On the drive from Seattle to Walla Walla, a historic schoolhouse occupied by renowned winery L’Ecole No 41 alerts us to our arrival in Walla Walla Wine Country. Unfortunately, after the hours long drive, the tasting room is usually about to close by the time we see it. We won’t have to worry about that on our next visit to Walla Walla, however. L’Ecole No 41 recently announced a spring opening for the “Heritage by L’Ecole” Wine Bar in Walla Walla’s historic Marcus Whitman Hotel.
Located in the heart of downtown Walla Walla, Washington the landmark hotel is a convenient destination during a visit to the must-see wine region.
“We’re so enthusiastic about the possibility to welcome Walla Walla locals and visitors to our valley, in a new and unique setting,” said L’Ecole’s owner and managing winemaker Marty Clubb. “Heritage by L’Ecole illustrates our family’s commitment to the Walla Walla experience for all wine lovers. The opportunity to ask our talented daughter, Rebecca Clubb-Olson, to design the space for us was exciting and rewarding, and she has done a beautiful job – striking a perfect balance, incorporating elements of our historic Schoolhouse and of our deep, enduring roots in our home Valley.”
With outdoor seating planned for the spring and summer, the space will eventually accommodate up to 19 seated guests indoors, with self-guided flight options. Wine lovers are sure to be excited to learn that small production and library lots will be available along with current releases.
Styles of Syrah are as diverse as the many growing regions from where they come. That means there are numerous dishes that can highlight the character of this mesmerizing variety. To that end, here are some tried and true tips to pair Syrah with food.
Sure, it can be hard to know what we’re going to get whenever we select a bottle we haven’t tried before. Nevertheless, in this case anticipate plenty of personality. Typically a concentrated ruby red with a purple hue, Syrah is a dark and brooding variety that relates well to gloomy days and robust fare. Although Syrah is at its heart a meat lovers’ wine, it can adapt to flavorful vegetarian dishes.
Pair Washington Syrah with Food
Black olive tapenade, or its components, help a dish reveal those same characteristics in a Syrah from Boushey Vineyard.
A recipe that incorporates a hint of smoky bacon is likely to enhance the smokiness often present in a Red Mountain Syrah.
Savory fruit sauces will enhance the charm of a lush fruit forward Syrah from Horse Heaven Hills.
Did you sign up to take Washington Wine Report’s Syrah Challenge? It’s time to reveal bottles consumed last month! My selection was a bottle of the Kevin White Winery Syrah, En Hommage.
Kevin White Winery
Find the unassuming winery in the “Artisan Hill District” of Woodinville Wine Country. About a 40 minute drive from Seattle, this industrial area consists of numerous warehouses, many transformed into wineries and tasting rooms.
In normal times Kevin sets out to ensure that if someone visits the winery, they’re darn well going to learn something! He identifies vineyards and wine regions on maps that line the otherwise unadorned walls. Discussion ensues over the contents of concrete fermenters. Guests are invited back to the barrel room to discover what is destined for bottle. The ideal time to visit is during crush, typically September to October, when grapes arrive from vineyards. Visitors may investigate whatever bubbling concoction is busy transforming itself from grapes to the most delectable adult beverage. Or perhaps a chance to stir the lees (dead yeast cells) in a barrel of wine will present itself.
Kevin runs the winery in partnership with his wife, Stefanie. He is also the winemaker, father to twin boys, and an employee at Microsoft. In fact, it was Microsoft that brought Kevin to the Pacific Northwest. Then, on a date with Stefanie over a bottle of Yakima Valley wine, his journey took a turn leading him to become a vintner.
Each year wine reviewer Sean Sullivan poses a challenge to wine lovers to explore one specific underappreciated variety of Washington State wine. Participants who agree to the challenge simply uncork a bottle of that variety at least once a month and report back. Fun, right? This year the chosen grape is Syrah. Will you join the Syrah challenge? If you’re not exceptionally familiar with Washington Syrah, don’t worry! After all, this is your chance to learn more.
There are a number of ways to tackle this monthly endeavor. Don’t get too hung up on that, just start the challenge! Then if more focus is needed, here are some suggestions.
To get the most out of the challenge, include some bottles from wineries, vineyards, and regions that are new to you.
Each month open a Syrah from different Washington State American Viticultural Areas (AVAs).
OR, take a deep dive into just one or two AVAs.
Try Syrah from different vineyards.
What’s so captivating about Syrah? At a past Taste Washington seminar, Wine Bible author Karen MacNeil waxed poetic about Washington wine, vividly describing each pour as only she can. As the audience sipped on Syrah from cult producer Cayuse she uttered,
“This wine is primal scream. Wonderfully corrupt.”
If the new year inspires you to try new things, say alternative wines, be sure to explore Division Winemaking Co. and their fun offerings. I’ve been tasting my way through a recent shipment from the Portland, Oregon based winery and have to say that each selection so far has brightened up our winter.
By alternative wines, I mean beyond the mainstream varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Way beyond. Consider cofermented Grenache and Albarino, Pet Nat made from Gamay Noir, and carbonic Cabernet Franc leaning toward bright, fruity, and fresh. After all, just because the weather is dark and brooding doesn’t mean your wine has to be too. It also doesn’t hurt that the winemakers have a passion to work with well farmed terroir expressive vineyards, many of which are organic and/or Biodynamic®.
My Chief Feline Officer, Baron Auslese, gives these wines two paws up and says all the cool cats who dig vinous interpretations of styles from the Loire, Beaujolais, Burgundy or the Northern Rhone should check out this winery!