Tuesday, December 1, 2009

"Bout to School Ya"

L'Ecole No 41 is a boutique winery situated just west of Walla Walla, in a place called Frenchtown, Washington.  I was in Walla Walla on business, my colleague and I had some time on our hands, and my nephew had heard of L'Ecole all the way back in Columbus, Ohio.  Knowing that we were in the general vicinity of L'Ecole, he texted me hourly, urging me to drop in and try their wines.  And so, we did.

The L'Ecole No 42 logo depicts an early 20th century schoolhouse, that at sometime in the early 1980's became the main headquarters and tasting rooms for the L'Ecole No 41 winery.  Though L'Ecole No 41 is best known for their reds, tonight I'm tasting another famous wine, their 2001 Chenin Blanc, also known as their "Walla Voila".

I say their Chenin Blanc is famous because it is one of their old vine wines.  It was one of the premier wines developed by the vineyard's founder, Jean Ferguson, and it's formulation is based on a cold fermentation to enchance the fruity and floral esters of this variety.  One flavor that comes across is less of a flavor, and more of a sensation - juicy.

We arrived at the well-known schoolhouse just as the sun was fading in the Washington sky.  The pathway up to the entrance was lit by earth-friendly lights.  this was our fifth and final winery stop for the trip.  Earlier that day, we had discovered that many wineries in Walla Walla did not have consumer-friendly tasting rooms.  Many had a counter, a wine steward and an order form, and not much more.  L'Ecole clearly had done their marketing homework.

The interior was well-lit and in addition to attractively merchandised displays of their wines, you could find corkscrews, and cookbooks, and books on local legends, aprons, wine glasses, ball caps and a wide variety of other products, all proudly bearing the L'Ecole No. 41 Winery logo.  Oh, and they offered wine tastings.

Our wine steward poured the Chenin Blanc into the wine glass, all the time explaining the different flavor we were about to experience.  Different from a chardonnay which is traditionally produced in an oak barrel, where this chenin blanc is cold pressed in stainless steel casks.  The end result is a moderately sweet wine with a nice semi-acid finish.  The finish cuts the sweetness and keeps the wine from tasting too much like dessert.  A wine expert might tell you this is an extremely complex wine and that is why the taste appears to be so simple.  But to me, there is no overwhelming or underwhelming grapefruit or pear or grape flavors.  Though I have to admit, as the temperature of the wine in the glass goes down, the complexities of the wine begin to appear.  Try it with a sharp cheese/cracker combo or fresh fruit.  This chenin blanc is nicely blended to provide a semi-sweet white wine that tastes good with a little chill in the glass, and a little chill in the air.


  1. Your best yet... What a great morning read!!!

  2. Crap...."s/he" beat me to it...Beth...this was a good read...MORE....MORE...
    Mark Fellure