Full Pull Four of Nine

Hello friends. The main thrust of today’s offer is going to be the new vintage of Nine Hats red, at a tag lower than we’ve ever offered for this wine. But please note: we’ll also have short blurbs at the bottom for two Nine Hats whites and the newly minted Nine Hats Syrah (!).

[And another note: yes, I was tempted to find three more Nine Hats wines, make the subject of the e-mail “Seven of Nine,” and find out how many mega-dork Stark Trek Voyager fans are on the list.]

2013 Nine Hats (Long Shadows) Red
Since the 2007 vintage, Nine Hats has been one of the best value labels in Washington. Here’s what the winery says about the label: The nine renowned winemakers of Long Shadows’ signature wines discover after each harvest that a percentage of their resulting barrels are more than they require to achieve that perfect balance in their final blends. These extra barrels produce Nine Hats. For folks curious about wines like Feather, Pedestal, Pirouette, Sequel, Nine Hats presents an accessible entry point to Gilles Nicault’s polished, expressive winemaking.

While Nine Hats purportedly refers to the nine different winemakers involved in the Long Shadows project, 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. It’s a truly unique job in the world of Washington winemaking, and Gilles does it beautifully.

Considering how terribly allocated the top-end bottlings from Long Shadows have been lately, I think there’s going to be keen interest in this particular vintage of Nine Hats Red. It has been a wonderful wine even in mediocre vintages. In a charming vintage like 2013, you’d expect it to be very very good, and it does not disappoint. The blend is 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Syrah, 22% Merlot, and 5% Sangiovese. Fruit comes from the outstanding (and beautiful) The Benches at Wallula, as well as (purposely vague, I suspect) “fruit sources from the Walla Walla Valley.” It was aged for 15 months in French oak before bottling, and it clocks in at 14.9% listed alc.

The nose melds the fruits of all three main varieties: Cabernet’s cassis, Syrah’s plum, and Merlot’s black cherry. There is a lovely tarry mineral streak coursing through the aromatics, ramping up the complexity and inviting the first sip. That sip immediately reveals a palate-stainer, with tightly packed layers of fruit (yes, the currants and plums and cherries, but also stone fruits like peach and tropical fruits like papaya), swaddled in barrel notes of dark chocolate and espresso. This is a glorious example of the charms of 2013: an immediate gratification play meant for young/easy drinking. The quality and intensity of fruit is just outrageous here. We’ve happily offered previous vintages of this at [TEXT WITHHELD]; today’s pricing structure is a holiday gift indeed.

2013 Nine Hats (Long Shadows) Syrah

It has been nearly five years since we have been able to offer a Nine Hats Syrah (November 29, 2010 to be exact). That was the 2008 vintage. I believe they made a small amount of 2009, and then there has been no 9H Syrah until this 2013. There is a temptation to think of this as “baby Sequel,” and I even had a scribble in my tasting note that reads “does this have Boushey fruit?” (Boushey typically forms the backbone of Sequel). Looking at the technical information for this Syrah, there is not any Boushey fruit, but there is a good portion of Benches fruit in the mix, which, according to the winery, “brings charcuterie and a silky earthiness, hints of aged salami and black olive tapenade.” Um, yes please.I haven’t had much Benches Syrah, but if this is how it expresses itself, more and more folks are going to be paying attention. For me, the nose mixed smoked ham hock, earthy soil notes, violets, and a core of marionberry fruit. The silky mouthfeel is just wonderful, carrying delicious fruit paired to an insistent core of earthiness. This is big (14.9% listed alc), rich, palate-coating Syrah (glass-coating, too; the inky purple-black color extraction is something else), and it represents a wonderful return for a long-missed wine.

2013 Nine Hats (Long Shadows) Riesling

People definitely think of this as baby Poet’s Leap, and that moniker is a little harder to disprove. All the winery says about vineyard sourcing is “sourced from German clone plantings and some of the Columbia Valley’s oldest Riesling vines,” which could lead a person to believe there’s some vineyard overlap between this and the Leap. It clocks in at 12.9% listed alc and 1.2% RS, and it offers an honest Riesling nose of peach and tangerine and lime fruit complicated by a smoky petrol note. The acid-sugar balance on the palate is lovely, as is the acid-mineral spine. It’s clear that this comes from outstanding vineyard sources, and it’s a terrific introduction to the white wine side of the portfolio.

2014 Nine Hats (Long Shadows) Pinot Gris

This is – quietly – a single-vineyard wine, coming entirely from The Benches. Astute list members may recall that Julia’s Dazzle (a list-favorite rosé each year) is almost all Benches Pinot Gris (blended with a tiny bit of Sangiovese for color stabilization). You can think of this as Dazzle if it were left to ripen for a few weeks (months) longer. It clocks in at 14.1% listed alc, and so stylistically is more like an Alsatian Gris than, say, a lighter Italian Pinot Grigio. The color has ever so pale a pink tinge, and the wine mixes apple blossom, apple and pear fruit, and chalky mineral tones. The richness is well-balanced both by acidity and by a little dissolved CO2, a tiny sense of spritz to keep things lively.

First come first served up to 48 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and the wines should arrive in a week or two, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

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