Dick and Wendy Shaw might be two of the most influential people in the Washington wine industry who too few consumers know about.
Starting Friday, however, their story will be told at the Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center in Prosser when the Shaws are inducted into the Legends of Washington Wine Hall of Fame.
They join the ranks of luminaries such as Allen Shoup of Chateau Ste. Michelle and Long Shadows Vintners, Doug Gore of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, Myles Anderson of Walla Walla Community College and Walla Walla Vintners, Mike Hogue of Hogue Cellars, and four Red Mountain pioneers — John and Ann Williams and Jim and Pat Holmes.
“Dick and Wendy not only grow grapes,” Gore noted in the Feb. 1 announcement, “they also bring a great business sense to the industry. To this day, I trust their business judgment. They can cut to the chase at the table and understand that both parties need to win. They believe in the industry and have stayed with it through thick and thin.”
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Induction at the Clore Center seemed only a matter of time, particularly after Dick Shaw served as the honorary grower for the 2015 Auction of Washington Wines. And yet, there may be no one in the Washington wine industry as understated as this former Tacoma bank executive, who continues to burnish his reputation as a hard-nosed yet fair negotiator.
Ironically, Shaw entered the industry in 1981 at the urging of Clore, the famed researcher from Washington State University. What began with 100 acres of wine grapes on the Wahluke Slope has grown to span more than 2,800 acres of vineyard in the Columbia Valley, representing about 5 percent of all the vines in Washington state.
Along the way, the Shaws helped establish one of the state’s largest and most important wineries, J&S Crushing near Mattawa, partnering with the Quincy-based Jones family. Spearheading that facility is acclaimed winemaker Victor Palencia, whom they hired soon after he graduated from Walla Walla Community College’s now-vaunted winemaking program.
The Shaws’s friendship with Paul Kaltinick, former CFO for J.C. Penney, sparked Quintessence Vineyards on Red Mountain, which they partnered on starting in 2010. They also co-own Obelisco Estate Vineyard with another Gig Harbor businessman, the late Doug Long.
Dick jokes that he plants a few acres of Syrah only because it is a favorite of Wendy’s. He remains incredibly bullish on Cabernet Sauvignon, and the variety makes up more than two-thirds of the 310 acres across Quintessence Vineyards.
Their clients include many of the biggest names in the Northwest wine industry — Col Solare, DeLille Cellars, Duckhorn’s Canvasback project, Januik, Tamarack Cellars and The Walls in Walla Walla and a number of Woodinville cult producers. And yet, they also enjoy working with small family-owned wineries such as Martin-Scott in East Wenatchee, Plain Cellars near Leavenworth and Telaya Wine Co., in Boise, Idaho.
The Shaws also are among the leaders in terms of innovation, encouraging more winemakers to avoid labor issues and use machine-harvested grapes for their high-end wines. Blind tasting among experts indicates the differences in wine quality are quite difficult to determine.
At this point in their careers, success seems to follow the Shaws. Their affable and skillful vineyard operations manager is Marshall Edwards. He was selected as honorary grower for this year’s Auction of Washington Wines. In 2017, his peers in the Washington Winegrowers Association named him Grower of the Year.
The Shaws also employ a husband/wife team in winemaker Mitch Venohr and general manager Kasee Woods, and they have Charlie “Wine Boss” Hoppes to thank for that team. Woods worked for Hoppes on Red Mountain at Fidelitas, and Venohr is a key member of the Wine Boss production facility in Richland. Venohr has been working with Red Mountain fruit since 2002, which spans his early days at Blackwood Canyon learning from the late Mike Moore.
Among the Shaws’s growing interests of late is their 900-acre vineyard planting overlooking the Yakima River near West Richland’s Horn Rapids Dam. It is dominated by — what else? — Cabernet Sauvignon, and their primary client will be Ste. Michelle Wine Estates.
If only the late Walter Clore could be in Prosser on Friday to celebrate what Shaws have created. Cost is $100 per ticket to the Legends of Washington Wine Hall of Fame Induction and Gala, which includes several auctions and raises funds for the Clore Center.
Here are a handful of recent releases from Henry Earl Estates. They are available at their downtown Walla Walla tasting room, and a number of wines made from Shaw-owned vineyards will be featured during Friday’s reception.
Henry Earl Estates 2016 Sauvignon Blanc, Red Mountain, $25: Henry Shaw’s son, Dick, and Earl West’s daughter Wendy farm much of the southeast and northwest corners of Red Mountain, and Sauvignon Blanc is the only white grape Dick and Wendy Shaw grow at Quintessence Vineyards. This offers grassy and tropical aromas that include a slice of gooseberry pie. A touch of the barrel fermentation that is revealed on the palate, a luscious entry that carries hints of lemongrass, mint, orange zest and baked bread.
Henry Earl Estates 2015 Shaw Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain, $40: These six barrels of clone 2 Cab are off Dick and Wendy Shaw’s 51-acre parcel in the northwest corner of Red Mountain. Four of those barrels were new French oak, which helps create aromas of rich cherry and tarragon with chocolate and toast. Bing cherry, vanilla and coconut flavors are framed by nicely resolved tannins that are met by a pinch of earthiness on the midpalate and capped by plump berries and cocoa powder.
Henry Earl Estates 2015 Quintessence Vineyard Malbec, Red Mountain, $45: This four-barrel lot is hugely expressive as dusty minerality aromas are joined by blueberry, black cherry, black pepper, tar and smoky rosemary. Huge flavors of ripe black cherry and juicy blueberry are deeply layer. The structure features acidity over tannin, capped by cooked strawberry and dark chocolate in the finish.
Henry Earl Estates 2015 Merlot, Red Mountain, $38: Both the Shaw and Obelisco vineyards on the upper reach of Red Mountain went into this Merlot from the warmest vintage on record. It’s loaded with black cherry, plum and chocolaty notes as nicely managed tannins and blueberry acidity combine for a finish that’s youthful and juicy.
Henry Earl Estates 2016 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc, Red Mountain, $25: This Sauternes-style dessert wine is the result of the first commercial vintage for Sauvignon Blanc at Quintessence, and the results are stunning. Aromas of apricot jam, whipped honey and banana chips lead to matching flavors in a luscious fashion. A complex blend of allspice, clove, peach skin and nectarine acidity provides pleasing balance to the 19 percent residual sugar.
Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman operate Great Northwest Wine, an award-winning media company. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com