L’Ecole Nº 41: A Pioneer Winery in the Walla Walla Valley



By Kori ~ April 6th, 2010.

L’Ecole Nº 41, founded in 1983, is the Walla Walla Valley’s third-oldest winery. It remains a family-owned operation with current owners Megan and Marty Clubb, the daughter and son-in-law of founders Jean and Baker Ferguson. Located in the historic Frenchtown schoolhouse (L’Ecole is French for “the school”) just west of Walla Walla, Washington, L’Ecole Nº 41 is a unique wine country destination. They currently produce about 30,000 cases annually.

The historic schoolhouse that houses L’Ecole was built in 1915 and plays a large part in the L’Ecole identity. Tasting room visitors sample wines in one of the classrooms, complete with original chalkboards, light fixtures, floors, and moldings. The schoolhouse theme carries over to their labels as well with a colorful watercolor image of the school, the contest-winning work of an 8 year-old in 1984, and a chalkboard with kid chalk font. The child’s watercolor drawing graces all of L’Ecole’s bottles except for Perigee and Apogee which feature an historic photograph of the schoolhouse.

In addition to his tireless efforts at L’Ecole, co-owner and winemaker Marty Clubb has been a great ambassador for Washington State wine through his work with both the Washington Wine Commission and the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance.

Recently, we had the opportunity to taste a number of L’Ecole’s current releases in a blind samples tasting. These four wines, all produced from Walla Walla Valley fruit, are excellent representatives of the L’Ecole portfolio. The two estate wines we tasted, the 2007 Estate Syrah and the 2008 Estate Luminesce, come from Seven Hills Vineyard which is a partnership between L’Ecole Nº 41, Leonetti Cellar, and Pepper Bridge Winery. With two 4-star wines and two 3.5-star wines, I encourage you to pick up any of these if you see them on the shelf at your local wine shop. And if you find yourself in Walla Walla, L’Ecole Nº 41 is a must visit.

2007 L’Ecole Nº 41 Estate Syrah (Seven Hills Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley, Washington): Deep, dark purple. Beautiful bouquet of black fruits and oak leads to flavors of black fruits, particularly blackberries, and spice. Medium to full-bodied with lively acidity and medium to high tannins. Well-balanced and smooth with a very long finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Received as sample, suggested retail $37; Available elsewhere, $30

2006 L’Ecole Nº 41 Apogee (Pepper Bridge Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley, Washington): 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Merlot, 8% Malbec, 4% Cabernet Franc. Deep ruby-purple and very aromatic. Oak and vanilla dominate the nose with dark fruits and earth showing through as well. More oak and spice along with blackberry and black cherry on the palate. Medium to full-bodied and lively with very drying tannins. Well-balanced with a long finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 2 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Received as sample, suggested retail $50; Available elsewhere, $33 to $48

2006 L’Ecole Nº 41 Cabernet Sauvignon (Walla Walla Valley, Washington): Medium-deep red in color. Red and black fruits as well as some oak come through on the nose. Fruit-forward with flavors of black and red fruits, plums, black cherry, and mocha. Medium to full-bodied and lively with medium tannins. Well-balanced and smooth with a long finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to Buy: Received as sample, suggested retail $40; Available elsewhere, $30 to $43

2008 L’Ecole Nº 41 Estate Luminesce (Seven Hills Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley, Washington): 70% Semillon, 30% Sauvignon Blanc. Greenish yellow in color and very aromatic. Pears and apples come through on the nose; more pears, apples, and lemon zest on the palate. Dry, medium-bodied, and crisp with a long, somewhat tart, finish. Well-balanced.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 2 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to Buy: Received as sample, suggested retail $20; Available elsewhere, $17


Filed under: American Wine, Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Wine, Shiraz/Syrah, Washington State Wine, White Wine, Wines Over $25, Wines Under $25

Reader's Comments

  1. Jim McClure | July 7th, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    Premier indeed. What was once a flagship brand is now floor stacked at Safeway. I guess we are learning the true value of the wines now – the price at retail is less than $20.00 for the Columbia Valley Cabernet, a full $10.00 less than it was retailing for a year ago.

  2. Kori | July 15th, 2010 at 10:55 am

    Jim,
    L’Ecole is still an excellent brand. Seeing their wines discounted has more to do with the current economy than the “true value” of the wines. They have just made a decision to sell their wines at prices the current market will bear instead of keeping stacks and stacks of unsold cases in a back room like other wineries who are unwilling to lower their prices.

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