One of the flagship wineries of Walla Walla and Washington State, mentioned in the World Atlas of Wine (yes, their Semillon is stunning), and enroute to our rented home in pastoral Walla Walla township, L’Ecole No 41 was our first Washington State winery this trip.
Housed in a gorgeously renovated heritage building complete with school bell, chalk boards (you can write on them at the tasting bar) and a playground (the kids loved it), we were led through a tasting of eight wines by the very knowledgeable Ben.
We opened up with the 2011 Estate Luminesce Seven Hills Vineyard from Walla Walla, a Semillon/Sav Blanc blend followed by the 2011 Chardonnay Columbia. The Luminesce was so reasonably priced at only $19 and showed kiwi, starfruit and lime.
The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Vineyard (which actually stretches down across the border into Oregon), the 2009 Estate Perigee Seven Hills Vineyard and then the 2009 Apogee (you’ve likely heard of this one). Hailing from the Pepper Ridge Vineyard, it’s a 60% Cab Sav with 30% Merlot and Malbec with grippy tannins, smoke, black plum, cherry and berries.
We also tried two Syrahs, the next big thing touted for Washington, from 2009 and 2010 – both fruity and spicy with black pepper and olives, but it was the 2009 Estate Merlot from Seven Hills Vineyard that we both left with. Ruby turning garnet, it has 12% Cabernet Franc blended in (that’s done time in some extended maceration) along with the same amount of Cabernet Sauvignon into the 76% Merlot. With 14.5% abv, you may expect it to be boozy, but it’s nicely integrated and there’s no heat. Cedar, bramble, marionberry and java along with a dusty set of tannin makes this very good wine. Drinking beautifully now, balanced, complex and layered, it could also be laid down for 3-5 years.
Judging from the picture below, we’re not enjoying it at all. Woo hoo, Walla Walla. School’s out!