Seven Hills

A Visit from Seven Hills

 


A pioneering Washington State winery visits New York City. I recently had the chance to sit down with the proprietors of Washington State’s Seven Hills winery; Casey and Vicky McClellan.

This small winery, one of the oldest wineries of the Walla Walla valley, is quietly producing a broad range of fine wines that runs the gamut from rich Pinot Gris to elegant and refined Bordeaux blends.

Drawing on fruit from their own vineyards, first planted in 1980, as well as fruit sourced from some of the state’s premier growers, Seven Hills has taken full advantage of their nearly three decades of experience in the region to produce some of the finest, and most affordable, Washington State wines one is likely to find.

It was a pleasure to meet Casey and Vicky and be introduced not only to their wines, but also to their philosophy, a philosophy that relies on securing the finest fruit they can – in the vineyards, and getting the purest and most complete expression of the fruit to their customers.

Based on this limited set of wines I would say they are fulfilling their end of the bargain quite well!

The Wines

2008 Oregon Pinot Gris
This is quite intense on the nose with a golden toned, fruit driven nose that is edged in candle wax and mineral tones. The mouthfeel is rich, with lots of ripe orchard fruits and fine acids. It’s a touch milky on the mid-palate with a light creamy, vanilla tone to the fruit that leads to a long, zesty finish with hints of toast, honey and hazelnut.  A lovely wine that should improve for a year or two and be at it’s best from 2010 to 2012 88pts

2008 Talcott Viognier

This is barrel fermented in new French oak and it shows. While the nose is very ripe, with dried peach and apricot tones, it’s also very smoky and creamy with a vaguely orangecicle tone. On the palate it’s not particularly fruit with a subtle, integrated oak overlaying the dried apricot fruit. It’s soft in the mouth but finishes with strong floral, honied, and burnt orange rind tones that drop off rather abruptly. This is a well-made wine but it does not excite me. 84pts

2008 Columbia Valley Riesling

The aromas here are nice and pure with notes of green apple skins and almost steely minerality. With air notes of greengage plum, ivy, and apricots start to emerge. The off-dry tones of grapey fruit are supported by fine acids, which support the rich, almost figgy fruit giving this excellent balance, though I would like to have seen more freshness to the flavors. Even though this is noticeably sweet it does finish with excellent tension, length and balance.  Great Value 89pts

2007 Seven Hills Vineyard Merlot

Very nice and restrained on the nose with complex gravel, earth and ash soil tones balanced by perfumy floral and tobacco notes. There is a touch of woody sweetness as well as hints of cocoa and licorice but in an elegant and balanced whole. In the mouth this is lean and transparent with a natural feel to the slightly fudgy toned dark berry fruit. The aromas of oak gain a certain prominence in the mouth though the relinquish control to sweet wild berry and candied plum tones on the moderately long finish which ends with a touch of mint. A merlot to please almost any palate. 88pts

2006 Seven Hills Vineyard Cabernet

This is spicy and complex on the nose with hints of toast, white pepper, and herbs adding complexity to the blackberry toned fruit. In the mouth there is excellent freshness but also a fairly prominent herbal component to accompany that freshness.  The tannins are very fine giving the wine a fairly silky feel already and the black currant and blackberry leaf tones are classic cabernet. This is really drinkable with a sneaky, candied blueberry finish. 89pts

2006 Klipsun Vineyard, Red Mountain Cabernet

This has very distinctive and stylish notes of cool fruit on the nose. While less herbal than the Seven Hills Cabernet this shares some of that wine’s black fruit tones with added layers of leather, fennel, and sweetly spiced oak tones. In the mouth this is supported as much by it’s fine acid spine as the crisp tannins.  This is still a bit tight and short at this point but with promising dusty, black fruit and spice tones that handle to oak well. 91pts

2007 Ciel du Cheval
This is Bordeaux like with crystallized blackberry and currant fruits joined by notes of blond tobacco, turmeric, gun powder and green peppercorns. This is big and rich, broad across the palate yet with nice cut. The flavors lean a bit towards the red fruit end of the spectrum with notes of red apple peels and red currants on the mid-palate that are joined by green spice tones and spicy oak notes that lead to a moderate finish full of black raspberry and jammy black plum. Again the tannins are very well managed and polished. This needs another year or two to fully integrate but should be excellent from 2012-2020 92pts


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Comments

  • Snooth User: gregt
    89564 3,133

    How lucky you are that you got to sit down with these people. I have always found them a great value producer - over delivering on almost all of their wines. Underappreciated in the wine press IMO. Including their tempranillo, which is as good as many in Spain.

    Oh if only I had a friend who knew such luminaries!

    Dec 05, 2009 at 10:54 PM


  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 219,177

    I wish I had been able to try their Tempranillo. Sounds like a wine worth seeking out.

    Play your cards right and ...

    Dec 11, 2009 at 11:27 AM


  • Snooth User: vossroad
    755314 3

    Seven Hills Cabs are first class. Great value. I just hope they keep the prices affordable for my cellar!

    Aug 20, 2011 at 11:23 AM


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