room

Doug chose the Red Mountain property because he felt it was the perfect spot for Bordeaux reds. "We have unusual soil depth: it's 18 feet of alluvial, non-biological soil, austere. Horrible for a garden, great for growing grapes. The depth allows us to plant more densely. Normal density is about 900-950 vines per acre. We have 1,996. This is the same way Doug and his brothers planted on Pritchard Hill. There it's 1600-1700 vines per acre. We take advantage of the minerals in the soil: there were 60-65 floods and ice flows around Red Mountain, different layers have different minerals. When the roots fight each other, they go down 4, 6, 10 feet, pulling minerals from more layers. When there's competition among vines, the average grape size is smaller. That means more skin content and more skin in the process. Because they're our vines, we can drop fruit off if there are too many grapes and really control it. Even if we screw everything up, we'd still have an above-average wine, that's how good the grapes are."

Connie Adams/October 2017

Apple Farm Village Tasting Room
14525 148th Ave NE, Ste 121
Woodinville, WA 98072

Warehouse District Tasting Room
19495 144th Ave NE, B-220
Woodinville, WA 98072

Leavenworth Tasting Room
217 9th St, Ste E
Leavenworth, WA 98826

Watch for part 2 of the Obelisco story coming in November.

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Revolve True Food & Wine Bar


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