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Reviewed Wineries

Fresh Sheet April 13th 2012

Friday, April 13, 2012







Today’s Fresh Sheet – new and recent releases – includes wines from Fielding Hills, Seven Hills, Sweet Valley, Vin du Lac, and Walla Walla Vintners.

Fielding Hills Winery


In a very short time, Fielding Hills Winery owners Mike and Karen Wade have placed themselves in the top tier of Washington producers. For this reason, their new releases are always worthy of anticipation, and the 2009 releases continue the winery’s track record of excellence.

As always, the fruit for the wines comes from the winery’s estate vineyard, RiverBend, on the Wahluke Slope. True to the house style, the 2009 wines are all bold and fruit filled - no wimpy wines here. Reflective of this and the warmth of the vintage, the new releases also all sport high alcohol levels, but by and large the richness of the fruit carries it off.

Of note, while Fielding Hills was initially a part of Urban Enoteca south of downtown Seattle, the winery’s one-year lease ended at the beginning of the year, and the Wades chose not to renew, making the winery again open by appointment only in Wenatchee.

Read previous posts on Fielding Hills here.

Fielding Hills Merlot RiverBend Vineyard Wahluke Slope 2009 $36

(Excellent) A moderately aromatic wine with stewed raspberries, red currant, mocha, mint, and sweet spices. The palate is big and bold with rich red fruit flavors, soft tannins, and a tart, cranberry filled finish. A compelling, full throttle expression of Washington Merlot. 94% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Syrah. Aged 19 months in American and French oak (68% new). 16.12% alcohol. 164 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Fielding Hills Cabernet Franc RiverBend Vineyard Wahluke Slope 2009 $30
(Excellent) A moderately aromatic wine marked by stewed cherries, chocolate, and sweet spices. The palate is rich, silky, and textured with abundant cherry flavors. 90% Cabernet Franc, 5% Syrah, 3% Merlot, and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged 19 months in American and French oak (68% new). 15.40% alcohol. 266 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Fielding Hills Cabernet Sauvignon RiverBend Vineyard Wahluke Slope 2009 $42

(Excellent) An aromatic wine with vanilla, dark fruit, and spice. The palate is tart and rich, full of cherry and light herbal flavors that draw out across the palate and linger on the finish. 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Syrah, 2% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Merlot. Aged 19 months in French and American oak (68% new). 15.62% alcohol. 231 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Fielding Hills Tribute Red Wine RiverBend Vineyard Wahluke Slope 2009 $32
(Excellent) Very aromatically closed up initially this wine opens to reveal dark fruit, mint, chocolate, and sweet spices. The palate is rich and full bodied, full of chocolate and cherry flavors that linger on the finish. 31% Cabernet Franc, 30% Syrah, 30% Merlot, and 19% Cabernet Franc. Aged 19 months in American and French oak (68% new). 15.7% alcohol. 221 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Fielding Hills Syrah RiverBend Vineyard Wahluke Slope 2009 $38

(Good) A moderately aromatic wine with maraschino cherries, boysenberries, licorice, mint, and spice. On the palate the wine is incredibly rich, thick, and palate coating with abundant cherry flavors followed by a sweet, fruit filled finish. 94% Syrah, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Merlot, and 2% Cabernet Franc. Aged 19 months in American and French oak (68% new). 16.2% alcohol. 250 cases produced. 94% Syrah, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Merlot, and 2% Cabernet Franc. Aged 19 months in American and French oak (68% new). 16.20% alcohol. 250 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.


Seven Hills Winery


Seven Hills Winery
is one of Walla Walla Valley’s founding wineries, and, with a birth date of 1988, is now approaching the quarter century mark.

The winery was started by Casey McClellan, a fourth generation farmer. At Seven Hills, McClellan has made his mark offering wines that are lower in alcohol and use lower percentages of new oak than is currently in vogue. While the winery often flies under the radar, Seven Hills consistently produces high quality wines that are immediately accessible, offer excellent aging potential, and better yet, have a place at the table.

McClellan and his family were involved in the original planting of Seven Hills Vineyard in the southern section of the Walla Walla Valley. While no longer an owner of the site, McClellan continues to source fruit from this vineyard with compelling results. Of note, each year the Seven Hills Vineyard Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon come from the same vines McClellan has used since the winery was founded - something few Washington wineries can boast.

In addition to Seven Hills Vineyard, the winery also uses fruit from Ciel du Cheval, Klipsun, McClellan Estate, and Windrow as well as a number of other sites throughout the Columbia Valley.

Seven Hills Winery is located in downtown Walla Walla in the same historic building as the Whitehouse-Crawford Restaurant.

Seven Hills Winery Merlot Seven Hills Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2009 $28

(Excellent) A lightly aromatic wine with dried red fruit, mocha, and dried herbs. The palate is soft, plush, and fruit filled with raspberries, cherries, and chocolate accented by soft tannins. A very enjoyable expression of Merlot from this esteemed vineyard. 91% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc. Aged 20 months in French oak (40% new). 14.3% alcohol. 521 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Seven Hills Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Seven Hills Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2009 $36

(Good/Excellent) A lightly aromatic wine full of sage and red cherries. The palate is tart with a plush feel, abundant cherry and herbal flavors accented by soft tannins. A very pretty, understated wine. Give this one some time to open up and show its stuff. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged in French oak (40% new). 13.9% alcohol. 658 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Seven Hills Winery Red Wine Ciel du Cheval Red Mountain 2009 $38

(Good) A moderately aromatic wine with floral notes, tar, red vines, herbal notes, and licorice. The palate has an understated grace with soft fruit flavors and chalky, slightly dry tannins. A tart, lingering finish. 39% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Petit Verdot, and 11% Cabernet Franc. Aged 20 months in French oak (40% new). 14.2% alcohol. 525 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Seven Hills Winery Pentad Red Wine Walla Walla Valley 2007 $50

(Good) A moderately aromatic wine full of sage, tea leaves, floral notes, and dry chocolate with an underlayer of cherries. The palate is tart and medium bodied with abundant herbal flavors. Green notes steal the show at times on this otherwise very enjoyable wine. 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Petit Verdot, 12% Malbec, 12% Merlot, and 6% Carmenère. Aged 23 months in French oak (50% new). 13.8% alcohol. 214 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.


Sweet Valley Winery


Sweet Valley Winery
is the work of winemaker Josh McDaniels. McDaniels started out in the wine business at the tender age of 15, but his youth belies his experience. After high school, he enrolled and graduated from Walla Walla Community College’s Center for Enology & Viticulture. He started Sweet Valley in 2005 (bonded in 2007), did an internship with Paul Hobbs Wines at Vina Cobos Winery in Mendoza in 2010, and is currently an assistant at FIGGINS.

McDaniels’ winery has two labels – Sweet Valley and Righteous wines. Sweet Valley, named after Walla Walla's sweet onions, is dedicated to using fruit from the Walla Walla Valley, while Righteous Wines uses fruit from throughout Washington State.

Read previous posts on Sweet Valley here.

Sweet Valley Viognier Columbia Valley 2009 $25

(Decent/Good) Pale in color. A very lightly aromatic wine with peach, almond, and creamsicle notes. The palate is on the lighter side of medium bodied but with an viscous feel, thinning out toward the finish. 100% Viognier. McKinley Springs Vineyard. Aged 18 months sur lie in stainless steel barrels. 13.5% alcohol. Less than 100 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Sweet Valley Righteous Tempranillo Walla Walla Valley 2009 $24

(Good) A mixture of brambly red fruit, lavender, vanilla, orange peel, and butterscotch. The palate is initially front loaded with wood spice in front of a soft core of red fruit. As the wine opens up, plump red fruit flavors come to the fore. An intriguing bottle of rarely seen single vineyard, Walla Walla Valley Tempranillo. 92% Tempranillo, 8% Syrah. Les Collines Vineyard. Aged 24 months in French and American oak (50% new). 13.9% alcohol. Less than 100 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Sweet Valley Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2008 $30

(Good) An aromatic wine with abundant floral notes, orange peel, raspberries, and cranberries along with the slightest touch of pepper and meat. The palate is on the lighter side of medium bodied with a soft, silky feel and tart fruit flavors. Let’s up a bit on the second half but overall a very pretty, enjoyable expression of Walla Walla Valley Syrah. 94% Syrah, 6% Viognier. Morrison Lane (80%) and Les Collines vineyards. Aged 36 months on lees in French oak (19% new). 14.1% alcohol. Sample provided by winery. Less than 100 cases produced.


Vin du Lac


Vin du Lac
is part of the growing Lake Chelan wine scene, an area that received appellation status in 2009.

The winery was founded in 2002 by Larry Lehmbecker. Of his interest in wine, Lehmbecker writes, “I was lucky to have parents that loved wine. Mom even tried her hand at winemaking. My teen-age buddies and I drank a lot of that precious nectar stored under the basement stairs in carboys. Mom never figured out why her evaporation rates were so high!”

Throughout his law school days and after, Lehmbecker became increasingly interested in the subject. “As I watched the Washington wine industry grow throughout the 80's and 90's, more and more I was determined that somehow I needed to find a way to be part of it,” he writes.

Lehmbecker had always loved Chelan and wanted to have a property there. After purchasing his site overlooking the lake, Lehmbecker planted Michaela's Vineyard. The site, which is adjacent to the winery, is planted to Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

The winery has several different labels. LEHM focuses on fruit from the Lake Chelan Valley; Red Café are the winery’s bistro wines; Les Amis is dedicated to white wines; and finally Barrel Select are the winery’s limited production wines.

Vin du Lac is located in an outrageously scenic location overlooking Lake Chelan. In addition to its wines, the winery offers bistro fare and live music. Vin du Lac is one of the valley’s larger producers, making 12,000 cases annually.

Vin du Lac LEHM Gewurztraminer Lake Chelan 2010 $20

(Good) Abundant spice, pink grapefruit and wet stone on an aromatic wine. Stretches out across the palate with a broad, very tactile feel – presumably due to 30% of the wine being barrel aged. Laden with mineral notes, this wine finishes just off dry. An intriguing, enjoyable wine from this nascent growing region. 100% Gewurztraminer. Michaela’s, Tsillan Cellars, and Fallon vineyards. 13.3% alcohol. 0.9% Residual Sugar. 233 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Vin du Lac LEHM Pinot Gris Lake Chelan 2009 $20

(Decent) Abundant lees notes along with mineral and spice. On the palate, the wine is as much about feel as about fruit expression, on the fuller side of medium bodied with a textured feel, accented by spice notes. Finishes very tart. 100% Pinot Gris. Michaela’s and Fallon vineyards. Aged in three and four year old barriques with extended less stirring. 14.0% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.

Vin du Lac Barrel Select Merlot Columbia Valley 2007 $35
(Good) A moderately aromatic, very varietally correct wine full of fresh raspberries, chocolate, mint, sweet spices, and currant. As the wine opens up vanilla notes comes to the fore. The palate is rich with sweet, succulent fruit flavors and soft tannins. A tart, cranberry filled finish that ends a touch sweet. 100% Merlot. 14.7% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.

Vin du Lac Barrel Select Cabernet Franc Columbia Valley 2007 $40

(Good) A very lightly aromatic wine with dark cherries, light herbal notes, and fig. The palate is full of sweet, rich cherry flavors and chocolate. A hedonistic, enjoyable expression of Cabernet Franc. 82% Cabernet Franc, 18% Merlot. Aged in one-year old French and American oak. 14.5% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.

Vin du Lac Barrel Select Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2007 $35

(Decent/Good) An intriguing aroma profile of eucalyptus, mint, chocolate, and cherry. The palate is big and bold with rich fruit flavors and soft tannins. Finishes quite sweet. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Malbec. Sample provided by winery.

Vin du Lac Red Café Syrah Columbia Valley 2009 $20

(Decent) Abundant fresh cranberry, cherry, coconut, and chocolate aromas on an aromatic wine. The palate is full of tart but also quite sweet fruit flavors followed by a sweet finish. 14.8% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.


Onesies


Walla Walla Vintners
has consistently produced some of the finest expressions of Columbia Valley’s Sagemoor Vineyard. This site contains some of Washington’s oldest Cabernet Sauvignon vines dating back to 1972. The 2009 vintage of the winery’s Sagemoor Vineyard Cabernet is once again a beautiful expression of this site in a classic Walla Walla Vintners style.

Walla Walla Vintners Cabernet Sauvignon Sagemoor Vineyard Columbia Valley 2009 $40

(Excellent) An aromatically compelling, classically Walla Walla Vintners wine with dark, chocolate covered cherries, mocha power, cassis, and toasty spice. Coats the palate from end to end with silky fruit flavors and soft tannins and a slightly sweet finish. A very pretty, elegant expression of Cabernet Sauvignon from this top vineyard site. 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, and 8% Cabernet Franc. Cabernet from Sagemoor Vineyard’s Bacchus Blocks 3, 9, and 9C.


Rating System
Please note, my rating system was revised at the beginning of 2012 as follows. Read additional details here.
(Exceptional)
(Excellent)
(Good)
(Decent)
(Not recommended/Flawed)

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4 comments

  1. Nice Fresh Sheet. Seven Hills, along with Woodward Canyon, is responsible for my obsession with wine. I remember their 2000 Klipsun vineyard Merlot rocking my world, and the 1998 Reserve Cab was the wine I opened after I proposed to my wife. They're as consistent as any winery in the state.

     
  2. Anonymous Says:
  3. Sean,
    I've often found the Fielding Hills wines to be way over oaked, especially at release and not really approachable for a few years. Did these 2009 wines give off that impression? Also, as these wines are always a perennial favorite of the Wine Peeps, I tend to stay away and continue to drink my "flawed" wines!!

     
  4. Anon, aromas and flavors from the FH barrel program have definitely played a prominent part in the show over the years along with the bold fruit coming off RiverBend. The tech sheets don't give any indication of a change in regimen, however, I felt that the oak was less prominent, especially aromatically, for the 2009s compared to some previous vintages.

     
  5. Anonymous Says:
  6. WOW! Those Fielding Hills wines are high in alcohol. The numbers remind me of some heavy CA zins. I personally would find it hard to drop the $$$ just to try a wine that high in alcohol and the tasting room so far from where I usually travel. (yes; I've bought some of those big zins but only after tasting them first)
    I have heard wonderful things about their products but I'm thinking this is just one WA winery that won't have product resting in my cellar.
    Now the Seven Hills wines; those are I do enjoy. The Klipsun Cab is a favorite.

     

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