As we embark on the new year, we embark on a new relationship with L’Ecole No. 41 in Walla Walla. They have invited a selection of writers to join them to explore their wines in 2021. We don’t take this relationship lightly. We value the trust of our readers, and we will only recommend wines that we honestly trust and like. L’Ecole No. 41 stands to that challenge, so we look forward to sharing their wines with you over the next year.
You may have seen our social media posts on their Columbia Valley Semillon. It’s likely, that if you are not “into” wine, you might not be familiar with this variety.
If you are it is probably due to its use in the sweet wines of Bordeaux like Sauternes, or maybe you have heard of the fabulous expression of this wine coming from Australia’s Hunter Valley.
While not widely grown, this is one of L’Ecole No. 41’s most popular white wines. Three cheers for them getting this variety out into the wider market!
Our post today will focus on the L’ecole No. 41 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Walla Walla Valley.
L’Ecole No. 41 and where it fits in the Washington Wine World
I’ll be honest, when you look at Washington Wine, first you see the big names, Columbia Crest, Chateau Ste. Michelle. Columbia Crest sold 7.53 million cases of wine in 2019!
L’Ecole No. 41 is on a smaller scale selling around 50,000 cases per year. Of the smaller wineries, they are one of the bigger ones. They are family-based. Marty and Megan Clubb took over the winery from Megan’s parents Bake & Jean Ferguson back in 1989. Today their children, Riley and Rebecca continue the legacy.
Baker and Jean when they founded L’Ecole No. 41 were just the 3rd winery in Walla Walla. It was their retirement project in 1983.
Where did the name “L’Ecole No. 41” come from?
The winery is in Frenchtown, just outside of the city of Walla Walla. The school was built in 1915 and named the Lowden school. The community was called Frenchtown, because of all the French Canadians who settled here in the early 1800s. They were of French descent, so of course, they made wine! The district here is “41”.
For more details on the winery you can see our post L’Ecole No. 41 2017 Merlot with Dinner and a Unique Dessert. We also do a really fun pairing there with a bleu cheese ice cream for dessert with the Merlot!
Now let’s dive into this wine.
The 2017 L’Ecole No. 41 Cabernet Sauvignon from Walla Walla
This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and is blended from several vineyards in the Walla Walla AVA that cover 4 different soil types.
- Ferguson Vineyard, an Estate Vineyard has fractured basalt soils
- Pepper Bridge Vineyard has ice-age flood silts
- Seven Hills, Loess, and Summit View vineyards have wind-blown loess soils
- Stone Valley and Yellow Jacket Vineyards are in “The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater which has lots of cobblestones of basalt.
The lots are hand-harvested and fermented in steel then racked to small French oak barrels 40% of which are new. This ages with 4 different rackings for 22 months.
*This wine was received as a sample, no other compensation was received. All opinions are our own.
What does all that mean as far as flavor?
Here are my tasting notes:
Deep red ruby in color, this wine has a pronounced nose of Ground coffee, cinnamon, tobacco, forest floor, cocoa powder, baking spices, and bruised mint.
On the palate, it is dry with high tannins that are very fine, medium to high body, and medium acidity. I get notes of mocha, spice, and black currant. It has a medium-long finish. This is a higher alcohol wine, and you know it, but it is not out of balance. I think of it not as large, but rather as tall and elegant.
This wine is 14.5% abv and retails for $39.00. They made 1,800 cases.
So what to pair with this Cabernet Sauvignon from L’Ecole No. 41? Well Steak of course!
Well, it’s a Cabernet Sauvignon, so I reached for steak. Michael is a lean meat guy so we did Filet Mignon with an arugula salsa verde which included some spices, like cumin and sumac. Alongside we did a fresh green bean salad with grape tomatoes, feta, and lemon.
The wine was great with the food, brightening both dishes and making the feta seem even more aromatic. The steak was a great pairing, of course, and the addition of the salsa verde tied in nicely with the spice notes and acid.
Chocolate and Cabernet Sauvignon
But we didn’t stop there. While I know a few people who are not fans, I am a BIG fan of Cabernet Sauvignon and chocolate. With the L’Ecole No. 41 Cabernet Sauvignon, we decided to try some homemade wine truffles.
The recipe is simple, just dark chocolate, half and half, and wine. I mixed this up then split my mixture in half. To half, I added a bit of espresso powder and to the other half, chopped dried cranberries. The idea was to pull out these notes in the wine. After they set up, I rolled the espresso wine truffles in cocoa powder and the cranberry wine truffles in ground pistachios.
Both went beautifully with the wine in my opinion. Espresso is wonderful in accentuating dark chocolate and this did pair really well with the wine bringing out those dark brooding notes.
The cranberry truffles were brighter and pulled out the fruit notes in the wine. These also for some reason firmed up a little better so they were easier to eat. Either way, you can’t go wrong, and having to eat a truffle with a fork, is not a deterrent for me!
Check out the recipe below!
These delicious wine truffles are completely decadent. We created two, one with chopped dried cranberry inside, dusted with ground pistachio, and one with a touch of espresso powder inside, then dusted with cocoa.
The wine we used was the L'Ecole No. 41 2017 Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon, which is also the perfect wine to pair with these truffles.
Thank you to L'Ecole No. 41 for the delicious sample that inspired these truffles.
- 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup of whole milk
- 1/4 cup of heavy creme
- 2 tablespoons Cabernet Sauvignon wine
- 1 teaspoon espresso powder
- ¼ cup chopped dried cranberries
- 2 tablespoons Cocoa powder
- 2 tablespoons ground pistachios
- In a small saucepan over low heat, melt chocolate (slowly) until smooth
- Remove from the heat and stir in half and half, and the Cabernet
- Divide this mixture into 2 small bowls
- To one dish add the chopped cranberries
- To the other add the espresso powder
- Put in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or until firm enough to hold a ball shape
- Put the coating ingredients in shallow bowls
- Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat
- Scoop out a teaspoonful of the espresso mixture and gently roll into a ball and then roll in the cocoa powder to coat
- Place on the cookie sheet and repeat with the remaining espresso truffle mixture
- With the cranberry mixture, roll this in the ground pistachios
- Refrigerate until ready to serve
I did notice that the espresso truffles came out a little soft, compared to the cranberry truffles. Perhaps including some chopped hazelnuts in these would have worked. None the less, I am happy to eat them with a spoon if necessary!
Amount Per Serving Calories 113Total Fat 7gSaturated Fat 4gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 3gCholesterol 1mgSodium 10mgCarbohydrates 11gFiber 2gSugar 7gProtein 2g
Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.
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.