Who knew that “back to school” could be so much fun?

There are several reasons why I so frequently mention our favorite wine bar, Vino Bello, on this blog. Owner Michele Smith is an engaging and wine savvy hostess, and Jake–a man of many names–is our favorite bartender. No wonder why Vino Bello is known as the “Cheers” of our neighborhood. The third reason is the wine … more specifically, the wine tastings. Every Saturday, Michele showcases either Washington state wines or wines from around the world.

Our most recent Saturday tasting was from L’Ecole No. 41, which produces premium wine in the cellars of the historic Frenchtown School in Lowden, Washington, just outside Walla Walla. As the third-oldest winery in Washington state, L’Ecole has been making wine since long before the state became home to more than 500 wineries.

L’Ecole is French for school, and the turn-of-the-century schoolhouse is now a family winery. The restored schoolhouse (which we visited in April) is preserved in character, with original chalkboards, light fixtures and fir floors. One of their library wines is called Recess Red. Who knew that going back to school could be so much fun?

At Vino Bello, we tasted L’Ecole’s 2006 Semillon, 2006 Columbia Valley Chardonnay, 2004 Columbia Valley Merlot and Syrah, and 2004 Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon. High on our list was the Cab, with its old-world structure showing dark fruit flavors on a balanced finish. But our favorite was L’Ecole’s 2004 Ferguson Commemorative Reserve, and that’s what we took home with us.

The Ferguson honors Washington state wine industry pioneers Jean and Baker Ferguson, who founded L’Ecole No. 41 in 1983. This reserve bottling was designed for long-term aging, which is a good thing because it is one-of-a-kind for L’Ecole and received 92 points from Wine Enthusiast & Cellar. We’ll be going back for more!


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About Margot

Margot has been writing about wine since 1997 at KOIN-TV in Portland, Oregon; ten years later, she created this blog. Write for Wine focuses on the fine wines of Washington state, with occasional posts about other northwest wine regions (Oregon and B.C.), California, ANZ and Bordeaux. A former national journalist in Canada, Margot has been a Washington wine enthusiast since moving to Seattle in 1999. Her motto: “It’s wine o’clock somewhere.”