Founded in 1983 by Baker and Jean Ferguson, L'Ecole No.41 was among the pioneers of winemaking in Walla Walla, and among the earliest wineries established in the state of Washington.
Still family owned and run by the Ferguson's daughter Megan and her husband Marty Clubb, L'Ecole has had international success with their wonderful cabernets made in the old Frenchtown schoolhouse that has given the company its name.
The Walla Walla Valley (it means 'many waters' and shares its name with the Indian nation living there in the 19th century) is in the south-east of the Columbia Vally and is split by the Washington/Oregon border. Low rainfall and big diurnal temperature swings from warm to cool help the winemakers here to attain wonderful concentration and freshness in their grapes, and consequently their wines.
The L'Ecole vineyards, planted in a variety of soils, are farmed sustainably using estate-made composts and herbal treatments, with low yields sought through hard pruning and green harvesting. Irrigation is kept to a minimum through a drip system. The grapes are picked by hand with white varieties harvested in the cool of the morning, and at the winery everything is fed by gravity rather than pumps and the must is treated with kid gloves throughout to avoid over extraction.
Oak is used as a seasoning here, not a dominant flavour component and when ready the wines are bottled without fining and after a light filtration. The aim is to achieve balance and harmony in the wine, with vivid fresh flavours and well integrated tannins and oak. The accolades that the wines have received over the years, including a trophy winner at the Decanter World Wine Awards in 2014, are a testament to the success of the philosophy and its application.