Updated: Mar 30
by Laura Huston
Today we are excited to announce our first winery to be awarded the new Belle and Bottle Wine Travel Award. This first winery is located in Walla Walla, Washington. Elephant seven is the creation of Josh and Cheryl West. While pursuing their careers in Houston, Texas they dreamed of one day owning their own winery and leaving the rut of their corporate positions. After Josh did his research of different wine regions they settled on Walla Walla, and as a bonus Cheryl’s family was close by in Seattle.
The name Elephant Seven is inspired by a collective of musicians, “The spoils of commercial success were of no importance. They simply wanted to create something special and meaningful to share with each other, family and friends. They called themselves “Elephant 6.” Inspired, we have dedicated ourselves to our craft; the craft of making great wine independent of commercial expectations and preconceptions.” (from website) And so Elephant Seven was born.
The philosophy of Elephant Seven is about simplicity. Simplicity in winemaking is harder than you might think. Their goal is to do as absolutely little as possible to the wine, otherwise known as minimal intervention winemaking. They do not add anything to their wines and it even continues to be expressed all the way through their labels, letting the wine speak for itself. “Through the struggle of keeping things simple, we create something that is genuine, honest, and beautiful.”
The winery started in 2014 producing only 400 cases of wine. Today their case production is up to 2000 cases, which on a grand scale is still a micro winery, but to their family of four is quite the workload. They still run the winery as a family and when asked about the help, Cheryl said one son is the Assistant Winemaker and the other is the Cellar Master (big shoes to fill for when they are grown:) They have one employee John Martin, who is the tasting room manager and is an honorary member of the E7 family. Their focus is on Rhone varietals and all their wines come from the Walla Walla Valley. This focus is intentional so they can continue to tell the story of the terroir through the wines.
As a buyer, club manager and personal consumer, I have been drawn to the wines of Elephant Seven since I first tried them many years ago. This winery is one that I always recommend when people ask where to visit in Walla Walla. Finding hidden gems in established wine regions is important to continue to expose more consumers to different styles in wine. This elegant and approachable style of Elephant Seven wines, as well as their commitment to minimalist winemaking (i.e. good stewards of the planet), and their commitment to keeping their wines priced below the market makes this a great stop for both long-time visitors to the region as well as those looking to learn more about Walla Walla wines for the first time. Their pricing strategy has been intentional on their part. A goal of the winery is for everyone to be able to enjoy the wines and try new things.
Josh and Cheryl source their grapes from many of the top vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley, including Yellow Bird Vineyard which is dry-farmed, meaning no irrigation is given to the vines, thus creating struggle and smaller, more concentrated berries. Their grenache comes from Blue Mountain Vineyard at the foothills of the Blue Mountains that frame the picturesque valley. They have begun sourcing from Les Collines Vineyard which is a higher elevation location in the Walla Walla Valley. In addition to the Walla Walla Valley AVA, they are also sourcing grapes from The Rocks District AVA, also in the Walla Walla Valley and creating some of the most distinct wines in the world. All of these vineyards have been selected to showcase the Rhone varietals in a way that remind the West's of the terroir in France that they hoped work with to capture their vision here in the US.
The wine labels that grace the front of the Elephant Seven bottles are creations of Cheryl's brother, Rommel Villalobos. Their art is unique, memorable, and a huge hit with consumers. As a travel award winner, we are highlighting their winery as I must stop in Walla Walla. Their tasting room is off the beaten path in downtown Walla Walla. It reflects their love of music and feels as though you have been transported into the fun loving labels that piqued your interest in the first place. To schedule your tasting reservation please visit their website and make sure to add this stop to your itinerary on your next trip. Note from the winery: Starting April 21 they will have updated tasting hours: Friday - Sunday 11 am - 5 pm. Reservations encouraged but not required. Want to get a head start on the wines? I don’t say this often, but really pick any one that speaks to you and you won’t be disappointed! Feeling indecisive? … start with the flagship label Yellow Bird Vineyard Syrah. It will cheer you up just having the label to look at.
To watch or listen to the entire interview Belle & Bottle had with Cheryl West please look for our announcement of the YouTube video and our new podcast available mid April. To follow along with more stories, awards and upcoming wine competition please add your email to our mailing list