L to R: David Rosenthal, Betsy Long, Melissa Long Vilar, and Whitney Patterson, Obelisco Estate. Image by Jessamy Lennon Photography.

Second generation now involved in winery

David Rosenthal has been named winemaker at Obelisco Estate. Rosenthal started working for the winery this past harvest.

“We’re thrilled to have David on board,” says Melissa Long Vilar, operations manager at Obelisco. Vilar is the daughter of Obelisco founders Doug and Betsy Long.

Rosenthal spent over 20 years working at Chateau Ste. Michelle, Washington’s largest winery. This included seven years as head white winemaker. Rosenthal, whose last harvest at Ste. Michelle was in 2022, recently launched Partnership Wine Consulting.

“It hits that holy trinity of what you’re looking for in a winemaking project,” Rosenthal says of Obelisco. “It’s a very well established, well regarded winery with a great brand, they have an estate vineyard on Red Mountain, one of the best appellations in Washington, and it’s owned by a super passionate wine family. As a winemaker, you really couldn’t ask for more.”

There have been other recent changes at Obelisco. The Long’s daughters, Melissa Long Vilar and Whitney Patterson, are now involved with the winery. Vilar runs day-to-day operations, while Patterson is involved with marketing.

“We feel a big responsibility of continuing dad’s vision with Obelisco,” Vilar says. Doug Long passed away in 2017. “I feel very much like it’s just something that would have thrilled my dad today that we’re involved.”

A winery with roots in Napa Valley

The Longs, along with partners who were later bought out, founded Obelisco Estate in 2007. The Longs come from a family with deep roots in Napa Valley.

Doug Long’s father, Don, was a butcher and grocery store owner in Portola Valley, California. In the 1950s, Don began acquiring land on Pritchard Hill in Napa Valley, ultimately buying nearly 1,000 acres. His original intent was to raise cattle. Andre Tchelistcheff, considered the “dean of American winemakers,” advised Don to plant vineyards on the property.

Don Long’s three sons, Doug, Bob, and David were all involved in the first vineyard, which had its earliest plantings in 1978. The family founded David Arthur winery in 1985. Doug Long also established a vineyard called IX Estate on Pritchard Hill. He subsequently sold the vineyard to Colgin before he retired. The vineyard is still part of the Colgin portfolio.

When Doug Long, who worked as general counsel for Baker Hughes International, retired in 1997, he and Betsy moved to Gig Harbor, Washington. There he met the late Dick Shaw, who was one of Washington’s largest grape growers. The two, along with another partner, Paul Kaltinick, decided to plant a vineyard on Red Mountain, one of Washington’s most prestigious appellations. Planting started in 2004.

“He saw Red Mountain and fell in love with it,” Betsy Long says of her late husband. “He thought it was the closest thing to our property in Napa Valley.”

The group planted 30 acres on Red Mountain with the initial intention of growing grapes, selling the fruit, and making a little personal wine. However, when the inaugural vintage in 2007 received awards, Obelisco Estate was born.

“He was just in love with wine,” Betsy Long says of her husband. “It was a huge passion.”

Celebrating life

Doug Long with daughters Whitney and Melissa on Pritchard Hill, Napa Valley

Obelisco, which produces approximately 3,500 cases annually, is a rarity in Washington in that it both focuses on estate fruit and that fruit comes from a single site. The winery’s flagship wine, Electrum, reflects the percentage of the plantings at the winery’s estate vineyard. Obelisco has two tasting rooms in Woodinville and one in Leavenworth.

“His overall motto for the tasting room and in life was ‘Celebrate life,’” Whitney Patterson says of her father. “If he walked into the tasting room and felt like people were having a great time, he was happy.”

While this is the first time Vilar and Patterson have been actively involved in the winery, they grew up in the wine industry, living on Pritchard Hill. The two went to school in St. Helena, California with the Mondavis, Coppolas, and other winegrowing families.

“Everybody knew everyone, and everyone was connected to wine in some way,” Vilar says.

As for Rosenthal, he doesn’t expect to make radical changes to the style that Doug Long pursued. “Doug had a really classic approach,” Rosenthal says. “There’s an elegance to the wines that you don’t commonly see on Red Mountain.”

Northwest Wine Report is wholly subscriber funded. Please subscribe to support continued independent content and reviews on this site.

To receive articles via email, click here.