L’Ecole No. 41 Syrah, Columbia Valley 2018

Deep purple color; black cherry, blackberry, blueberry, violets, licorice, wet stone on the nose; raspberry, blueberry, blackberry, plum, cherry, mocha, pepper on the palate.

L’Ecole No. 41 Syrah, Columbia Valley 2018

Dry; plush in the mouth; silky tannins. Good acidity (3.6 pH). Blend of 80% syrah, 18% grenache, 2% mourvédre. Hand-harvested and crushed in 1.5-ton stainless steel fermenters. Punch down by hand, juice moved by gravity. Racked four times in 100% small oak barrels, mostly neutral, over 18 months. Very slight oak influence.

L’Ecole black label “Heritage” wines focus on expressing grape variety; their white label wines focus on place. Heritage production is three times the white label; 3,300 cases of this offering with good national distribution and can be purchased online. Grapes came from four vineyards—Stone Tree, Candy Mountain, Estate Seven Hills, Summit View. Rich, ripe fruit gives illusion of sweetness. Medium-plus body. Straightforward in mid-palate and moderately long finish. Holds up to significant alcohol—15% ABV—with no burn on the finish.

Baker and Jean Ferguson founded the winery in 1983 in the Walla Walla Valley, just the third winery in the Valley. It is housed in the historic Frenchtown School, which appears on the label. L’Ecole wines focus on quality from Washington State and the Walla Walla Valley. The Ferguson’s daughter, Megan, and her husband, Marty built on the Ferguson’s legacy. A third generation, Riley and Rebecca, participate in the winery today.

L’Ecole founders Jean and Baker Ferguson

The website notes: “Our focus is to produce ultra-premium, distinctive wines that reflect the unmistakable typicity of Washington State and the unique terroir of our Walla Walla Valley vineyards.  We are engaged in growing and making 100% of our wine.  Each bottle is handcrafted with a commitment to quality in the vineyards and the winery.  More than three decades of winemaking experience, ongoing investments in our Walla Walla Estate Ferguson and Seven Hills Vineyards, and long-term relationships with many of the most prominent vineyards in Washington State are central to our well-known reputation for quality and consistency across our wine portfolio.”

Marty Clubb is the co-owner, with his wife Megan, and managing winemaker today. Wine & Spirits magazine has recognized L’Ecole as a Top 100 winery for 15 consecutive years. In 2014, Decanter praised their 2011 Estate Ferguson as the best Bordeaux in the world.

Marty and Megan Clubb, second generation owners of L’Ecole

Very old vines are a key to L’Ecole success. Many were planted in the 1970s and 1980s. Winery literature notes: “Meticulously managed to L’Ecole specifications, we farm the same vineyards and specific blocks of fruit each year with the goal of achieving the highest level of quality. These efforts contribute significantly to the trustworthy reputation of our wines vintage after vintage.”

L’Ecole No. 41 Syrah, Columbia Valley 2018 is fresh, clean, easy drinker from a maker that consistently provides quality. There is not an abundance of depth, rich red fruits are the core of the experience, but this clearly will go well with food where it will complement the fare rather than compete with it. Pair with beef; lamb; wild game—venison; pork; poultry; cedar-plank salmon; intense cheese—cheddar, roquefort, gorgonzola, pecorino, camembert, brie. $25-27

L’Ecole website

Clubb family, second and third generations at L’Ecole: Riley, Rebecca, Marty, Megan
L’Ecole Seven Hills vineyard
L’Ecole Walla Walla Valley
L’Ecole Columbia Valley
L’Ecole extolls virtues of Washington State vineyards
L’Ecole tasting area
L’Ecole harvest
L’Ecole winemaking team
L’Ecole owner and winemaker Marty Clubb with viticulturist Mike Sharon