L'Ecole 41 Columbia Valley Merlot 2015
Layered with enticing aromas of black cherry, violet, and plum, this full bodied Merlot shows balanced layers of red fruit and cocoa on a seamless finish of fine-grained tannin.
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Founded in 1983 in the Walla Walla Valley, L’Ecole No 41 is one of Washington State’s most iconic and oldest family-owned wineries. Housed in the historic Frenchtown School depicted on our label, we have earned international acclaim for producing distinctive wines of the highest quality. We craft ultra-premium wines that re?ect the unmistakable typicity of Washington State and the unique terroir of our Walla Walla Valley vineyards.
Growing and making 100% of our wines, each bottle is handcrafted with a commitment to quality in the vineyards and the winery. More than three decades of winemaking experience, ongoing investments in our Walla Walla Estate Ferguson and Seven Hills Vineyards, and long term relationships with many of the most prominent vineyards in Washington State are central to our well-known reputation for quality and consistency across our wine portfolio. These tenets will continue to sustain L’Ecole well into the future.
L’Ecole is one of the most honored wineries in Washington State. We are proud to be recognized by Wine & Spirits Magazine as a Top 100 Winery of the Year for fourteen consecutive years. In 2014, Decanter awarded our 2011 Estate Ferguson the International Trophy for Best Bordeaux Blend in the World! In 2016, the 2013 Ferguson won the International Trophy for Best New World Bordeaux Blend from the Six Nations Wine Challenge.
A large and geographically diverse AVA capable of producing 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 even extends into northern Oregon!
Because of its size, it is necessarily divided into several distinctive sub-AVAs, including Walla Walla Valley and Yakima Valley—which are both further split into smaller, noteworthy appellations. A region this size will of course have varied microclimates, but on the whole it experiences extreme winters and long, hot, dry summers. 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 entire 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. These range in style from citrus and green apple dominant in cooler sites, to riper, fleshier wines with stone fruit flavors coming from the warmer vineyards.
An easy-going red variety with generous fruit and a supple texture, Merlot can be made into a range of styles from everyday-drinking to world-renowned and age-worthy. Merlot is the dominant variety in the best wines from Bordeaux’s Right Bank regions of St. Emilion and Pomerol where it is blended with Cabernet Franc. On the Left Bank in the Medoc, it plays a supporting role to Cabernet Sauvignon—in both cases resulting in some of the longest-lived and highest-quality wines in the world. Merlot also frequently shines on its own, particularly from California’s Napa Valley.
In the Glass
Merlot is known for its soft, silky texture and approachable flavors of ripe plum, red and black cherry and raspberry. In a cool climate, you may find earthier notes alongside dried herbs, tobacco and tar, while Merlot from warmer regions is generally more straightforward and fruit-focused.
Lamb with Merlot is an ideal match—the sweetness of the meat picks up on the sweet fruit flavors of the wine to create a harmonious balance. Merlot’s gentle tannins allow for a hint of spice and its medium weight and bright acidity permit the possibilities of simple pizza or pasta with red sauce—overall, an extremely versatile food wine.
Since the release of the 2004 film Sideways, Merlot's repuation has taken a big hit, and more than a decade later has yet to fully recover, though it is on its way. What many viewers didn't realize was that as much as Miles derided the variety, the prized wine of his collection—a 1961 Château Cheval Blanc—is made from a blend of Merlot with Cabernet Franc.