2008 L'Ecole No 41 Columbia Valley Semillon

School's In Session

On the first full day of the Wine Bloggers' Conference, the assembled wine blog whateverspherites were—well, treated, I suppose—to a white wine “speed-tasting” round. 12 white wines in the course of 1 hour is a marathon that I’m not sure I’d want to do again. It was a huge crowded room, 30-or-so tables of 6-8 bloggers each, and the winery representatives had five minutes to give us their spiel.

One wine—and I think the fact that it was the first that I tasted cannot go unmentioned—truly stood out for me. In fact, this classic Bordeaux-style blend of 89% semillon and 11% sauvignon blanc was among the best Washingtonian whites that I tasted over the long weekend.

L'Ecole No 41 is a winery located in Frenchtown, WA, just outside of Walla Walla, named after the schoolhouse the winery now occupies (“l'ecole” is French for “the school”) and the Washington school district number that the schoolhouse once belonged to.

Founded in 1983, L'Ecole No 41 is one of the original wineries in the Walla Walla area, having opened for business before the Walla Walla Valley AVA was even officially codified.

But enough of the winery; what of the wine? The winery’s historical place in the Walla Walla Valley AVA notwithstanding, this particular wine is made from grapes grown in the Columbia Valley AVA.

The wine is a very light straw yellow in the glass, and the nose features notes of melon and of a light—faint, even—honey sweetness. The wine is medium-bodied and tastes fresh and bright. Melon and pair dance on the palate, and a pleasant minerality keeps everything in check.

The wine would be a 90 or 91, but there is one problem: it’s hot. The 2008 L'Ecole No 41 Semillon clocks in at 14.2% ABV, very high for a white wine in general, and not balanced very well. It drinks hot, and while I would love to recommend it with food like seafood pasta, the alcohol level makes that difficult.

Still, it’s a very good wine on its own merits. Well recommended.

Verdict: 89/100

Full Disclosure: This wine was provided to me by someone involved in its production, sale, or marketing.

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