Two from Nine Hats

Hello friends. Nine Hats purportedly refers to the nine different winemakers involved in the Long Shadows project, but what I think of when I see it is the number of different hats Gilles Nicault has to wear as the resident winemaker for all the Long Shadows wines. The John Duvals and Michel Rollands of the world fly in and fly out, but it’s Gilles who remains behind and cares for their babies.

This is one of the best value labels in Washington. Developed by Long Shadows as a destination for declassified juice from the high-end labels, it presents an accessible entry point to Gilles Nicault’s polished, expressive winemaking.

2008 Nine Hats (Long Shadows) Sangiovese

Washington Wine Report (Sean Sullivan): “($25); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. Rating: **** (Excellent).”

Thanks to a recent price drop, we’re able to beat the “can’t-be-beat price point,” and as usual, the price drop is coming just as the wine is entering peak drinking. This is essentially baby Saggi ($45), and we can suss out the origin of the fruit from Saggi’s Sangiovese barrels, which generally come from Boushey and Candy Mountain vineyards, along with several Horse Heaven Hills sites.

It begins with a deeply appetizing nose of rhubarb bitters, cranberry, and cherry tea and moves onto a complex, integrating palate loaded with leafy tea notes and earthy soil and deep black cherry fruit. The medium-grained tannins are softening up, but this is still a rustic, chewy, tasty Sangiovese. There’s a reason Italians drink a ton of Sangio to go with their food. There’s enough natural acidity and tannin to balance a wide variety of dishes (even acidic tomato-based pastas), and enough complexity to make it a pleasure to taste on its own. We offered this several years ago, and I thought it was a very good wine at a good tariff then. Now? I think our list members are going to be very, very happy.

2011 Nine Hats (Long Shadows) Chardonnay

And of course the Nine Hats Chardonnay comes from declassified, um… er… wait second; Long Shadows doesn’t have a Chardonnay! What the?

Well, it’s true that Long Shadows has no Chardonnay (sort of; they have “Dance,” but it’s not promoted as a member of the Long Shadows starting lineup), but they do own The Benches Vineyard, which means they own Chardonnay vines. Remember The Benches? It’s one of the most spectacularly situated vineyards (picture 1, picture 2) in Washington. I envision a conversation going something like this:

Gilles Nicault: Why do we keep selling our Chardonnay fruit?
Allen Shoup: Because we don’t have a Long Shadows Chardonnay project.
GN: But I am French. Chardonnay is my birthright! Chardonnay, and oozing cheese, and existential cats.
AS: What about a Nine Hats Chardonnay?
GN: Voila!

However the scenario played out in reality, this is a lovely new Chardonnay project for Washington. All Benches fruit, it clocks in at 13.4% alc and offers up an alluring nose of smoke, bread, and lemon curd; almost like a Blanc dec Blancs Champagne nose. I love the way this displays real richness of texture and creamy leesiness without the fruit ever seeming over-ripe. That fruit mixes stone fruit (peach, nectarine), tree fruit (pear), and citrus fruit (lemon), never venturing into tropical territory. This is a lovely choice as a summer-into-autumn white, and I suspect those of us with patience would see a fascinating evolution over this wine’s next five years in bottle.

First come first served up to 24 bottles (mix and match as you like), and the wine should arrive at the warehouse in about a week, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

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