Food & Drink

Wines of Walla Walla touch Oregon, Washington

For more than a decade, Casey and Vicky McClellan had the only winery on the Oregon side of the Walla Walla Valley.

But being in Milton-Freewater was a bit of a no-man’s land. Seven Hills Winery was not a Washington winery, so it couldn’t easily be involved in Washington wine events. And it was more than 200 miles from Portland and the Willamette Valley and, thus, was virtually ignored by the Oregon wine industry.

So in May 2000, the McClellans relocated to downtown Walla Walla, sharing a building with Whitehouse-Crawford, one of the best restaurants in Eastern Washington. Being a block away from the revitalized Marcus Whitman Hotel and the energetic downtown corridor has been much more profitable for Seven Hills Winery.

Ironically, about a half-dozen wineries are on the Oregon side of the valley, and more than 20 wineries are just north of the state line. But the McClellans aren’t looking back.

Casey McClellan has always worked both sides of the border. The fourth-generation farmer was born in Oregon City but grew up in Walla Walla. In 1982, he joined his father in planting Seven Hills Vineyard, which became one of the first commercial vineyards in the valley. Today, that vineyard is owned by Gary Figgins (Leonetti Cellar), Marty Clubb (L’Ecole No. 41) and Norm McKibben (Pepper Bridge Winery). It produces the most cherished grapes in the Walla Walla Valley and is easily one of the top vineyards in Oregon, regardless of the fact that not a single pinot noir grape is grown there. Six years after the vineyard was first planted, the McClellans launched Seven Hills Winery.

We recently tasted through several new wines from Seven Hills Winery, all crafted by Casey McClellan. Ask for them at your favorite wine shop or contact the winery directly.