Monday, October 3, 2011

Wine Notes: Seven Hills Planing Mill 2008 Red Blend

Although I don't consider myself to be a particularly creative person, one thing that does spark my imagination is wine tasting. Sipping different wines and attempting to describe the many layers of aroma and taste is like trying to solve an enjoyable puzzle.

As I've slowly developed a bit of knowledge about wine production and tasting, I've started to take notes on the wines I try. At this point, I don't have a favorite type of wine and I'm fairly open-minded about trying different varietals and wines from regions around the world. I've found that overall, I prefer new-world (Oregon, California, Austrialia) over old-world (France, Italy). I also prefer drier wines over the more saccharine (sauvignon blanc, rather than riesling).

As chance would have it, I think I became interested in wine in college, when I started mistakenly receiving Wine Spectator each month in my school mailbox. Each month, the behemoth magazine would be shoved in my tiny mailbox, addressed to someone no longer enrolled at the school. I don't know what kind of 21-year old subscribes to the $100/yr lifestyle wine publication aimed at affluent Americans 35 and older. However, I felt bad throwing the magazine immediately in the recycling bin, so I started poring over the articles and wine reviews, discovering a whole new world of poetic, nuanced descriptions. I started buying the magazine's recommended value wines, which can often be found at Trader Joe's for $10-15. A new passion was born. Wines have personality, and my intuitive and analytical sides enjoy interpreting a wine and attempting to translate the flavors into a coherent description.

Here's a wine I tried recently:

2008 Planing Mill Red Blend
Seven Hills Winery, Walla Walla, WA

Blend: 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Syrah, 7% Malbec, 7% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc

Mostly cabernet sauvignon and syrah, the first thing I noticed about this blend was the punch of ripe plum and the toasty spice of oak. My fist impression was that it was warm and inviting without being too bold. It would stand up well to a hearty meal, but it was also drinkable on its own.

1) Color: Deep purple-red
2) Nose/Aroma: Ripe plum and anise
3) Mouthfeel/Taste: Blackberries, black pepper, oak. Moderately balanced flavors of fruit and spice. Supple but soft, with a prickle of heat. The mouthfeel was drying and a bit sour.
4) Score: 82. This wine was pleasant and warm, but it wasn't the best value. I think it retails for about $20, and there are better red blends at a lower price point. The blend was heavy on the cab sauv, but the presence of the other varietals was more confusing than complementary.

Just for reference, here's the scale that I'm basing my score on:

Wine Spectator’s 100-Point Scale:
95-100 — Classic; a great wine
90-94 — Outstanding; superior character and style
80-89 — Good to very good; wine with special qualities
70-79 — Average; drinkable wine that may have minor flaws
60-69 — Below average; drinkable but not recommended
50-59 — Poor; undrinkable, not recommended

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