It has been 30 years since Baker and Jean Ferguson launched their small winery in an old schoolhouse in the Walla Walla Valley town of Lowden.
L'Ecole No. 41 was the region's third winery (after Leonetti and Woodward Canyon), and it quickly distinguished itself as one of the state's best, with Jean as the winemaker. Today, their son-in-law, Marty Clubb, manages the winery with his wife, Megan, whose day job is running Baker Boyer, Washington's oldest bank. L'Ecole has grown into a winery producing more than 40,000 cases annually with wine sold across the country and in many international markets.
The Clubbs also are part owners of famed Seven Hills Vineyard near Milton-Freewater and now own Ferguson, a high-elevation vineyard also on the Oregon side of the Walla Walla Valley. In addition, they bring in grapes from throughout the Walla Walla and Columbia valleys.
Here are some of their latest releases. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or contact L'Ecole directly.
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L'Ecole No. 41 2010 Merlot, Columbia Valley, $24: This robust Merlot has a star-studded lineup of vineyards behind it, including Bacchus, Dionysus, Klipsun, Pepper Bridge, Seven Hills and StoneTree. Smoky black cherries, red plum, huckleberry and vanilla aromas lead to flavors of dark cherry and black plum. Sturdy tannins, joined by pomegranate acidity, create pleasing length.
L'Ecole No. 41 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $31: Aromas gather up hints of red plum, dark chocolate, allspice and pencil shavings. Inside, there's a big entry of black cherry, bittersweet chocolate, more plum and black pepper as its structure builds with acidity outweighing tannin.
L'Ecole No. 41 2010 Candy Mountain Vineyard Red Wine, Columbia Valley, $39: This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot comes with alluring aromas of dark cherry, chocolate mint, black licorice, horehound, coffee and campfire smoke. Bold flavors of blackberry, plum, strawberry and more black cherry bring a rich texture that's capped by bright acidity of Montmorency cherry.
L'Ecole No. 41 2010 Seven Hills Vineyard Estate Perigee, Walla Walla Valley, $50: This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot is built for the long haul. Heady aromas of fresh boysenberry, cherry preserves, lavender, lilac and cedar are transformed into a creamy entry of plum sauce and macerated cherries. The midpalate slowly builds with powerful tannins for a structure that, combined with blueberry acidity, is destined for greatness with cellaring.
L'Ecole No. 41 2010 Seven Hills Vineyard Estate Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, $34: This gorgeous Syrah opens with aromas of black cherry, poached plum, blueberry, vanilla and minerality. The drink brings a bold and rich structure of boysenberry, chocolate-covered cherries and fig with Marionberry and earthiness in the finish.
L'Ecole No. 41 2012 Alder Ridge Vineyard Grenache Ros, Horse Heaven Hills, $20: This pink wine opens with aromas of lemon, dried strawberry and red currant, followed by flavors of ripe pie cherry, fresh plum and rich strawberry, all backed with impressive acidity and a lengthy finish.
L'Ecole No. 41 2012 Chenin Blanc, Columbia Valley, $15: Few are as dedicated to the noble Chenin Blanc as Marty Clubb, who has produced a Chenin since 1987. This vintage opens with aromas of grass, lime, apple blossom and pear, followed by refreshing flavors of white peach, Asian pear and Waldorf salad. Clean, bright acidity lifts the fruit in this deliciously dry white wine.
L'Ecole No. 41 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, $40: The launch with aromas of minerality, plum, black cherry, Dr Pepper and coffee is followed by flavors of dark chocolate, black currant, black olive and cherry. It's a big, dense wine that will continue to evolve in the cellar.
Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, a news and information company.