We continue our journey this year with L’Ecole No. 41 with their Frenchtown Red Wine. This is the wine that you are most likely to find if you are out looking for a L’Ecole No. 41 wine (which I suggest you do).
*This wine was received as a Media Sample. No other compensation was received. All opinions are our own.
The Frenchtown is a Columbia Valley blend that they distribute Nationally, it retails for $22 and is a great value at this price!
What’s in a name?
This blend was originally called “Recess Red”, a play on the schoolhouse theme. The last vintage of Recess Red was in 2008. From 2009 to 2011 it was just called “Red Wine” and then in 2012 with their rebranding they renamed this blend “Frenchtown”.
Frenchtown was Walla Walla’s first settlement, established around 1824 by the French-Canadian diaspora. The settlement was built by the French Canadian Northwest Company in 1818. It was called Fort Nez Perces and later renamed Fort Walla Walla. (source)
The tasting room for L’Ecole No. 41 is the old Frenchtown Schoolhouse. L’Ecole is the French word for School and No. 41 being the district number (as you can see above the door).
So calling this wine Frenchtown pays homage to those original settlers, who by the way, first brought wine to this valley!
So what type of wine is this?
Well, I mentioned it was a blend right? It is very likely a blend that you have not tasted before. L’Ecole No. 41’s wines are typically made from Bordeaux grapes or Rhône grapes, this one blends traditional grapes from both of those regions.
Each year when they pick the grapes they divide them into lots. They then go through and taste and assign lots to the different wines they will create, including their single vineyard wines, their Walla Walla Wines, and their Columbia Valley Wines. Lots are chosen to fill barrels and they might not need all of that Ferguson Cabernet for that year’s Ferguson bottling. They go through pulling lots for these different wines and then what is not chosen is allotted to the Frenchtown. So this is not lesser lots, it is just more wine than they need for these other bottlings. This is blended then to make the Frenchtown.
This means that the quantity of Frenchtown can vary dramatically. In vintages with a lower crop load, there won’t be much made. It also means that the varieties included in the blend change, depending on how much is left, so the blend can be dramatically different from vintage to vintage. What doesn’t change is that this is a tasty quality wine.
The 2019 Frenchtown – Columbia Valley
The 2019 Frenchtown is 79% Bordeaux varieties (45% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Malbec, 6% Petit Verdot) and 21% Rhone varieties (17% Syrah, 4% Grenache). In some years it might contain Mourvedre also.
This wine ages for 9 months in mostly neutral oak (oak that is 3-4 years old and no longer gives the wine oak flavors). Then it goes to bottle for 6 months before release. Their other wines spend more time in oak, so this is the first red wine release each year. It is kind of a sneak peek of the vintage (giving credit to Liz of What’s in that Bottle, for coining that).
We didn’t even talk about all the places that this wine comes from! It’s labeled as a Columbia Valley wine because the grapes come from all over the Columbia Valley. (learn more about their Columbia Valley vineyards here)
All these varieties from all these places build complexity in this wine, which is rare in a bottle at this price point.
In 2019 they made 5,000 cases, which released in April of 2021.
What does it taste like?
On the nose, I got cooked berries, eucalyptus, thyme, black plum, blackberry, and black cherry with subtle notes of spice, cedar, and violets. There was also an herbal note, like an herb garden where the dew is drying in the morning sun. In my mouth, there was black plum and black cherry, cranberry, black pepper, red bell pepper, leather, spice, and cocoa.
This is punching above its weight, or maybe reading above its grade level so that we stay with the schoolhouse theme.
What to pair?
Yeah, that’s what I asked! We decided we wanted to try some different pairings and what better way to do that than to do it in taco form!
I decided to be a bit Rhône inspired and made salsa from blackberries, strawberries, black plum, red and orange peppers, white balsamic vinegar, an herbs du Provençe blend of basil, marjoram, fennel, oregano, savory, bay leaf, sage, rosemary, thyme, and lavender.
We also used grated aged gouda instead of the usual shredded Mexican cheese blend.
For our meats, we had a marinated flank steak and barbacoa, with toppings of purple cabbage, white cabbage and carrot slaw, sour crème, avocado, refried beans, and spicy corn salsa.
So we mixed and matched and made our tacos to pair with the wine.
The salsa was the big winner. I know, it’s a bit odd, but it went well! The gouda surprisingly didn’t do it for me. The meats both went well, but the spicy corn salsa, set things too far up on the heat scale when paired with the wine.
We did have some chocolate cake left from Michael’s birthday and this wine sings with chocolate! I think it picks up some of those cocoa notes I mentioned.
How to find some!
This is a wine that is widely distributed, so you may be able to find it locally. If not, you can find it on their site.
On a side note, we had the opportunity on #TheScenicRoute2021 to visit L’Ecole No. 41. So we will end with a little gallery of photos from their Frenchtown School tasting room!
More on L’Ecole No. 41 from Crushed Grape Chronicles
- Steak and chocolate – the best way to enjoy a L’Ecole No. 41 Cabernet Sauvignon
- Going to school with a sister city inspired pairing – L’Ecole No. 41 Luminesce and Temaki
- Rosé season is here, but don’t take that rosé for granted!
- Chenin Blanc from L’Ecole No. 41 – Old Vines and breakfast for dinner
- Syrah and Aloha – Doing Earth Month Island Style with L’Ecole No. 41
- Cabernet Franc-Merlot a limited rare gem from L’Ecole No. 41 in Walla Walla Washington
- Valentine’s Day – Spoil yourself and maybe someone else with 3 delicious pairing menus, 1 for every palate and a L’Ecole No. 41 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.