In our admittedly limited experience in Oregon, most of the wineries have their tasting room at the winery. Seven of Hearts is different, with their tasting room in a store front in “downtown” Carlton. Carlton consists of maybe two stoplights and another few stop signs, so downtown might be stretching it just a bit.
Walking into the shop is interesting. It seems slightly unorganized inside, with a tasting bar, a desk, some displays and more stuff scattered about. But at the same time you’re taking in the visual, you’re getting the nose. You’re getting the smell of whatever they’ve been pouring that day, and you’re also getting a whiff of the chocolate that is not only being sold, but also being made, at the back of the shop. Byron Dooley is the proprietor of Seven of Hearts, and his wife is the proprietor Honest Chocolates. (That’s really sad: a relationship based on wine and chocolate. Whatever the sacrifices they’ve had to make, it’s working for them. Sarcasm, folks.)
Byron buys most of his grapes from various Willamette Valley vineyards, but a few years back he purchased a small vineyard, now called Luminous Hills, where he grows Pinot Noir and bottles it under his Luminous Hills label. The majority of his wines are sold under his Seven of Hearts label. Here’s a quick summary of what we tasted:
Byron’s style for Chardonnay is fairly understated. The 2014 Willamette Valley Chardonnay underwent no malolactic (ML) fermentation, but saw some new oak, while the 2014 Gran Moraine Vineyard Chardonnay had ML, but only neutral oak. We really liked the Gran Moraine; a few bottles of that came home with us.
His Pinot Noirs were also tended toward an understated style. It was interesting though that the 3 PNs we tasted from Seven of Hearts, all blends from various vineyards, were good, but not great. However, the 2014 Luminous Hill Pinot Noir was very good, one of the best we tasted on our trip, and a very good value.
He also makes a GSM (Grenache, Mouvedre, Syrah) blend, and a Bordeaux blend. We tasted both the 2014 GSM and the 2014 Tradition. We liked them both – the GSM especially was nicely balanced and would probably lay down for a few years, comparing nicely to a good California GSM – but we were in Oregon for the Pinot Noir, so neither of those made the cut to be brought home. The Tradition tasting is served with a bit of the Salted Currant Ganache from Honest Chocolates. Byron also makes a Pinot Noir port, and pairs it with Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Toffee Bark for tasting. I didn’t try the port, but the chocolate was delicious.
By the way, for all the feeling of clutter in the tasting room, Mackenzie and Eric provided us with a great tasting environment. Not rushing us, answering all our questions, even those we hadn’t yet asked. Very knowledgeable and nice.
We tried another of the chocolates from the back, and walked out with a dozen truffles for us, and more to take home as gifts. Quite good!