In the wine business, when it rains, itpours. I was starting to run out of wines to blog about for a whilethere, but this week I was able to attend several different tradetastings with hundreds of wines. Expect plenty of commentary in thecoming weeks – as soon as I can translate my incoherent andunintelligeable scribbled tasting notes into somethingunderstandable, of course.
Spotlight on L’Ecole No 41
One winery that caught my attention isL’Ecole No 41,a smaller producer in the Walla Walla Valley of Washington State. Thewinery’s odd name comes from its location ecole beingFrench for school the winery building is an oldschoolhouse in local school district 41. You’ll see this schooltheme in their wines and labels, which feature different artisticrenderings of the schoolhouse building, and chalkboards, and so on.
In my experience, Washington statewines have represented a great value wines I’ve tasted from thearea have shown restraint, neither focusing too much of excessivefruit extraction nor leaning too far toward powerhouse tannin. Theresult is a general style of balance approachable, affordablewines.
The wine that best stood out from thisproducer is also the least expensive – The 2007L’Ecole No 41 Semillon (a pleasant surprise!). Itis very bright and shows great acidity, with a broad, layered nose.On the palate, it shows wonderful ripeness, roundness, a rich oilytexture; a different expression than some other, more expensivesemillon from other parts of the globe. On Binny’s shelves every dayat $15.99. Stephen Tanzer refers to the Semillon as an excellentvalue. I couldn’t agree more. If you like fresh, complex, uniqueand fun whites, try this one.
The 2007L’Ecole No 41 Chardonnay is also quite good itoffers a little creaminess on the nose along with some good, brightfruit. On the palate, a balanced use of oak and bright tropicalfruits. It’s bright and refreshing, and $19.99 a value comparedto some similar Chardonnay from California.
Both the 2006Cabernet Sauvignon and 2005 Merlot show good,balanced oak integration baking spices and vanilla along withgood fruit. The nose on the Cabernet might be a little muted rightnow, but it’s great on the palate with ripe dark raspberry-type fruit(um… Bramble berry? Berry fruit that grows on brambles? Right?)while the merlot remains a little lighter. Both are $26.99, and themerlot is only available at select Binny’s locations.
I don’t want to completely dismiss thehigher-end cuvees from L’Ecole No 41 the Apogeeand Perigee, and other single-vineyard varietalbottles L’Ecole produces these are all very good as well, andoften receive good reviews, but aren’t readily available. Though weget some of the cuvees here at Binny’s from time to time, they don’trepresent quite the same value that the less-expensive varietalbottlings offer. Still, if you get the chance to try any of thehigher-end wines from L’Ecole, jump at the chance.