What: Nine Hats Pinot Gris The Benches Vineyard Horse Heaven Hills 2015 $14
Where: Ballard Market, Leschi Market, QFC (Harvard, University)
Why: In Washington wine, we talk a lot about the ‘Big Five’ grapes, those varieties that make up more than 75 percent of our annual production. They are, in order, cabernet sauvignon, riesling, chardonnay, merlot, and syrah. What grape variety is sixth? You might be surprised to learn that it is pinot gris.
Pinot gris sales have been surging in the U.S. in the last few years, and Washington has not been immune to this trend. Production has gone up substantially from 6,400 tons produced in 2012 to 9,100 tons in 2015, the last year for which data is available (for perspective, the state produced 222,000 total tons that year).
By and large, pinot gris is known for being a somewhat innocuous grape, without a strong aroma or flavor profile. “People want a wine that doesn’t smell or taste like anything,” one producer once said to me. Quality bottles, however, do exist.
One recent example I’ve tasted comes from Nine Hats, a side project from the folks at Long Shadows. The 2015 Nine Hats Pinot Gris The Benches Vineyard Horse Heaven Hills 2015 ($14) brings aromas of apple and pear that lead to dry, fleshy fruit flavors. It’s a big time winner at this price and a perfect example of why the grape has done so well of late. Drink up!