Spotlight on L'Ecole No 41
Posted: April 26, 2009
In the wine business, when it rains, it pours. I was starting to run out of wines to blog about for a while there, but this week I was able to attend several different trade tastings with hundreds of wines. Expect plenty of commentary in the coming weeks - as soon as I can translate my incoherent and unintelligible scribbled tasting notes into something understandable, of course. Spotlight on L'Ecole No 41 One winery that caught my attention is L'Ecole No 41,a smaller producer in the Walla Walla Valley of Washington State. The winery's odd name comes from its location ecole, French for school, the winery building is an old schoolhouse in local school district 41. You'll see this school theme in their wines and labels, which feature different artistic renderings of the schoolhouse building, and chalkboards, and so on. In my experience, Washington state wines have represented a great value wines I've tasted from the area have shown restraint, neither focusing too much of excessive fruit extraction nor leaning too far toward powerhouse tannin. The result is a general style of balance approachable, affordable wines. The wine that best stood out from this producer is also the least expensive - The 2007 L'Ecole No 41 Semillon (a pleasant surprise!). It is very bright and shows great acidity, with a broad, layered nose. On the palate, it shows wonderful ripeness, roundness, a rich oily texture; a different expression than some other, more expensive semillon from other parts of the globe. On Binny's shelves every day at $15.99. Stephen Tanzer refers to the Semillon as an excellent value. I couldn't agree more. If you like fresh, complex, unique and fun whites, try this one. The 2007 L'Ecole No 41 Chardonnay is also quite good it offers a little creaminess on the nose along with some good, bright fruit. On the palate, a balanced use of oak and bright tropical fruits. It's bright and refreshing, and $19.99 a value compared to some similar Chardonnay from California. Both the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2005 Merlot show good, balanced oak integration baking spices and vanilla along with good fruit. The nose on the Cabernet might be a little muted right now, 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 the merlot is only available at select Binny's locations. I don't want to completely dismiss the higher-end cuvees from L'Ecole No 41 the Apogee and Perigee, and other single-vineyard varietal bottles L'Ecole produces these are all very good as well, and often receive good reviews, but aren't readily available. Though we get some of the cuvees here at Binny's from time to time, they don't represent quite the same value that the less-expensive varietal bottlings offer. Still, if you get the chance to try any of the higher-end wines from L'Ecole, jump at the chance.