Tasting wines through different vintages is always a learning experience. There are many nuances. For example, the age of the wine, the composition of grapes in each vintage, the vineyard location, its soil, and the weather all play a role. Over the years, we tasted numerous vintages of L’Ecole No. 41 Perigee from Seven Hills Vineyard. Most recently, the winery sent us both the 2015 and 2018 Perigee. Read on to learn more about this luscious wine, which we really appreciate.
The Perigee Vintages
Perigee is the time when the moon’s orbit is closest to the earth. It’s also a fitting name for the L’Ecole Bordeaux blend that is sourced from fruit grown in Seven Hills Vineyard, its Certified Sustainable Estate Vineyard in Walla Walla.
A few years ago, we scored two bottles of 2002 Estate Perigee – the initial vintage of this elegant wine made by Marty Clubb, co-owner and managing winemaker. Next, we tasted 2006 Perigee. Fast forward to this month, when we poured both the 2015 and 2018 releases. Perigee is one of our favorite L’Ecole wines, so of course we loved them all. However, not surprisingly, the nuances between vintages is notable.
First, the blends differ each year. Perigee 2006 comprises 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. These days, Marty also blends Petit Verdot and Malbec into Perigee. He says Seven Hills is one of the warmer sites in the Walla Walla Valley, so these grapes thrive there.
Therefore, the 2015 blends 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 14% Cab Franc, 7% Petit Verdot and 7% Malbec. Subsequently, the 2018 blends 50% Cab Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 16% Cab Franc, 9% Petit Verdot and 9% Malbec. That is to say, 2018 comprises the same amount of Merlot, less Cab Sauv, and more Cab Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec than 2015.
In addition to the composition, the vineyard location and soil determine tannins and acidity. And the weather matters too, of course. For example, moderate weather in 2018 created higher natural acidity in that vintage. Meanwhile, Marty says the 2015 vintage was the warmest on record in Washington state until 2021. As a result of the heat, 2015 Perigee is more tannic. But with aging, it’s mellowed out. In other words, the year that you drink the wine is important too.
Marty notes that L’Ecole strives to make wines that can be enjoyed now, but will also reward you with time. The aging potential of Perigee is 10-20 years. The wine will taste differently depending on its age, and also depending on the length of time you decant it. For instance, you’ll notice the 2015 Perigee will evolve with just 30 minutes in your glass.
We prefer older wines, which are more complex, layered and nuanced, with different flavors and textures than when they were younger. They’ve had time to develop and improve in the cellar.
Here is more information about the samples we received. (Of note, we purchased the other vintages mentioned in this article.)
Perigee 2015 Seven Hills Vineyard ($73)
What a beautiful wine! According to Marty, Perigee exemplifies Seven Hills vineyard’s characteristic cedar and black plum structured elegance. The distinct grapes bring aromas of blueberries, barrel spice, and herbal notes, with layered flavors of cassis, dark chocolate, cherries, plums and graphite. Pair it with a hearty stew or a steak on a cool evening. Or serve it with glazed ham for Christmas dinner. Of note, the 2015 vintage is available from the winery, but not at its website. Phone or email to purchase it; there’s a two-bottle minimum.
Perigee 2018 Seven Hills Vineyard ($56)
This current release has a lower price point than the 2015, and requires more time to decant. As it opens up, this is one gorgeous wine. Or if you have patience, put it away in the cellar. The aromas of 2018 Perigee are similar to the older wine, but not identical because of the disparate percentages of each grape. The nose offers aromas of spices, blackberries, cassis, dark chocolate and violets. The palate offers rich, dark fruit flavors with licorice notes. This vintage can be purchased on the website.
In conclusion, we highly recommend both vintages of Perigee, particularly during the cooler evenings when they pair beautifully with fall foods.
As mentioned, we are collaborating with L’Ecole in a 2021 wine education program. So these pretty wines are among several samples we taste throughout the year. That is to say, L’Ecole offers dozens of varieties in their portfolio. For instance, in addition to Perigee, the winery produces Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Bordeaux blends, Sémillon, Rosé and more. Likewise, the full list of their wines is available at their website.
Previous stories about L’Ecole 41:
- Merlot Month
- L’Ecole Syrah
- L’Ecole Luminesce
- Chenin Blanc
- L’Ecole Wine Production
- Estate Syrah and Sustainability
- Artisan Wine by L’Ecole
- L’Ecole 41 Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2017
- L’Ecole 41 2021
- Favorite 50 Wines in 2020
- Walla Walla’s L’Ecole 41
- A Great Reunion with an Old Friend at a Schoolhouse (2010)
Margot and Dave