11 Aug 2010
If school were like this, I’d have gotten my doctorates degree! L’Ecole 41, French for “The School” district 41 is more appropriately named, “Je t’aime” for the love that it induces upon first sip. Situated in a schoolhouse built in 1915, L’Ecole teaches a master class in Washington wine class, style and marketing. Until the recent changes to Highway 12 in Walla Walla, every visitor entering Walla Wall from the West drove past the distinct schoolhouse tasting room which beckoned all inside for an enological education.
Operated by Megan and Marty Clubb, L’Ecole offers a 27 year lesson plan on Washington Wine. In previous reviews the L’Ecole Columbia Valley Cab finished 2nd in a 5 wine Cabernet shootout (4/5) and the 2007 Perigee was my June wine of the month (4/5). I recently enjoyed their 2007 Syrah, but sadly the bottle was gone before it could make its way to a review.
Visitors to their tasting room can enjoy a 1.3 acre working vineyard and tasting in two restored school rooms. Don’t worry; the Vice Principle is not around to slap your hands if you taste incorrectly. Have fun and write on their unique chalkboard counters while you’re there. Exploring the schoolhouse is half the fun while visiting L’Ecole.
As a side note, I’m experimenting with a new video format. Not sure why the video didn’t render across the full frame. If anyone knows Adobe Premiere Elements, let me know.
2008 L’Ecole 41 Luminesce
- The Stuff: 70% Semillon, 30% Sauvignon Blanc from Seven Hills Vineyards, aged 4 months in neutral French oak barrels. 30% malolactic fermentation; 14.2%ABV
- The Swirl: A pale yellow honey in the glass that strikes a chord of gold
- The Sniff: Tropics and pear on the nose. Not an over the top presentation but can definitely pick out the Sauvignon Blanc characteristics added to this blend.
- The Sip: Nice gentle approaching soft fruit on the front of the tongue that opens up to a full embrace on the mid palate. An amazingly bright acidity finishes off this wine. The flavors are not overwhelming but the presentation is well balanced and thoughtful.
- The Score: At only $20 (and often less on sale or in the store), this is a super wine. I love the mix if characteristics from the Semillon and Sauv Blanc. This wine easily scores a 4/5. Find it under $15 and you’ve got a 4+/5
91 Pts Wine Enthusiast; 89 Pts Steven Tanzer
2007 L’Ecole 41 Seven Hills Merlot
- The Stuff: 81% Merlot, 11% Cab Sauv, 8% Cab Franc from Seven Hills vineyard. Aged 18 months in 40% new oak, 14.5%ABV; 1326 cases produced
- The Swirl: Good thick color presentation of plum and dark cherry but has about 60% opacity. Nice strong color to the edges.
- The Sniff: Dominate musty earth and grassy herbs that give way to dried cherry and black berry fruit. A moderate amount of cinnamon and cloves are present as well. From the video to further in the night the wine opened up into a more robust aroma of cherry (which I would expect) and vanilla.
- The Sip: A muscular merlot with good dried fruit, earthy terroir, dark fruit and mild tannin. Those that enjoy a subtle elegant merlot may find this more intriguing.
- The Score: At $37 it is more than most people would drop for a Merlot they haven’t tasted. If you’re looking for a bright cherry vanilla Merlot, you may want to pass, but if you’re after a warm earthy muscle Merlot, give it a go. Decanting this wine is recommended. 3+/5
92 pts Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt); 91 pts Wine Advocate
2007 L’Ecole 41 Apogee
- The Stuff: 60% Cab Sauv, 30% Merlot 6% Malbec, 4% Cab Franc; 22 months in 50% new oak. 1630 cases produced, 14.5% ABV
- The Swirl: Thicker and slightly cloudy in color with dark purple tones. No jewelry here.
- The Sniff: A medium brightness of black berry and black cherry fruits along with subtle hints of cocoa and earthiness.
- The Sip: Big boy wine with a good firm structure of dark fruits and strong chalky tannin. If you’re looking to sip now, decant for several hours. Would recommend this wine as a special cellar project to pull out in 2013 when it would be more smooth and elegant. Great layers of fruit and firmness.
- The Score: At $50 a good percentage of people will not risk their money without a sample or a strong recommendation. The Apogee is not quite the pinnacle of what it is shooting for but it will be there in 3-5 more years. I score this a 4/5 based on potential.
*Wine was provided as an industry sample with the intention to review
07 Jul 2010
Situated in the center of the state of Washington is a destination resort vineyard and winery that showcases 30 year old vines and views 900 feet above the Columbia River. Cave B Estate Winery is next to the Gorge Amphitheater 150 miles East of Seattle and 150 miles West of Spokane just off Interstate 90 in the little town of Quincy, WA. With 30 rooms, a spa, restaurant and award winning wine, Cave B makes for a perfect overnight trip, or resting stop on your journey to/from Seattle.
Owners Vince and Carol Bryan have fulfilled their vision for the property they began planting in 1980. The campus includes 120 acres of estate vineyards that winemaker Freddy Arrendondo uses to craft 19 different wines including Barbera, Tempranillo, and Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine. Cave B recently received 8 medals at the 2010 Seattle Wine Awards. Enjoy your stay with a hike down to the river, then enjoy a poolside massage and challenge your palate with a “Stump the Chump” blind wine tasting and wrap up your day with dinner at Tendrils Vineyard Restaurant.
2008 Cave B Riesling
- The Stuff: 100% Riesling fermented in stainless steel; 1.8% residual sugar; 12.7% ABV, 375 cases produced
- The Swirl: Beautiful soft honey tones that display a thicker viscosity, hint of small particulates in glass.
- The Sniff: The wine presents a lovely bouquet of perfume, nectarines, and guava. A soft sweetness graces the nose as well.
- The Sip: Love at first sip. A very fruit forward presentation of pineapple, tropical fruits and pears, followed by a perfectly balanced acidity that helps wash away the mild sweetness. The flavor is moderately sweet without coming across as syrupy.
- The Score: At $18 the Cave B Riesling is a wonderful balance of tropical aroma, off dry sweet fruit and a beautifully balanced finish that keeps you coming back for more. This wine is deserving of its gold at the SWA and scores a 4 out of 5 with me!
2008 Cave B Semillon
- The Stuff: 100% estate Semillon aged 11 months in 20% twice used American oak and a blend of 50% neutral American and 30% neutral French oak. 14.5% ABV, 275 cases produced
- The Swirl: First thing that comes to mind is liquid gold, almost light beer in color.
- The Sniff: Mild aromas of orange and spice are on the nose with a hint of vanilla bean.
- The Sip: If I didn’t know better, I would think this wine spent more time in oak. It’s pretty obvious that the twice used American oak imparted some flavors of toasted almonds and burnt vanilla. The wine coats the mouth and had a thin mid palate before coming through with a crisp finish of pears and honey.
- The Score: While not a fan of the oak presentation of this wine, it still has some interesting layers of flavor that would appeal to some people. Before purchasing this wine, be warned that it’s not a deck sipping Sauv Blanc or stainless steel aged Semillon. At $20 I can score this wine a 3+ for dynamic flavors, but give it a try before you commit to more than one bottle.
2006 Cave B Cuvee du Soleil
- The Stuff: 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Cab Franc, 25% Merlot, 22 months in 30% new American oak and 70% Neutral French and American oak; 13.9%ABV; 400 cases produced
- The Swirl: A dark cloudy plum color that is about 90% opaque.
- The Sniff: Powerful aromas of dark ripe plums, cocoa, leather, and coffee. You could spend quite a bit of time enjoying the aromas of this wine, but each sniff entices you to sip again!
- The Sip: The layers of flavor in this wine continue on and on with elegant presentations of coffee, black tea, stewed prunes, and hints of red cherry and cocoa. The wine has good medium-firm tannin on the finish that lingers.
- The Score: The Cave B proprietary blend is a wine that will wow a dinner party. A elegant presentation of Cab Sauv, Franc and Merlot make this a special wine that will age beautifully for another 5-8 years. At $40 this is a fantastic wine for special occasions and scores a good 4 out of 5.
*Wines were provided as an industry sample with the intention to review.
Learn more about Cave B Estate Winery
14 Apr 2010
Viognier and Semillon may not be grapes you are very familiar with, but I can assure you that with summer coming, consider these worthwhile reasons to stray from your Sauv Blanc and Rose. A Southwest oasis in the desert of central Washington, Desert Wind Winery was born out of a need for more fruit variety at Duck Pond Cellars (Dundee Oregon). In the early 90’s Duck Pond began planting the 480 acres located on the Wahluke Slope, East of Yakima and West of Tri-Cities. In 2001winemaker Greg Fries presented the first release of Desert Wind Winery. Seeing the phenomenal grown of the corridor between Prosser and Yakima, WA, Desert Wind set out to open a premium tasting room, event facility, restaurant, and retreat center. Considered the highlight of his career, Greg and team opened the Desert Wind Winery in 2007. You have to check out their web site, the space looks amazing! I wonder if Greg and Amber are going to invite me out (wink)?
I previously reviewed the 2007 Sauvignon Blanc and it walked away with my March value wine of the month. At just $15 the wine was alive with tropical fruits and a balanced flavor.
For those that skip the videos and just read the text, you’ll want to check out the final minute as I actually pull the guitar off the wall and play it (yes @clivity, I do play the guitar).
- The Stuff: 94% Semillon, 3% Chardonnay and 3% Sauvignon Blanc; aged six months in neutral oak. 100% barrel fermented; 14.5%ABV; 568 cases
- The Swirl: Bright golden wheat color, with honey tones, seemingly thick viscosity
- The Sniff: Light undertones of lemon, vanilla and pear. Subtle but pleasing
- The Sip: Great mouth-feel, velvet and soft with mild fruit flavors of pear or apple and hints of lemon shavings. Reminiscent of light lemon shortcake.
- The Score: At $15 this is a mellow wine that provides simple flavor profile. Would definitely recommend with creamy shellfish pasta or smoked salmon. I score this a 3 out of 5
- The Stuff: 100% Viognier, 91.5% stainless fermentation 8.5% new French oak fermentation for 60 days; 14.5%ABV; 414 cases made
- The Swirl: Light, nearly clear with hint of lemon lime soda coloring
- The Sniff: I think Don Ho came up singing Tiny Bubbles bringing aromas of lychee, peaches and other tropical fruits. Reminded me of some mixed drinks I got in Florida last year.
- The Sip: The tropical fruit was mild on the front palate with good zing of lemon zest and minerality on the mid palate. Amazingly strong acid finish was perfect for palate cleansing. The finish was beautiful and balanced
- The Score: At just $15 this is another winner from the desert heat of Desert Wind. I score this a 4 out of 5. A strong recommend for summertime pleasure or served with spicy foods.
Cellar Tracker scores (none for 2009, 1 at 84 points for 2008)
*These wines were provided as industry samples with the intention to review