L’Ecole No. 41 2010 Estate Merlot
by Erin James

Christening the land with vines, Seven Hills Vineyard was one of the first commercial plantings in the Walla Walla Valley in 1980. Nearly 15 years later, one of the valley’s founding fathers, Pepper Bridge and Amavi Cellars’ Norm McKibben, purchased the 20-acre block and joined forces with Gary Figgins of Leonetti Cellars, irrigation specialist Bob Rupar and L’Ecole No. 41 winemaker and owner Marty Clubb. The troupe of partners brought the vineyard to more than 200 acres in the late 90s and now use 50 percent of the vineyard fruit, selling the rest to exclusively premium, hand-picked wineries.

Now a second generation, family-ran producer, L’Ecole No. 41 is the third oldest winery in the Walla Walla Valley and has been posted up in their historic Frenchtown Schoolhouse winery since 1983. Using fruit from their acclaimed Seven Hills Vineyard, the 2010 Estate Merlot is one of the wines that not only put L’Ecole No. 41 on the map but Washington itself. Like opening a cedar box, the aromatics are piquant and rich in baking spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, with dark cherry, dried raspberry and blackberry tones both on the nose and palate. Plum, savory mint, coffee beans, scorched earth and rounding tannins hold strong and long on the finish of this rich and robust, old vine Merlot.

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