The grapes in this single vineyard Cabernet were grown at the Seven Hills Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley. It’s well-known for producing excellent fruit each year. What many people may not realize is that it’s actually located on the Oregon side of the state line, with beautiful views across the Walla Walla Valley. In fall 2019, I had the opportunity to attend a harvest winemakers dinner at the vineyard and found it to be a very special place. Below is a photo I took that evening, before we dined under the stars.
Between 15,000-30,000 years ago, a giant ice dam created a huge lake– the largest in North America’s history– over parts of Western Montana. As temperatures rose, this dam broke and an enormous amount of water rushed over much of Eastern Washington, down to Oregon and the Columbia River gorge, then all the way to the Willamette Valley. Scientists believe these floods happened over and over again, about 55 years apart for over 2,000 years. These recurring Missoula floods deposited mineral-rich soils in the Walla Walla Valley as the giant ice dam broke again and again. Torrential winds also brought windblown Loess soil that dusted the flood area.
The soil at Seven Hills Vineyard is a combination of sand and gravel brought by the recurring flood waters rushing over the landscape, topped with Loess, a fine silt light enough to be carried there by the wind. Grapes thrive in the vineyard, due to the soils’ many nutrients and the ease with which their roots can traverse the looser-density particulate matter. These elements contribute to the unique wines made from the Seven Hills Vineyard fruit.
Near perfect fruit arrived to the winery close to the end of October and Laelaps winemaker Andria Shirk did a 4-day cold soak in order to extract more color from the grape skins. After a leisurely fermentation, the wine was barrel-aged in French oak, 66% being new. Fifty percent of the juice was aged sur lie– meaning with the finer sediment– then the wine was bottled and aged for another 22 months before it was released.
Sour cherries // marzipan // gravel dust // red licorice // eucalyptus // mint // black licorice // cocoa powder
Michele Francisco, a founder and regular contributor to Winerabble, a blog primarily about Pacific Northwest wines, is living the dream in Portland, Oregon. Her passion leads some to believe she's got wine running through her veins. Contact Michele at email@example.com & be sure to visit her online portfolio at www.michelefrancisco.com.