Tuesday, January 5, 2016

L’Ecole No. 41 2013 Old Vines Chenin Blanc, Columbia Valley

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Chenin Blanc is a versatile white grape that shines in the Loire Valley and South Africa. This Washington winemaker shows it can excel at home too.

In Search Of A Fondue Wine

On Christmas Eve we traditionally eat light and enjoy a fondue meal. We fire up our fondue pot and get the concoction of Emmentaler and Gruyere cheeses melting. It also calls for a dash of kirsch, which is a cherry brandy.

Perhaps the most important ingredient, ahem, is the wine. All the poking and dipping requires a nice white wine. In the past we’ve had Pinot Gris or Riesling. A Pinot Blanc would also work well – but on this night, it was Chenin Blanc.

A Grape Of Many Faces

Chenin Blanc is a white grape that earned its fame in the Loire Valley of France. Even before Green Dragon and I were “into” wine, we appreciated Vouvray. The wines of Vouvray are made with Chenin Blanc and typically range from semi-dry to sweet. Our favorite has a semi-dry finish with just a bit of frizzante.

Another country that is linked with Chenin Blanc is South Africa. Although many top shelf Chenin Blancs are produced there, it was overplanted for years and there was a flood of cheap, low-quality Chenin produced.

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Washington State Produces Magic Again

As our readers probably know, we have a warm spot in our heart for Washington State. The wines are rich and succulent, the winemakers innovative, and the value is second to none.

L’Ecole No. 41 is a family-owned artisan winery located in a school building. They are the third oldest winery in the Walla Walla Valley. Since opening in 1983, they have established a growing reputation for distinctive and expressive wines.

The wine label designates this as an Old Vines Chenin Blanc. The grapes come from four Yakima Valley vineyards with the oldest being planted 37 years ago. Old vines typically mean more concentrated flavor. As the vines age, they produce fewer grapes, but each is more flavorful.

A lovely minerality highlights this wine. Flavors of orange and tropical fruits splash playfully in the glass. The finish is refreshing. The wine is an off-dry with 0.5% residual sugar – just right for our cheesy meal.

We’re always on the lookout for special white wines. At only $16 per bottle, it is also one that you could purchase in quantity in case of emergencies. This schoolhouse wine passes with flying colors.

Rating: 3.5 of 5  Value: 5 of 5

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