One of the first things you see in Jason Long, proprietor and winemaker at Long Cellars in Woodinville Washington, is that he is a people person. He greeted us at his tasting room/winery with a friendly smile and a warm, easy going manner. As we later learned after an hour of interviewing and tasting with him, being a people person is a big part of Jason’s success as winery owner.
Jason came to winemaking more by accident than any other means. The story begins 14 years ago when Jason was living in Phoenix, Arizona and working as a landscape architect. His brother, who lives in Tacoma, Washington was going with some friends on their annual trip to the Napa Valley. Jason was invited along, and though not particularly interested in wine at that time, thought it sounded like fun.
One of the members of the group was Kevin Correll, who had just begun making wine himself and would ultimately turn that hobby in to another great Woodinville winery, Barrage Cellars. Jason loved learning from Kevin on that trip (Kevin has a degree in enology from the highly acclaimed UC Davis) and found that he really enjoyed drinking good wine in the company of knowledgeable tasters. We will second that motion!
A few years after that first trip to Napa, the financial recession hit and Jason re-evaluated things. Arizona does not offer the same sort of variety and challenge that the Pacific Northwest does to a landscape architect. So Jason moved to Seattle to pursue his career and be closer to his brother and nephews.
Once there he re-connected with Kevin who now had his winery up and running in the Woodinville warehouse district. Jason spent a lot of time helping Kevin doing whatever needed to be done. “I helped him in all aspects: the tasting room, production, distribution, everything.” Eventually he took all he had learned and decided to make his own wine. “Over time I started making my own stuff. I had a lot of questions and I experimented a lot which led to some good results with some of the things I tried.”
This is where the people person in Jason comes out and helped to launch his winery. Jason would give away his bottles of wine to friends and co-workers and ask how they liked it. The feedback was positive, so he took things up a notch. “Eventually I had these speakeasy parties in my home where I had a big rental house. I converted the whole downstairs of the house into a winery with a small tasting room and barrel room. I’d invite friends over to enjoy themselves and try my wines. I had no labels, just a piece of tape with the vintage and the name of the grape on it. People kept coming back so I knew I had a bit of a fan base.”
By now Jason realized he truly had a passion for wine. He tasted extensively as he helped Kevin while working part-time jobs at other wineries. This period lead to two discoveries. The first was that he could never build his dream of having a winery on the savings left over from being a part-time helper at various wineries. The second was that he thought Washington produced incredible wines from the Bordeaux varieties. He returned to full-time work as a landscape architect and worked on building his winery in his spare time.
Jason found his current spot in the Woodinville wine district and believes he is lucky to have found it. “It’s very competitive for space around here and I wanted to be close to the action. There was a winery ahead of me for this spot but they backed out so I ended up getting it.” His tasting room is a terrific spot to taste wine. It has a comfortable and eclectic décor. As you walk in the front door, immediately to your right is a full-size model of Frankenstein, with arms in the classic pose of out straight, and hands covered in purple. This is “Frank”, an homage to his first Cabernet Franc which was pressed (using pantyhose) on Halloween night. It immediately lets you know that his tasting room is a place to have fun as well as drink great wine.
It only makes sense that a people person would want people to have fun at his tasting room. “When I got this space designing the tasting room is probably the hardest job I’ve had. It was such a blank canvas and I had so many ideas, so I went out and found elements for it. The theme is my background in sustainability which is why I have re-claimed and re-used items all around. The barrel that makes the two tabletops are western red cedar; a friend of mine and I built the back bar which is just pallets that have been cut up. One of my friends is retired and doing woodworking and he had these piles of old fence wood that I ended up buying and picking out the ones with a green tint on them. The day before I opened, the one thing I forgot was a cash drawer and these friends were here with their 7 year old daughter and she said “I have one” and brought it in (a pink toy cash register) and it’s been there ever since.” There is a note sitting beside the register, obviously written by the child that says I think you “nead” this. The paintings on the walls are photos turned into canvas. A comfy chair that Jason calls the VIP Chair and various animals placed around the room are from when he had his tasting room in the basement of his house. “They are not part of an overall theme but they bring back memories from what I was doing in the beginning.”
Jason makes wines from six varieties found in Bordeaux: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carménère. The one wine he makes from a non-Bordeaux variety is a rosé of Pinot Gris. (Pinot Gris makes an excellent rosé as we discovered at Long Shadows Winery with their outstanding “Julia’s Dazzle”.) We were very impressed with all of his wines. This is a winemaker that you need to keep your eyes on. He has a clear talent and we think time will only reveal more of that trait. Jason is buying fruit from excellent vineyards in Yakima Valley and Red Mountain. His wines express their variety honestly and with a style that emphasizes the fruit and leans towards elegance. His tasting room is a great place to sit and enjoy his wines. You can find Jason at that tasting room on most weekends. Stop in and say hello to and see for yourself what a real people person he is.
2018 Long Cellars Rosé of Pinot Gris
The Pinot Gris grape, though referred to as a white variety, actually has a blue-gray skin tone. When making a white from Pinot Gris, the winemaker would have no skin contact, leaving clear juice. Due to the light colour of the skins, the winemaker can leave the juice in contact with the skins for much longer than when making a rosé from a red grape and still have that light pink/orange colour. Consequently rosés of Pinot Gris can have more intensity and body than other rosés. This is the case with the Long Cellars Rosé. We get strawberry, earth, and hints of tropical fruit with good texture and a long mineral-driven finish. Very refreshing.
Very good+ (USD$18 at tasting room)
2018 Long Cellars Pinot Gris
Lots of ripe pear and some tropical fruit flavours infuse the fruit forward style of this white Pinot Gris. There is good back end acidity. Reminiscent of some good Alsatian Pinot Gris we have tried. Good texture (half the batch fermented on skins).
Very Good+ (USD$16 at tasting room)
Long Cellars Screaming Baby
This wine is their best seller. One sip and you’ll know why. This red blend of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon of different vintages over-delivers for the price point. Dark fruit, plush texture, this is a pleasure-driven wine that is long on satisfaction and short on cost. Winning combination!
Very Good+ (USD$20 at tasting room)
2017 Long Cellars Cabernet Franc
A blend of 82% Cabernet Franc and 18% Merlot from Boushey Vineyard, one of the state’s most famous vineyards. Soft and approachable with dark cherry and black raspberry fruit. Good texture,rounded corners and a long finish make this a terrific tasting Cab Franc.
Excellent+ (USD$32 at tasting room)
2016 Long Cellars NEKEL
“NEKEL” comes from the first letters of the last names of the group of friends that actually helped him to make the final blend which is 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Petit Verdot and 24% Malbec. Fruit sourced from the highly regarded Boushey Vineyard in Yakima Valley and Quintessence Vineyard on Red Mountain. Very dark colour, this is big and bold with full body and a deep, rich texture. Leaning toward more structure, this has a long finish and plenty of cassis flavour.
Excellent (USD$38 at tasting room)
2017 Long Cellars Merlot
Fruit sourced from Boushey Vineyard and this 100% Merlot shows that terroir’s top pedigree. Broad shouldered with strong structure, this masculine wine is a Cab lover’s Merlot. Rich and full, this gorgeously textured wine shows a ripe profile black cherry and spicecake. Delicious today and will develop over many years in the cellar.
Excellent+ (USD$32 at tasting room)
19510 – 144th Street
Tasting Room Hours: Friday 3pm-7pm; Saturday & Sunday 1230pm-530pm