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Seven Hills Winery Ciel du Cheval Vintage Red 2011
Blend: Cabernet Sauvignon 38 % Merlot 33%, Petit Verdot 15%, Cabernet Franc 14%
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Seven Hills Vineyard is now regarded as one of the “ten most important vineyards in the world” by Wine & Spirits Magazine. In addition to Seven Hills Vineyard, Casey crafts wines from several of the best, old vine vineyards in Walla Walla and on Red Mountain, including Ciel du Cheval, Klipsun, and McClellan Estate.
Casey’ focus has always been on Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux varietal reds, complemented by limited production of Alsatian varietal white wines. His vision is to produce wines that reflect the terroir of these sites with intense structure and pure varietal fruit character capable of graceful ageing.
Responsible for some of Washington’s most highly acclaimed wines, the Walla Walla Valley has experienced a surge in popularity in recent years. It is home to both historic wineries and younger, up-and-coming producers. Though it is cooler and wetter than most of Washington State’s viticultural areas, irrigation from the Columbia River is still common, though some vineyards on the rainier eastern end of the AVA are able to dry farm.
The conditions in the Walla Walla Valley are perfectly suited to Rhône-inspired Syrahs, distinguished by savory notes of black olives, smoke, bacon fat, and fresh earth. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are produced in a range of styles from smooth and supple to tannic and structured. White varieties are a relative rarity here. Sauvignon Blanc is sometimes blended with Sémillon in the style of Bordeaux white blends, resulting in a richer, rounder version take on the variety. Plantings of Viognier are minimal, but often quite successful.
One of the world’s most classic and popular styles of red wine, Bordeaux-inspired blends have spread from their homeland in France to nearly every corner of the New World, especially in California, Washington, and Australia. Typically based on either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot and supported by Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and/or Petit Verdot, these are sometimes referred to in the US as “Meritage” blends. In Bordeaux itself, Cabernet Sauvignon dominates in wines from the Left Bank of the Gironde river, while the Right Bank focuses on Merlot. Often, blends from outside the region are classified as being inspired by one or the other.
In the Glass
Cabernet-based, Left-Bank-styled wines are typically more tannic and structured, while Merlot-based wines modeled after the Right Bank are softer and suppler. Cabernet Franc can add herbal notes, while Malbec and Petit Verdot contribute color and structure. Wines from Bordeaux can be bold and fruit-forward or restrained and earthy, while New World facsimiles tend to emulate the former style. In general, Bordeaux red blends can have aromas and flavors of black currant, cedar, plum, graphite, and violet, with more red fruit flavors when Merlot makes up a high proportion of the blend.
Since Bordeaux red blends are often quite structured and tannic, they pair best with hearty, flavorful, and fatty meat dishes. Any type of steak makes for a classic pairing. Equally welcome with these wines would be beef brisket, pot roast, braised lamb, or smoked duck.
While the region of Bordeaux is limited to a select few approved grape varieties, the New World is free to experiment. Bordeaux blends in California may include Syrah, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, or virtually any other grape deemed worthy by the winemaker. In Australia, Shiraz is a common component.