A couple of months ago, we were at a local wine shop and tried a Petit Verdot from Seven Hills winery in Walla Walla, Washington. For us, finding a Petit Verdot we love is like a treasure hunt—it requires a laborious search but the booty is worth the effort. So, when Wine Watch, one of our favorite local wine retailers in Fort Lauderdale, posted a tasting event featuring Seven Hills, we were game despite having a cross-country flight home earlier that day. Anything for good wine, right?
Seven Hills is one of the oldest wineries in the Walla Walla AVA. Winemaker and founder, Casey McClellan was at the event, making the evening feel like our own private winery tasting. McClellan focuses on Bordeaux-varietal reds so we were thrilled to see that the Petit Verdot we loved shared the line up with Merlot, Cab Sauvignon, and a blend. In addition, he was featuring two whites — a Pinot Gris, and a Dry Rose made with Cab Franc, proving to us that this varietal can be the belle of the ball either as a flirty fruit-forward white or a sexy, luscious red.
The UC Davis-educated and Walla Walla native, McClellan featured a total of nine selections from his impressive collection. In addition to Walla Walla, Seven Hills’ portfolio features other great appellations, such as Red Mountain, Columbia Valley, and Oregon, from where it sources its Pinot Gris. All of the reds we tasted came from the 2013 vintage, which was an excellent year marked by warm temperatures that tailed off into a cool fall.
Variety is the Spice of Life
Below is the tasting line up, in the order that we tasted them. We had a hard time choosing favorites so we grabbed a mixed case that included six of the nine.
*Dry Rose of Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley, 2015
In short, we loved it. It featured lots of fruit, thanks to the additional Petit Verdot and Malbec.
Oregon Pinot Gris, 2014
Showing crisp fruit, this Pinot Gris is somewhat rounded with a light toastiness from the 10% of fruit that was briefly matured in new French oak.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, 2013
We felt of all the wines, this one was best suited with food to balance out the firm tannins.
*Merlot, Walla Walla, 2013
This one had lots of raspberry jam on the nose with a smooth finish.
*Malbec, McClellan Estate, Walla Walla, 2013
Seven Hills was the first to produce Malbec in Walla Walla. This Malbec has a dark, inky color, intense fruit, and a bit of a mint on the finish.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla, 2013
Cherry, spice, and a soft lingering finish characterize this Cab.
*Ciel du Cheval Vineyard, Red Mountain, 2013
This Cabernet-based red blend was our favorite of the evening. It was bold and full-bodied and comes from Red Mountain, the smallest of the Washington AVAs.
*Klipsum Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain, 2013
Our favorite of the Cabs featured at the tasting, it offered lots of fruit with structured tannins and a hint of eucalyptus.
*Petit Perdot, McClellan Estate, Walla Walla, 2013
Powerful on the palate with a hint of eucalyptus on the finish.
*Wines that we included in our mixed case.
A River Runs Through It
Walla Walla is in Southeastern Washington and shares the border with Oregon. This appellation actually spans across both states, with two-thirds being in Washington and the remaining third in Oregon. It lies within the same latitude as the area of France that is midway between Bordeaux and Burgundy, explaining why Bordeaux style varietals thrive in Walla Walla. Named after a Native American term for “many waters” because of its abundant rivers and aquifers that flow into the Columbia River, the town is often boasted by residents to “be so nice they named it twice.” Unlike Seattle, which is known for its gray, rainy climate, Walla Walla has fairly low annual precipitation and a more Mediterranean-style climate with warm summers.