One of my favorite wine growing regions on the planet is Washington state. If grape vines could pick where they wanted to grow, they might just pick this place.
Washington state gets the best of everything spread across 11 AVA’s where 30+ grape varieties are grown. Aside from ideal growing conditions during the summer, there’s cold temperatures in the winter that eliminates many vine-damaging pests.
Washington state gets long days of sunlight, but because the sun is lower on the horizon from being farther away from the equator there’s plenty of grape ripening without intense heat to cook the grapes or raise the sugar levels. The result? Intense, concentrated wines with seamless integration and soft tannins without being overly extracted. The sunny days are complimented by cool, crisp nights that help the grapes maintain a good level of acidity.
Add in complex soils like Basalt, sand, silt and gravel from the great Missoula floods and you have yourself a world class wine growing region.
Washington state benefits from long days of sunlight without the intensity of sunlight because the sun is lower on the horizon.
One of the “old school” producers is L’Ecole No. 41. They operate out of a converted school house in Walla Walla. I’ve had a few opportunities to visit L’Ecole and every time I leave impressed. The history is cool. Their tasting bar is covered with chalk board, and they have a ladder with rollers to grab wines off the shelf. The history of wine making is even better, and now the vineyards have some years on them which means more complexity in the wine.
The 2008 L’Ecole No. 41 Perigee might as well be named ‘Pedigree’. This winery has everything you could want — soil, climate, heritage and brand recognition to boot. Perigee is an ideal blend of Bordeaux varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. Makes sense since this wine growing region is on a similar latitude as Bordeaux, with similar soils.
This wine benefits from choice “terroir” as if it were an unfair advantage. L’Ecole has everything to make a benchmark wine. The wine is good, but they could pull back on the oak and let the wine show through to make it legendary. I’m not sure why wineries do this. They find the best place to grow grapes, then they oak the crap out of their wines and cover up some of the terroir.
L’Ecole No. 41 Perigee is a very good wine. And for the price (like many WA state wine) it’s a good value. This 2008 is drinkable now, but it has many years of cellaring ahead of it. I can only imagine how this wine will be in about ten more years.