Sunday, September 19, 2004

L'Ecole No. 41 Walla Walla Merlot 1998

Last Saturday we had a special dinner, and cracked open a bottle of Northwest Merlot. A couple of years ago we took a second trip to the eastern Washington wine country and made it all the way to Walla Walla.

The L'Ecole No.41 winery is located in Lowden Washington (east of Walla Walla). Known for their merlot, L'Ecole No.41 is an established Pacific Northwest wine maker (since 1983). Many of the wineries we visited on this trip were, ahem, out of our price range. L'Ecole was no exception. However, the opportunity to grab one of the few remaining bottles in their library (some 1100 cases were made) of a reportedly outstanding year induced a momentary weakness and I bought a bottle.

The wine had an intense fruity nose with a hint of flint. Lots of ripe cherry and plum fruit on the palate with a bit of smoke and leather. There was good complexity and depth. Good structure--not too soft and not too chewy with tannins. The finish was a bit short, with lingering fruit and oak. All in all, a very good/excellent wine.

The bottle was also very drinkable the next day (today). The same nose and taste, with a bit of a herbaceous taste on the palate that was not there last night. The tannins were also a little more forward than yesterday. On balance, still a very delightful wine.

Maybe someone can tell me why some wines fall down completely shortly after the bottle is opened, while others hold up well. With only two wine drinkers in the house (not counting our son who gets his watered down) it is near impossible to finish a bottle at one sitting.

This wine went for $28 back in 2000, according to the Wine Guru; presently $60 at the Italian Village restaurants in Chicago; and between $30 and $40 at the winery in 2002.

This is a great site for planning a Washington winery tour--we've used it twice with great results.

If you're fortunate enough to be in or around Kirkland Washington, stop by The Grape Choice. The proprietor Larry Springer, gives great advice about wineries to visit in both Washington and Oregon.


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