Tag Archive | Walla Walla wine country

A Happy Ending at L’Ecole

Our last tasting of the day on our Walla Walla wine tour weekend was at L’Ecole No. 41 in the historic Frenchtown School just outside of Walla Walla in Lowden.  The building was built in 1915,  to replace the first Frenchtown School, a log cabin from 1870.  L’Ecole was founded in 1983, and is the third oldest winery in the Walla Walla area.

We arrived towards the end of the day, but our server was more than gracious about guiding us through a tasting and answering our questions.  The tasting room retains many of the original historic features, including the hardwood floors, and has been decorated with period Barrister Bookcases collected by the winery’s original owner. The ambiance of the tasting room just adds to the charm.

L 'Ecole No. 41 Tasting Room in the Historic Frenchtown School

L ‘Ecole No. 41 Tasting Room in the Historic Frenchtown School

We began with the 2011 Estate Luminesce, a blend of 67% Semillon and 33% Sauvignon Blanc, from Seven Hills Vineyard.  It showed tart citrus and floral flavors.  Then we had the 2011 Columbia Valley Chardonnay, a very well balanced wine with apple and minerality on light oak.  It is a Chardonnay that both Jon and I can enjoy because it is a great balance between the unoaked Chards that I love and the big, buttery Chards that are Jon’s favorites.

Moving on to the red wines, we started with the 2009 Estate Merlot, with grapes from the Seven Hills Vineyard.  It was a nicely balanced wine with medium tannins and black cherry flavors. The 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon is a bold wine aged in 40% new oak, with flavors of tobacco and heavier tannins.

Next we tried the 2009 Estate Perigee, a blend of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Malbec, and 4% Petit Verdot.  This is a very elegant Bordeaux blend that was aged for 22 months – a very nice wine.

The last wine that we tasted was the Candy Mountain Vineyard Red Wine.  It hasn’t been released yet; it will come out in April 2013.  It is a blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon and 43% Merlot.  This is a fantastic wine with flavors of blackberry and chocolate.  There are only 350 cases, and I’m sure it will sell quickly.  I was pretty disappointed that I couldn’t buy it that day!

It was a great end to a wonderful day of wine tasting – L ‘Ecole was a real treat.

Our Trip to Tero Estates

While wandering around downtown Walla Walla trying to decide where to visit next, we found Tero Estates on the first floor of the Marcus Whitman hotel.  Tero was one of the recommendations that we received from Va Piano, so we were confident that we would find some good wines there.

Tero Estates’ vineyard is Windrow Vineyard, which is Walla Walla’s oldest commercially planted vineyard; it was planted in 1981.  From 1983 to 2000 Windrow Vineyards grapes were used by Leonetti Cellars.  The vineyards was purchased by the current owners in 2007, and they have been making wine since.  They also sell grapes to Seven Hills Winery, Walla Walla Vintners, Waters and Glen Corrie.  In 2010, they hired Ashley Trout as consulting winemaker, who was making Flying Trout wines.  Flying Trout wines is Ashley Trout’s personal venture; she travels half the year to Mendoza, Argentina and makes wine there.  She specializes in Torrontés and Malbec under the Flying Trout label.

We began our tasting with the Flying Trout Torrontés.  I hadn’t heard of Torrontés before, and upon looking it up, discovered that is a white Argentine wine grape variety, producing fresh, aromatic wines with moderate acidity, smooth texture and mouthfeel as well as distinctive peach and apricot aromas on the nose (thanks Wikipedia!).  Sounds fantastic!

The Flying Trout 2011 Torrontés is a crisp white with flavors of honey and pineapple, and a hint of floral on the nose.  I really liked it.  Next we tasted the Windrow Field Blend, a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Merlot; instead of being barrel aged, it was cask aged.  I was not a fan of this one though.

We quickly moved on to the Windrow Cabernet Franc, which was smoky and spicy with flavors of stewed plums.  It was a big, bold masculine wine.  The 2010 Flying Trout Malbec was its feminine counterpart – a lovely Malbec made with fruit from the Gamache Vineyard.  We finished off our tasting with the 2009 Tero Estates Petite Verdot, a solid wine with a big balanced flavor.

Our server was friendly and provided a lot of information about the wines – she made the tasting a very pleasurable experience.  And the icing on the cake – was really icing on the cake!  REALLY!  They had chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting!  They had been delivered by a friend of our server and they were delicious.

All in all a fabulous visit!

Va Piano… Go Softly…

After leaving Northstar Winery, we followed the recommendation of our server and headed back down the road we came in on for a stop at Va Piano Vineyards.  The name, for those of you who think it sounds unusual for a winery, comes from the Italian saying, “Chi va piano, va sano e va lontano.” He who goes slowly, goes safely and goes far.  As the story goes, the winemaker spent his senior year in college in Italy, where he fell in love with the Italian wine industry and decided to make a career out of it.  The vineyards were planted in 1999, the first vintage (2003) was released in 2005.

The tasting room is set on a hill with a beautiful view, and is styled after a Tuscan Villa.  It is a beautiful facility.  But Jon and I were  a little worried before we went in, because there was a white, stretch limo parked outside…  Oh dear, Bachelorette Party?  But it turned out to be just one couple in the limo, with a woman about my age being treated to a nice birthday wine tour weekend!  The atmosphere in the tasting room was light and fun, and the two other couples there were friendly and eager to interact.

Va Piano Vineyards Tasting Room

Va Piano Vineyards Tasting Room

Our tasting began with a 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, which was blended with a touch of Riesling.  This wine is excellent; very crisp with a green apple finish.  I think it is very similar to New Zealand Sauv. Blancs that I like so well.

Then we moved into the reds, with a Cabernet Sauvignon called Bruno’s Blend.  It had medium tannins, light oak, and flavors of raspberry.  Very good!

The next wine was a library release – a 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, that had much heavier tannins and oak that the earlier blend – it didn’t have much fruit left.  This wine was too much for me.

But their 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon had much more fruit and acidity with flavors of black raspberry.  I thought it was very nice.

The tasting ended with their 2009 Syrah – all I wrote was “very good!”  I do remember that it is very similar to the 2006 Dobbes Family Estate Syrah that we bought down in Oregon on a tasting trip there.  That was one of the best Syrahs I have ever tried, so that says a lot about the Va Piano Syrah.

We left with the Sauvignon Blanc and the Syrah – not bad for a place we had never heard of!