Andrew Zalman of Higgins in Portland on pinot gris and pinot noir - Wine & Spirits Magazine

Andrew Zalman of Higgins in Portland on pinot gris and pinot noir

How did wine sales in 2011 play out?
When I look back I’ve got some guarded optimism. Our numbers were higher than in 2010 and the number of people who ordered beverages was a little higher, so that’s a good thing. I think that more people were looking for bargains—more plates were shared. It seems like people have an agenda based on what they want to spend. Convention business dinners make up about 80 percent of our meals Monday through Thursday in the dining room and bar, with guests either from out of town or out of the country. And they’re continuing to eat well and drink better local wines. Washington cabernet, merlot and syrah are big sellers, as are Oregon wines. Most out of towners are willing to try a local pinot noir as long as it has weight and heft and obvious fruit. Does that preference for heft run across the board with pinot noir? People are willing to suspend their preference for a weighty wine when it comes to Burgundy. But in New World pinots, including Oregon pinots, people are looking for wines with more obvious body, softer, bigger, plusher wines. [It’s a style that’s] more Californian than typical of Oregon. For example, 2009 was a warm and obvious vintage in Oregon. These wines weren’t the critic’s darlings but they’re wines the public likes. Your sparkling wine sales seems to be strong… I was pleased overall with sparkling wine sales. I look at sparkling wine sales as sort of barometer of dining clientele. A lot of people are starting to drink sparkling wines to begin a meal, from all sorts of areas—Champagne and Oregon and Prosecco. They go better with our first course options. (You’d be surprised how many people pair pinot noir with oysters.) …as do your sales of pinot gris. In 2010 we had a very cool growing period and our whites across the board were considerably higher acid than usual—really gorgeous. Still people who drink Oregon pinot gris are often looking for more of a grigio style, less ripeness, less residual sugar. King Estate Pinot Gris is our best selling wine, year in and year out.

Patrick J. Comiskey covers US wines for Wine & Spirits magazine, focusing on the Pacific Northwest, California’s Central Coast and New York’s Finger Lakes.

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