L’Ecole N ° 41 bottled the elements for its 2018 Seven Hills Vineyard Estate Perigee Red wine as a special set for media, trade and guests to gain more insight into the white wine influenced by the Right Bank blends from Bordeaux. (Photo courtesy of L’Ecole N ° 41)
An international pandemic turned a top Walla Valley winery’s in-person outreach concept into an instructional chance for daring wine consumers.
But initially, the back story from the renowned schoolhouse in the small town of Lowden.
L’Ecole N ° 41 can be considered as a design template for a Bordeaux-inspired house in Washington state with signature red blends crafted in a Vintage style. In 2014 and in 2016, L’Ecole’s then-nascent Estate Ferguson program– a Bordeaux blend– made impressive worldwide trophies almost instantly from the Decanter Global Wine Awards in London and the Six Nations Wine Obstacle in Australia. Those grapes were pulled from the interesting Ferguson Vineyard, a website called for winery creators Jean and Baker Ferguson.
Handling wine maker Marty Clubb, who wed their child, Megan, also makes tactical use of grapes from Seven Hills Vineyard, another historic estate planting that’s south of Walla Walla, simply over the border near Milton-Freewater, Ore., and simply downhill from Ferguson.
7 Hills Vineyard was developed in 1997 by Clubb, Standard McKibben of Pepper Bridge Winery popularity, and Gary Figgins, creator of Leonetti Cellar. Seven Hills becomes part of the SeVein Vineyards advancement, an 1,800-acre vineyard complex that might be deserving of its own American Viticultural Area status. However, Clubb does not have plans to pursue a specific niche AVA, picking instead to support the Walla Valley’s regional credibility.
The following for Seven Hills fruit and the praise for Clubb’s white wines set the phase for Perigee, a red mix made from historical vines that showcases the depth and complexity that the Walla Valley is known for. It’s named for the point where the moon is closest to Earth every month.
In the past 15 years, exclusive red blends have ended up being the largest classification in Washington red wine as varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah increased in acreage. Clubb’s 30 vintages reveals a deft touch with blends, earning high scores from the top international red wine critics in addition to those sweepstakes victories in red wine competitors.
Perigee is a Meritage-style mix of the 5 main red grapes of the Bordeaux area: Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Wine, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.
The last blend of the 2018 Perigee consisted of half Cabernet Sauvignon, 16 percent Red wine, 19 percent of Petit Verdot, 16 percent Cabernet Franc and 9 percent Malbec– each playing their role in a wine that reveals strength and balance.
And this is where L’Ecole moved from class instruction to remote knowing.
To help identify Perigee in the market, the L’Ecole group decided to bottle each of the 5 elements of the 2018 Perigee into half-bottles for a nationwide promo. Such a part tasting is hardly ever readily available due to the fact that the red wines not involved in such a bottling ended up mixed into other projects. And, honestly, it’s harder to work with the 375-milliliter bottles– half bottles called “splits.”
However, the COVID-19 pandemic put the brakes on the winery’s prepare for a cross-country academic tour. So the L’Ecole team pivoted, shipping a bottle of the 2018 Perigee and its 5 parts from the 2018 vintage to wine purchasers and sommeliers throughout the nation. They conducted the tasting virtually through video conferencing.
Fortunately, there is a special opportunity for L’Ecole fans due to the fact that a few of the 2018 Perigee part sets are still offered. The winery periodically carries out element tastings with red wine club members and other customers, and the sets are offered for purchase to have your own tasting celebration at home.
This is an uncommon instructional chance for consumers– type of like looking at the test answers– to experience the taste and terroir choices that enter into crafting an outstanding red mix.
My own tasting through the Perigee and its components was a lot of fun.
I began with the finished red wine, tasting it to get a sense for its balance and fruit elements. Then, I hung out with each different varietal, contemplating what decisions were made throughout blending trials.
During my career, I’ve had the good luck of sitting in on blending sessions and barrel tastings of other jobs by other wineries. Here, as I tasted each red wine, I visualized L’Ecole N ° 41 winemaker Marcus Rafanelli as an orchestra conductor, with each different red wine an instrument contributing in creating complicated music. The Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot were the foundation of the red wine, supplying the structure and the primary fruit elements. The Red wine completed a few of the mid-notes. The Malbec brought acidity and dark notes, while the Cabernet Franc filled the gaps with its fruity and herbal notes.
A crucial awareness is that each part of this mix was good enough to stand alone, but the 5 together resulted in a fantastic signature mix.
L’Ecole N ° 41 club members and fans can learn more about the Perigee part tastings, an educational chance rarely made available to white wine customers. Contact the tasting room at 509-525-0940 or [email protected] to ask about upcoming events and/or buying options.
I hope this L’Ecole N ° 41 Perigee idea motivates more Pacific Northwest wineries to produce similar instructional opportunities– both for consumers and to assist market our area’s wonderful wines to worldwide white wine buyers, dining establishments and media.