L’Ecole Wines Scores Big in Incredible Value and Taste


By Linda Kissam “Food, Wine & Shopping Diva”



ON BIG BLEND RADIO: Travel writer Linda Kissam and Constance Savage, Constance Savage, General Manager & COO of L’Ecole N° 41 Winery. Watch here in the YouTube player or download the podcast on Spreaker, PodBean, or SoundCloud.


Washington State features 1,000 wineries located across 19 AVA’s.  I tasted through several different wines from Washington on my private three-month boat cruise to Alaska this summer. Some wines offered more than others. Five L’Ecole Winery wines stood out for me.

For someone who loves exploring the flavors and textures found in the glass, L’Ecole is a real find. The price point is reasonable and the dedication to quality comes through with each sip.

L’Ecole says right on its website that it’s “known for producing reliable, superior quality wines crafted for richness and complexity, vintage after vintage.” There’s a duality in that quote that I find fascinating. On one hand, it says to me that this winery focuses on producing wines that are consumer-friendly in taste and wallet, and are consistent over vintages. On the other hand, there are the words “superior quality” that suggest some of the wines will be more expensive, with a focus on quality. I’d say both are true and this is what makes these wines so approachable.

L’Ecole is one of the pioneers of the Washington State wine scene, which, with every passing decade grows in importance both domestically and internationally. It was founded in 1983 in Walla Walla Valley. They are now, by far, the most prominent and well-known winery there. Their focus is on terroir-driven wines that reflect the typicity of Washington State and the Walla Walla Valley.  You’ll understand that completely after tasting their wines. There is a definite taste of place in each wine and they are appropriate for everyone from the novice to serious oenophiles. Lower-priced Columbia Valley wines (generally around $16-$25) are in black labeled bottles. Estate-grown Walla Walla wines (generally around $22-$75) have white labels.


L’Ecole Syrah 2018 Seven Hills Vineyard
White Label / $36

Winemaker’s Comments: Washington State’s climate and soil are ideally suited to maximize the varietal characteristics of Syrah. Crafted from some of the earliest Walla Walla Valley Syrah plantings, this wine manifests old-world attributes of earth and spice, in combination with the new world profile of bold, expressive fruit.

This is a varietally expressive Estate Syrah with good balance. On the nose expect fruit-forward aromas of blackberry, black cherry with hints of violet, and licorice. The palate is layered with flavors of white pepper, juicy plum, floral spirits, mocha, cinnamon, and ripe black fruit. The style is substantial yet silky, finishing with a tasty flavor-filled mouthful.

Blend: 80% Syrah, 18% Grenache, 2% Mourvedre

Pairing: Stuffed Mushrooms, Pizza or Lamb, Cherry Pie

L’Ecole 2018 Columbia Valley Merlot
Black Label / $25

Expect intricate layers of raspberry, plum, and black cherry. If you give this wine time to really open up, you will be greeted by hints of crushed roses, flint, and cedar.  On the palate, this full-bodied Merlot showcases with flavors of macerated berries, minerals, coffee, a hint of chocolate cake, and baking spices. The finish ends with a satisfying firm-tannin permanence. This is one you can lay down until 2030 or so.

Blend: 80% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot

Pairing: Aged Cheeses, Sausage Dish, Dark Berry Dessert

L’Ecole 2018 Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
White Label / $39

Winemaker’s Comments: This wine is a blend sourced from prestigious vineyard sites representing four unique soil types in the Walla Walla Valley, 50% of which are L’Ecole’s Estate vineyards. Its old-world structure, dense dark fruit flavors, and elegant tannins exemplify the best of Walla Walla.

You might want to get two of these. One you can open now but know that it needs time to open up appropriately. I’d give it 60 minutes minimum. It’s a young wine showing good potential. The other one could lay down for 2-3 years. It’s fun to compare and contrast.

Characteristic nose of blueberries, black plums, oak, vanilla, tobacco, dark coffee, earth, herbs, and dark chocolates.  Full-bodied with medium acidity. Dry on the palate with tannins, blackberries, black currants, plums, cooked cherries, oak, vanilla, herbs, spices, dark chocolates, coffee, earth, light vegetables, and tobacco leaf. Quite a bit of complexity going on. It finishes with a bit of green vegetables and flavorful red fruits.

100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes sourced from a variety of top-notch vineyards and aged for 18 months in French oak barrels (35% new). 14.5% alcohol by volume.

Pairing: Carpaccio, Duck, Bittersweet chocolate

L’Ecole 2020 No 41 Yakima Valley Chenin Blanc Old Vines
Black Label / $17

This old vine, crisp, and aromatic Vouvray-style Chenin Blanc was a big favorite on the boat at a welcome dinner.  Think New World wine with a touch of France. Open now and enjoy.

Pale lemon in color with a golden hue, it is a standout from the first swirl. Notes of white flowers, citrus, tangerines, honey, peaches, and green apples greet you. In the mouth, tropical flavors of kiwi and guava as well as quince and flinty notes. This is an exceedingly interesting and tasty wine, its complexity leads to a vibrant finish. Medium in body and acidity. Perfect to serve to novice and experienced wine drinkers. Good by itself or with food.

The grapes come from the Willard Farms, Upland, and Phil Church vineyards, each planted in 1979. 13.5% alcohol by volume.

Pairing: Grilled shrimp appetizers, Rock Fish Tacos, Lemon Meringue Pie

L’Ecole 2019 No 41 Columbia Valley Chardonnay
Black Label / $21

Winemaker’s Comments: Some of the very best Chardonnays in Washington State are grown in the slightly cooler growing conditions of the Yakima Valley and in the northern latitudes of the Columbia Valley. The Schmitt and Oasis Vineyards (both in Yakima Valley) provide nice tropical fruit notes, while Evergreen Vineyard (latitude 47 on the Columbia River) contributes crisp acidity and minerality.

I am not a big fan of Chardonnay, but this one captured my attention with its distinct aromas of dried mango, grilled peach, and honeysuckle. Slightly creamy in the mouth, I would consider this one presenting fresh, with big flavors of ripe pear and apple. Nice long finish. Swirl this one and the aromas draw you into the glass, with notes of apple, and stone fruits.  An agreeable sense of acidity ties it all together.

Pairing: Crab Cakes, Chicken with Tangerines, Strawberry Shortcake.

Try these two food and wine pairing recipes courtesy of “Washington Wine and Food: A Cookbook” by Julien Perry and Kyle MacLachlan

Black-Cod “Tofu” with Sticky Soy
CHEF: Maximillian Petty, Eden Hill

Serves 6 to 8 (as an appetizer)

  • 1 lb fresh skinless black cod fillets, cut into ½ – inch cubes
  • 5 tsp kosher salt
  • 5 tsp granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • ½  cup + 2 Tbsp heavy cream
  • 6 ½  fl oz good brandy
  • ½ cup (1 stick) + 1 Tbsp melted butter, warmed
  • 1 loaf brioche, cut into 1/8-inch pieces
  • 3 Tbsp clarified butter, warmed (divided)
  • Kecap Manis, for garnish
  • Mixed herbs, such as chives, parsley, cilantro, and dill, chopped, for garnish


Wine pairing: L’Ecole N° 41 Chenin Blanc

This simple appetizer sees steamed black cod tofu on a slice of lightly toasted brioche. The sticky soy is made with Kecap Manis—a sweet and thick soy sauce that can be found at Asian food markets. When it comes to wine pairing, a white wine such as L’Ecole N° 41’s Chenin Blanc has good acidity and intensity to complement the sweet and savory characteristics of this dish.

In a food processor, combine black cod, salt, and sugar and process for 30 seconds. Add eggs, cream, brandy, and melted butter and purée until smooth. Press mixture through a tamis or fine-mesh strainer, straining out impurities. On a piece of parchment paper, spread out mixture into three 3-inch squares about 3/4 inch deep. Carefully place the parchment paper with the mixture into a steamer set over simmering water and steam for 14 minutes. Remove from steamer and refrigerate until cooled. Once cool, cut each square into three 1- × 3-inch pieces. Cut the brioche slices into the same shape as your “tofu.” Using a kitchen brush, paint brioche and “tofu” together with 2 tablespoons of the clarified butter. Set aside to cool so the butter hardens. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of clarified butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the black cod breadside down and toast for 1 minute, until golden and crispy. Remove, and flip onto the plate bread-side up. Drizzle with kecap manis and garnish with herbs.

Asparagus and Smoked Hazelnut Tart with Black Garlic Dressing
CHEF: Maximillian Petty, Eden Hill

Serves 4 to 6

Black-garlic dressing

  • 4 cloves black garlic (see Note)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 cup good-quality olive oil
  • 1/2 cup aged balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp wildflower honey
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • Salt, to taste

Asparagus tart

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature, plus extra for greasing or use cooking spray
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup almond flour
  • ½ cup hazelnuts, toasted, peeled, and ground
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 lb asparagus, trimmed and ends peeled
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten (optional)
  • 6 raw egg yolks, whole (optional)

Note: Black garlic can be purchased in Asian food markets, but you can also make your own. Place heads of garlic in a rice cooker or slow cooker on the “keep warm” setting and slowly cook for 14 days.

Wine pairing: L’Ecole N° 41 Estate Perigee

This beautiful tart sings spring, especially when prepared with fresh young asparagus. It may come as a surprise that we’ve paired this dish with a bigger red wine, but it works well. The black garlic—sweet and anise-like with fragrant cardamom and tamarind—brings out the complex notes in this elegant, well-structured wine.

Black-garlic dressing
Combine all ingredients in a blender and mix until emulsified. (Leftover dressing can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.)

Asparagus tart
Preheat oven to 400°F. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 1 minute. Add flours, hazelnuts, and salt and mix on low speed for 30 seconds. Add eggs one at a time. Transfer mixture into a piping bag with a large round tip. Set aside. Bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add asparagus and cook for 3 minutes. Drain, then transfer asparagus to a bowl of ice water to cool. Grease six 4-inch tart pans with butter (or cooking spray). Drain the asparagus, then trim an inch off the stalks so that the lengths are even. Arrange asparagus in the tart pans and pipe an even layer of dough on top. Bake for 12 minutes, until golden and a cake tester comes out clean. Remove, flip over, and drizzle with fresh egg yolk, if using. Transfer tart to a serving plate and drizzle black-garlic dressing on top.

Linda Kissam ‘Food, Wine & Shopping Diva’ is a professional travel, food, and wine writer who specializes in easy, breezy destination stories sharing her favorite things about the places she visits. Visit www.AllInGoodTaste.info

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About the Author:

Linda Kissam ‘Food, Wine & Shopping Diva’ is a professional travel, food, and wine writer who specializes in easy, breezy destination stories sharing her favorite things about the places she visits.

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