Seven Hills Winery Review
Address: 212 North Third Avenue Walla Walla,Washington 99362.
Phone Number: 509-529-7198
Tasting Hours: Mon-Sat 10:00-5:00, Sun 10:00-2:00
Region: Columbia Valley AVA, Walla Walla Valley AVA, Washington
Reviewer: Denise Gangnes
Review Date: 3/15/2013
Reviewer: Denise Gangnes
How savvy is the winemaker who is opens a tasting room in one of Walla Wallas most historically significant buildings adjacent to a fabulous restaurant? Would it not be socially responsible and prudent to retain the architectural elements of the original structure while creating a captivating space that tastefully melds old and new? Thankfully, owners Vicky and Casey did just that, thoughtfully restoring the space into a light, airy and welcoming tasting room in the heart of Walla Walla.
The Place:  The Enterprise Planing and Furniture Company, built in 1880, houses both the Seven Hills Winery and the Whitehouse Crawford restaurant. Both are a delight to the senses. Beyond a modest front door is the large tasting bar, highlighted with white tile inlays, oak trim and acanthus green paint that evokes a minty fresh touch. Stately green columns surround a glass mirrored backdrop opposite the tasting bar, with white beams overhead supporting tall ceilings. Rotating artwork adorns easels are scattered leisurely around the open space. The current showing featured a thought-provoking collection of Ian Boydens large format painting of terroir-based earth and vine components. With plenty of space to mingle, visitors can admire artwork or peer through large, inviting windows that overlook the barrel room.
The Experience: Julie, the engaging tasting room manager, poured samples while Vicky (the savvy owner), shared the story of the challenging tasting room renovation, completed in 2000. Vicky escorted me back to the production and storage area, where large windows provide a voyeurs view into the pre-dinner activity at Whitehouse Crawford. If youre lucky enough to get such a tour, the story of the transformation from a dilapidated warehouse to todays architecturally pleasing design is a remarkable story.
The Wines:  Vicky and Casey have a lot to be proud of. Seven Hills Winery is celebrating 25 years of developing the regions rich viticultural diversity. One of the first wineries in the valley, they have bottled more vineyard-designate Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots from the AVA than any other winery.
First on the tasting list was a 100% Viognier grown on the Wahluke slope and barrel fermented in new French oak barrels. Showing hints of grilled pineapple and a fairly long finish, one senses lemongrass and pear overtones. The 2011 Riesling is also crisp and lively, with a grapefruit finish and fresh minerality that reflects its cooler northern vineyard in the Columbia Valley. White wines are all offered at $20 or less.
The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Seven Hills Vineyard is the winerys 22nd release from old vines at their estate vineyard. It provides a full palate of ripe fruit and spices and sells for $45.
The cool 2010 autumn resulted in an extended maturation period for Walla Walla grapes. The Ciel du Cheval Vintage Red Wine underwent extended aging, resulting in a dusty plum and pepper palate with a full berry finish. Its worth taking home, even at $45, with a mental note to let it sit for 5-10 years.
My favorites were the Ciel du Cheval blend and a 100% Petit Verdot. The latter is lush and complex for a single varietal. Hints of rhubarb and coffee with a dusty, satisfying finish encouraged me to ask for another sip and a bottle for the cellar.
Insiders Notes:  The tasting rooms location on the west side of the building is a blessing and a curse. Fantastic sunsets are common, but both Vicky and Julie warned that summer months can be blazing hot. Visit in the spring and fall, when crowds are smaller and you might get an informative architectural tour of the barrel room with its oversized, white-paned windows luring you into the stately Whitehorse-Crawford dining room.