L'Ecole 41 is a large Columbia Valley Washington State winery established in 1983. We would like to call your attention to them now because, while we have known their wines for their quality and stocked them for at least twenty years, we think we may have been underselling them.
Late last year our vendor sold us a half dozen Washington State reds including esteemed examples from Matthews and Januik. His casual comment in passing was that L'Ecole was the best of the lot. If you go to lecole.com, unsurprisingly, they think the Merlot is pretty good too but the winemaker goes on to talk about the 2017 vintage in glowing terms. Conditions were apparently optimal at harvest time.
If you compare critics' vintage notes on Columbia Valley in 2017, you get mixed reviews. Robert Parker's Wine Advocate is the only reputable magazine that scores the vintage highly. However James Suckling gives the L'Ecole Merlot individually a 94 point score.
Suckling says the wine is medium to full bodied with silky tannins and flavors of chocolate, hazelnut and fresh blackberries. The Wine Enthusiast (91 points) says it has aromas of black tea,dark raspberries, cedar and barrel spice and a similar palate with an accent on the full fruit.
The Merlot grape itself has had a rollercoaster history in the last forty years. L'Ecole planted the grape opportunely back in 1983 as Merlot was about to become the most popular red wine grape of the '80s and retaining much of that sway through the '90s. Then the movie Sideways derailed things even as the quality of Merlot was greatly rising because of viticultural improvements.
The truth is - Merlot has always been one of the best grapes of Washington State and the 2017 vintage L'Ecole demonstrates why that is. From their website - "Structure" is what sets this wine apart from others. The 2017 vintage is special because the opulent fresh Merlot fruit is balanced perfectly with the acidity of this wine. It doesn't hurt either that half of the juice for this wine comes from L'Ecole's Ferguson Reserve vineyards.
Reading this post means you are invited to taste here at the store on Saturday afternoons. We can't promise the L'Ecole will be open but whatever we have to taste here will be exemplary. Social distancing is still a factor so please work with us. Calling 770-287-WINE(9463) in advance is recommended. Please join us.