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L'Ecole 41 Chardonnay 2009

Chardonnay from Columbia Valley, Washington
  • WE91
  • WS90
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Winemaker Notes

Some of the best Chardonnays in Washington State are grown in the slightly cooler growing conditions of Yakima Valley and in the northern latitudes of the Columbia Valley. The Schmitt Vineyard (Yakima Valley) provides nice tropical fruit, while Evergreen (latitude 47 on the Columbia River) contributes crisp acidity and minerality.

This elegantly expressive Chardonnay offers an enticing mix of tropical fruit, flint and crisp Asian pear. The vibrant structure of this wine is finely balanced between richness and minerality adding complexity on the clean, lingering finish.

Critical Acclaim

WE 91
Wine Enthusiast

This is a pure Chardonnay, from cool-climate sites, showing a lean, sculpted spine that both defines and expands the flavors. Exceptionally complex for Washington Chardonnay, with good natural acidity, a mix of peach, apple and pineapple fruit, and a finish that shows tight layering. There is a dense core that should unravel with bottle age; this is that rare Washington Chardonnay that will prosper with cellaring.

WS 90
Wine Spectator

Lithe and spicy, with a peppermint edge to the pear, pineapple and caramel flavors. Finishes with polish. Drink now through 2014.

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L'Ecole 41

L'Ecole 41

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L'Ecole 41, , Washington
L'Ecole 41
L'Ecole No 41, a family owned vineyard, has been producing premium handcrafted varietal wines since 1983 in the historic Frenchtown School in Lowden, Washington. Having been founded by Jean and Baker Ferguson, the winery is now owned and operated by their daughter and son-in-law, Megan and Martin Clubb. Martin has been the general manager and winemaker since 1989.

In 1984, shortly after the first 1983 vintage was resting in barrel, Jean and Baker Ferguson, the founders, held a contest with all the relatives' children under grade six. The objective: draw a colorful drawing to be used as a wine label. Some of the children drew pictures of the school building, others drew bottles of wine with glasses, and at least one drew a picture of the cat. The prize at the time was $100 cash, plus royalties on posters sold (fortunately the state liquor board would not allow royalties on the wine).

The winner: 8 year old third grade cousin Ryan Campbell. Ryan's watercolor of the schoolhouse was drawn just about the time of Walla Walla's Hot Air Balloon Stampede, and he came up with the grape cluster balloon. All of the entries, including Ryan's original, hang in the tasting room for visitors to admire. Today, Ryan has just completed his Architecture Degree at the University of Idaho.

Columbia Valley

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A large and geographically diverse AVA responsible for a wide variety of wine styles, the Columbia Valley AVA is home to 99% of Washington State’s total vineyard area. A small section of the AVA extends into northern Oregon as well. Because of its vast size, it is necessarily divided into several distinctive sub-AVAs, including Walla Walla Valley and Yakima Valley—which is further split into three more even smaller AVAs. A region this size will of course have varied microclimates, but on the whole it experiences cold winters and long, dry growing seasons. Frost is a common risk during winter and spring. The towering Cascade mountain range creates a rain shadow, keeping the valley relatively rain-free throughout the year, necessitating irrigation from the Columbia River. The lack of humidity combined with sandy soils allows for vines to be grown on their own rootstock, as phylloxera is not a serious concern.

Red wines make up the majority of production in the Columbia Valley. Cabernet Sauvignon is the dominant variety here, where it produces wines with a pleasant balance of dark fruit and herbs. Wines made from Merlot are typically supple, with sweet red fruit and sometimes a hint of chocolate or mint. Syrah tends to be savory and Old-World-leaning, with a wide range of possible fruit flavors and plenty of spice. The most planted white varieties are Chardonnay and Riesling, the styles of which depend on the warmth of the site. Citrus and green apple are common to both in cooler sites, while warmer vineyards will produce riper, fleshier stone fruit flavors.

Riesling

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A regal variety of incredible purity and precision, Riesling possesses a remarkable ability to reflect the character of wherever it is grown while still maintaining easily identifiable typicity. This versatile grape can be just as enjoyable dry or sweet, young or old, still or sparkling, and can age longer than nearly any other white variety. Riesling is best known in Germany and Alsace, and is also of great importance in Austria. The variety has also been particularly successful in Australia’s Clare and Eden Valleys, New Zealand, Oregon, Washington, cooler regions of California, and the Finger Lakes in New York.

In the Glass

Riesling is low in alcohol, with high acidity, steely minerality, and stone fruit, spice, citrus, and floral notes. At its ripest it leans towards juicy peach and nectarine, and pineapple, while in cooler climes it is more redolent of meyer lemon, lime, and green apple. With age, Riesling can become truly revelatory, developing unique, complex aromatics, often with a hint of gasoline.

Perfect Pairings

Riesling is very versatile, enjoying the company of sweet-fleshed fish like sole, most Asian food, especially Thai and Vietnamese (bottlings with some residual sugar and low alcohol are the perfect companions for dishes with substantial spice), and freshly shucked oysters. Sweeter styles work well with fruit-based desserts.

Sommelier Secret

It can be difficult to discern the level of sweetness in a Riesling, and German labeling laws do not make things any easier. Look for the world “trocken” to indicate a dry wine, or “halbtrocken” or “feinherb” for off-dry. Some producers will include a helpful sweetness scale on the back label—happily, a growing trend.

MSW22701081_2009 Item# 105634

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