I received some samples from L’Ecole No. 41 Winery some time back, and in my usual fashion, I am just now getting to them, just in time for the Wine Bloggers Conference in L’Ecole’s own backyard, in Walla Walla, Washington.
I had the good fortune to visit the tasting room back in October during the Road Trip Washington Wine excursion I have waxed psychotically ever since (I am sure I tend to get a bit stalkerish). L’Ecole No. 41 has always been one of my favorite wines – I have dubbed their Columbia Valley Semillon one of my hidden gem recommendations for the past 13 years.
Winemaker and co-owner Martin Clubb has been turning out some of Walla Walla’s finest wines for some time now (he is also a partner in Leonetti Cellar and Pepper Bridge Winery, as well as next door neighbor and good friend to Woodward Canyon owner Rick Small). The tasting room resides in, appropriately enough, an historic old schoolhouse (“L’Ecole” means “the school” in French). And throughout its hallways, and its library-themed tasting bar, during my visit I felt as if I was truly being educated on not only L’Ecole’s own wares, but the wines produced throughout Walla Walla – such as Woodward Canyon, Sleight of Hand, Dusted Valley, Bergevin Lane, Buty, Barrister, and many others.
I received three whites and three reds to review:
L’Ecole No. 41 Semillon Columbia Valley 2008. Grade=Outstanding. This barrel-fermented blend of 89% Semillon and 11% Sauvignon Blanc gives you hints at its Bordeaux influences while still casting its shadow beneath a New World light. Light-to-medium-bodied, with rich notes of pear, apple, pineapple and creamy oak. Splashes of vanilla and cinnamon shine through in its supple, lush finish, tempered with just a hint of acidity.
L’Ecole No. 41 Chenin Blanc “Walla Voila” Washington State 2009. Grade=Outstanding. Reminds me of a Vouvray with its slightly sweet pear, melon and notes of crème fraiche. There are hints of key lime, candied ginger and apple tart, all leading up to a well-balanced, creamy pear finish.
L’Ecole No. 41 Chardonnay Columbia Valley 2008. Grade=Outstanding. Would have you believing this was from Napa with its creamy tropical fruit aromas and flavors and its barrel-fermented character, yet coming from a cooler climate, it has much more in common with a Meursault. Showing off nectarine, apricot and caramel apple, it is medium-to-full-bodied, with nice acidity for balance, and splashes of vanillin oak.
L’Ecole No. 41 Syrah Columbia Valley 2007. Grade=Amazing. Juicy and jammy, this blend of 93% Syrah and 7% Grenache shows off loads of blueberry pie, rhubarb, black and red raspberry compote, and creamy spices, this medium-bodied red is lush, soft and sublime. Would be a terrific anytime-of-the-year red wine.
L’Ecole No. 41 Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2007. Grade=Outstanding. This 100% Cabernet Sauvignon blend from some of Washington State’s top vineyard sources is medium-bodied with mild tannins – though they have significant grip – and highlights notes of black cherry, blackberry and black currant flavors, some cinnamon and black pepper, cedar, and bitter chocolate notes. Very nice. Finishes long and smooth.
L’Ecole No. 41 Merlot Columbia Valley 2007. Grade=Amazing. This blend of 81% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Sauvignon evokes a Saint-Emilion with its rich tannins, solid grip, slightly mineral character interjected with loads of black cherry, dark plum, hints of blackberry and spice box, tobacco and earth. It has a supple mouthfeel and a long and luxurious finish. Continues to open up in the glass, revealing more depth and complexity.
These are all terrific wines, and a true testament to what is going on in Washington state.