Seven Hills Winery Columbia Valley Merlot 2012
Blend: 100% Merlot
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Established in 1988, Seven Hills Winery is proud to be among the founding estates of Walla Walla Valley. As pioneers who first championed the region, the winery’s heritage is built on longstanding relationships with the most renowned growers in the Northwest and a deep knowledge of the land. Their focus is crafting Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines that authentically reflect their places of origin.
When Seven Hills Winery was established in 1988, it was one of only five wineries in the region. As a founding vintner, Casey McClellan helped shape the varietal focus and development of the appellation by forming relationships with top growers in the Northwest and cultivating an understanding of each vineyard’s character. Through this focused approach and following decades of careful study, Seven Hills Winery crafts Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines that reflect their distinct terroir and reach their highest potential. McClellan helped plant the first significant vineyard dedicated to Bordeaux varietals in Walla Walla Valley and over time, the founding blocks of the winery’s estate vineyard emerged as one of the Northwest’s most renowned sites. Today, SHW Founding Vineyard provides fruit for the winery’s marquee single vineyard wines, and their grapes are sought after by some of the region’s most respected wineries. They also source fruit from other esteemed vineyards they’ve been working with for many years, including McClellan Estate Vineyard and Summit View Vineyard in Walla Walla Valley and Ciel du Cheval and Klipsun Vineyard in the Red Mountain appellation.
Seven Hills Winery crafts wines that are well-balanced and taste true to their varietal characteristics and terroir. To that end, they let the outstanding quality of their fruit shine through, by using traditional fermentation techniques and barrel selections that highlight the varietal grape flavors inherent in the wine. This philosophy allows them to create wines that pair well with a variety of foods and are meant to be enjoyed as part of a meal. Their tasting room and winery are located in downtown Walla Walla, in the historic Whitehouse-Crawford building. Visit them for a winery tour, tasting or food, and wine pairing.
A large and geographically diverse AVA capable of producing a wide variety of wine styles, the Columbia Valley AVA is home to 99% of Washington state’s total vineyard area. A small section of the AVA even extends into northern Oregon!
Because of its size, it is necessarily divided into several distinctive sub-AVAs, including Walla Walla Valley and Yakima Valley—which are both further split into smaller, noteworthy appellations. A region this size will of course have varied microclimates, but on the whole it experiences extreme winters and long, hot, dry summers. Frost is a common risk during winter and spring. The towering Cascade mountain range creates a rain shadow, keeping the valley relatively rain-free throughout the entire year, necessitating irrigation from the Columbia River. The lack of humidity combined with sandy soils allows for vines to be grown on their own rootstock, as phylloxera is not a serious concern.
Red wines make up the majority of production in the Columbia Valley. Cabernet Sauvignon is the dominant variety here, where it produces wines with a pleasant balance of dark fruit and herbs. Wines made from Merlot are typically supple, with sweet red fruit and sometimes a hint of chocolate or mint. Syrah tends to be savory and Old-World-leaning, with a wide range of possible fruit flavors and plenty of spice. The most planted white varieties are Chardonnay and Riesling. These range in style from citrus and green apple dominant in cooler sites, to riper, fleshier wines with stone fruit flavors coming from the warmer vineyards.
With generous fruit and supple tannins, Merlot is made in a range of styles from everyday-drinking to world-renowned and age-worthy. Merlot is the dominant variety in the wines from Bordeaux’s Right Bank regions of St. Emilion and Pomerol, where it is often blended with Cabernet Franc to spectacular result. Merlot also frequently shines on its own, particularly in California’s Napa Valley. Somm Secret—As much as Miles derided the variety in the 2004 film, Sideways, his prized 1961 Château Cheval Blanc is actually a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc.