Every year, talented winemakers Marty Clubb, Marcus Rafanelli and their team produce L’Ecole stars. From refreshing whites to luscious reds, L’Ecole wines move to the front of the class. These five fall releases continue the trend of impressive wines from the historic schoolhouse in Walla Walla — especially the magnificent 2020 Cellar Selection Cabernet Sauvignon (which honors L’Ecole’s 40th anniversary). L’Ecole is one of the most honored wineries in WA, and has generated national and international accolades for superior quality wines. Read on for more about these five stars.
We’ve been fans of the winery since we moved to Washington in 1999. So, we were not surprised to discover that this current release of L’Ecole scored again. In other words, gold stars all around at the schoolhouse!
2022 Old Vines Chenin Blanc, Upland Vineyard, Snipes Mountain ($24)
L’Ecole started making Chenin Blanc just four years after the winery opened its doors in 1983. Moreover, L’Ecole makes 25% of Washington State’s production of this esoteric grape. Meanwhile, Upland is the oldest-producing vineyard in WA, planted more than 100 years ago. L’Ecole sourced this Chenin from vines planted in 1979 in ancient alluvial Columbia River soils. What a gorgeous wine. We aren’t surprised because Marcus Rafanelli is known for his white wines. This Chenin is balanced with natural high acidity, low sugars and a rich expression of fruit. Opulent flavors of stone fruits, tropical fruits and honey provide a beautiful mouthfeel. Pair it with seafood, sushi, pasta, spicy dishes, turkey or grilled pork.
2022 Chardonnay, Evergreen Vineyard, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley ($36)
We don’t drink a lot of Chardonnay but this L’Ecole star from Evergreen Vineyard leaves us wanting more. L’Ecole calls it: “The queen of wines grown at WA’s premier site for Chardonnay.” Evergreen Vineyard is a high-elevation, cool climate site with fractured basalt soils. Chardonnay 2022 combines vibrant aromas of white peaches and apples, with flavors of more apples and spices, intense minerality, and bright acidity. This single-vineyard, old-vines Chardonnay features elegance and substance. In other words, enjoy it right away or put away in the cellar – this Chardonnay is built for aging. I wish we had this during our crab fest last month. However, it will also pair with scallops, shrimp, or chicken.
2020 Apogee, Pepper Bridge Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley ($60)
During our visit to the schoolhouse earlier this year, Marcus told us that Apogee makes him happy, and we agree. Its special richness and concentration of fruit immediately grabs our attention. L’Ecole has produced Pepper Bridge Vineyard Apogee since 1993. This single-vineyard Bordeaux-style wine offers complexity and structure, blending Cabernet Sauvignon (56%), Merlot (28%), Malbec (12%) and Cabernet Franc (4%). Spicy bold aromas of black cherries, blackberries, cocoa and licorice lead into flavors of dark fruits, mocha, baking spices and hints of graphite. What a superb wine! Try to put it away in the cellar. If you don’t have patience, decant it for a few hours before drinking.
2020 Perigee, Estate Seven Hills Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley ($60)
Another L’Ecole star, Estate Perigee is the winery’s flagship Bordeaux-style blend, which epitomizes Seven Hill’s distinctive cedar and dark fruit aromas and flavors, framed by a structured elegance. Perigee 2022 blends Cabernet Sauvignon (54%), Merlot (24%), Cabernet Franc (12%), Malbec (6%) and Petit Verdot (4%). As a result, the wine is textured, layered, harmonious and spectacular. Above all, we have been big fans of Estate Perigee since our first taste of the initial 2002 vintage. Last year, we participated in an exclusive 2018 Perigee components tasting. That is to say, we tasted, compared and contrasted the unique qualities of each component and of the finished Perigee blend. Talk about an educational, fun and delicious experience.
L’Ecole Stars: 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon Cellar Selection, Estate Ferguson Vineyard ($75)
What a stunning, sophisticated show-stopper! This is the brightest of all of L’Ecole’s stars in this current release. Wow. Cabernet Sauvignon Cellar Selection celebrates L’Ecole’s 40th anniversary. Marcus sourced the grapes from their esteemed Estate Ferguson Vineyard, named after winery founders Baker and Jean Ferguson. The vineyard provides power and earthiness from fractured basalt soil with big-iron minerality. This commemorative Cab features notes of blackberries, blueberries, plums, dark chocolate, crushed stone, espresso, and spices, with a thread of minerality. Put a juicy steak on the grill and enjoy. But be sure to decant it for a few hours before pouring or, better yet, cellar it – this beauty has a long future.
Summary: L’Ecole Stars
In conclusion, L’Ecole 41 is a third-generation, family-owned artisan winery. Most importantly, L’Ecole 41 is a leader of the sustainable farming program in the Walla Walla Valley. All of L’Ecole’s estate wines are Certified Sustainable and Salmon Safe. In addition to these spectacular wines, L’Ecole offers dozens of other varieties in their portfolio. For instance, the winery also produces Merlot, Syrah, Sémillon and more. The full list of their wines is available at their website.
Margot and Dave