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L’Ecole No. 41

Years ago, in the early 1990’s I prepared my first Winemakers dinner as a chef. The winery was L’Ecole No. 41 that was the first time I met Winemaker Marty Club. At that point the winery was less than 10 years old and Marty has just joined the winery a few years earlier. Since that time L’Ecole No. 41 has gone on to garner international acclaim and be recognized as one of Walla Walla’s First Growths. But, it was the day that I became a lifetime fan of L’Ecole. The wines were fantastic and Marty was one of the most generous nicest people in the business I had met.

The winery itself has become an Icon. Driving into Walla Wall on highway 12 you can’t help but notice the old school house. The Frenchtown School was built in 1915, so named because of the number of French Canadians that settled in the Walla Walla valley. The Original label was a watercolor painting by 8 year old cousin Ryan Campbell,( now in his 40’s).

L’ Ecole was founded by Marty’s in laws Jean and Baker Ferguson as a little “Retirement project”. Jean and Baker always believed in the potential of Walla Walla Wines, and that dream was finally realized when L’Ecole’s 2011 Estate Ferguson was awarded the Best Bordeaux Blend in the World at the 2014 Decanter World Wine Awards in London. Over the years the accolades and awards have piled up, but unlike many wineries that have achieved certain notoriety, the family has always remained approachable, friendly and generous. You are just as likely to Marty or his daughter Rebecca at a tasting or dinner as you might one of theirs sales team, many of whom have been with company 20 years or more.

“Marty Clubb has built L’Ecole N° 41 into one of Walla Walla’s flagships…making wines that represent the region, the wines that signify Walla Walla.” Patrick Comiskey, Wine & Spirits Magazine

Marty is highly respected in the wine industry and continues to give back and pay it forward. Marty has served more than 20 years on the boards of various wine industry associations like the Washington Wine Commission. He is currently President and Director of the Washington Wine Institute. Marty was instrumental in the founding of the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance and served as its president for six years. Marty worked with other industry pioneers in the development of the Walla Walla Community College Center for Enology and Viticulture.

In 1977, the Fergusons bought the old school house with the idea of starting a winery. That same year that Gary Figgins started Leonetti. Now 40 years later their legacy lives on in one of the most beloved wineries in Washington State.

anton kimball02, 1/4/10, 2:54 PM, 16C, 9584×13811 (864+972), 150%, None 14 bit, 1/40 s, R125.8, G101.3, B129.1

Long Shadows Pedestal: A retrospective from 2003 to 2008 from the Long Shadows Vintners Collection. By Jeff Fournier

I recently had the privilege of attending a tasting in Woodinville at the Long Shadows tasting room for a vertical of the Pedestal Merlot. These limited releases were conceived by Washington State wine pioneer Allen Shoup and he teamed up with Michel Roland (Pomerol vintner and consultant to many of the world’s most famous wines) We were seated and poured the 2003 vintage thru the 2008 and finished with a couple of surprises that were not expected; the 2009 and the 2014!


In attendance were the Director of Wine making and Viticulture for Long Shadows since the first vintage Gilles Nicault, Allen Shoup himself Sean Sullivan (Writer for the Wine Enthusiast) and others

Let’s jump in and see what I thought.

2003: 14 years later and this baby is still holding up, aromas of leather and freshly shaved pencil with dried fruit characters. Tasting, blueberry, cedar and spice with nuances of mocha. A little Petite Verdot and a splash of Cabernet Franc with 15% Cabernet Sauvignon from Ciel du Cheval on Red Mountain helped this wine last in a hot vintage. Surprising

2004: My favorite of the flight! 2004 was a cold winter and the fruit aromas are still intense with blackberry and baking spice that carry thru to the palate and weave thru layers of ripe tannin resulting in a full bodied Merlot with concentration and length. The blend very similar to the 2003 very impressive.
2005: I see a difference here from “03” and “04” the fruit is fresher with dark cherry and blackberry on the nose and the palate with toasty oak and intensity in the mid-palate finishing with layers of black fruit. No Petit Verdot in this blend for the first time. Showing very well.
2006: More intensity than any of the previous wines, deeper, darker, richer. The 2006 was nearly a perfect growing season and produced big jammy wines well suited to Michel Roland’s style. There were some early worries of high heat but in September temperatures cooled enough for flavors to fully ripen. This was the first time the wine was made at the new winery and fermented in 1500 gallon wood tanks and first time using a splash of Malbec. Very good and my second favorite of the flight.
2007: A very similar vintage to 2003 as they were both hot and very close in the blends with no Malbec added. I find this wine to be a little smoky and has a wonderful intensity of vivid black currant cocoa and violets. Rich and focused, I think this one is still a little tight and can go for a while but will be better in the long run. Amazing considering it is ten years old.
2008: This was a bit cooler vintage than previous ones resulting in grapes with wonderful acidity. Modest summer temperatures and meticulous care thru the growing season set the stage for an excellent harvest. September and October were picture perfect delivering fruit brimming with flavor. The palate was vibrant with blackberries, currants and red fruits framed by oak and bittersweet chocolate. Drink this one before your 2007’s. Everything just seems to be in balance.
2009: The 2009 vintage was hot in the beginning but cool at the end with some rain and fog a tricky vintage but the wine is showing beautifully. Flavors of cherry preserves black and blue fruits coffee and toasted coconut. Once again meticulous care during the season and in the blending give proof that these wines are consistent year to year. This wine has a younger personality but will still age well.

2014: The 2014 vintage was the hottest vintage of record to date. Wow a big rich wine deep purple in color. This wine has a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon, smaller amounts of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec similar to previous vintages. This is an awesome wine with its deep purple color and flavors of black fruit, plum, coffee, baking spice and sweet oak. Once again showing a consistency in style due to meticulous vineyard management and blending regardless of the vintage.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog and look for more in the future with Washington’s rock star wine makers. If you ever have any questions contact me

jeff@esquin.com

 

Ross Andrew Mickel Sommelier, Winemaker, Inventor?

#FridayFunFact not only is @Ross Andrew Mickel a Sommelier and Winemaker, did you he helped invent a Pnuematic Basket Press?

While working at Betz, Bob wondered if there was better way to build a Basket Press. He preferred the wine it made but thought there must be an easier way. Ross one night over dinner told his father of the situation, his father an Architect, said “Well, lets build one ourselves.” A year of drafting and redesign and voila a pneumatic Basket press was born.

They started using it at Betz and it was a hit! They sold the design to Carlsen and Associates, a wine equipment manufacture . carlsenassociates.com

Today, hundreds of wineries around the country use his basket press.

Asparagus Tamales and Ross Andrew Celilo Pinot Gris

“Last chance on local Asparagus” the sign and the fruit stand read. so just grabbed a bunch, I can always use a bunch of asparagus – as a side, in a salad, as an appetizer with coddled eggs and prosciutto. It’s asparagus. But just having returned from Yakima I decided to try my hand at a local favorite – Asparagus Tamales.


Asparagus tamales have been made famous by Los Hernandez tamale shop in Union Gap, Yakima County. Owner Felipe Hernandez has become a local legend and international celebrity for his family’s tamales. He has been running the modest little shop for over 25 years and started making the Asparagus Tamales on a whim one night with some leftover masa. The secret ingredient he says is Pepper jack cheese. So below I have my own take on asparagus Tamales. I add some fresh chile verde to give it a little kick.


Any wine professional will tell you that pairing to a asparagus is tricky, but the secret is to have a wine with enough acidity to handle the chemical mercaptan that give asparagus it’s unique flavor (and experience). Then there is the chile verde you have be wary of even a little spice so a little hint of sweetness is a great help. Pinot Gris to the rescue!

2016 Ross Andrew Celilo Vineyard Pinot Gris $15.99
Made from a Pinot Gris block planted in 1975 in Celilo Vineyard, a prized high-elevation site in Columbia Gorge near the town of Underwood, WA. It is arguably one of the greatest white grape sites in Washington with its cool climate, wonderfully mineral rich soil and high winds that move the 50″ of annual rainfall off the canopy.

The aromatics and palate of this wine really showcase what vine age can do to a wine. Asian pear, white flowers and nectarine. The palate is vibrant and crisp with a touch of minerals on the finish. A perfect food wine. especially tricky foods.

Ross got his start as a Sommelier at Canlis under MS Rob Bigelow and learned winemaking at the right hand of the Master, of Wine Bob Betz. Ross’s style is reminiscent of Betz, being both polished and complex. He went on to make the highest scoring Cabernet ever from Wine Spectator. Saturday August 12 we will be tasting his latest releases including his Celilo Pinot Gris, Boushey Syrah and his award winning Red Mountain Cabernet.

Cheers!
Lenny

Asparagus Tamales
________________________________________
18-ounce package dried corn husks

1 1/2 cups lard (or vegetable shortening), slightly softened
1 ½ Teaspoons Salt
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon chile powder
3 1/2 cups dried masa harina
2 1/4 cups hot water
1 to 1 1/2cups chicken broth

1 bunch Asparagus, blanched
8 ounces pepper jack cheese

2 tablespoons olive oil
½ large yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup chicken stock or water
3 each poblano Chile peppers, seeded and chopped
1 each jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
1 pound Tomatillos, husks removed
1/2 bunch cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped

1. Separate husks and submerge in hot water place a plate on top to keep submerged. Bring to simmer and let stand for at least an hour.
2. Grill or roast peppers and tomatillos until blistered and a little charred. Place into plastic bag and let cool. In a large sauté pan heat olive oil and Sauté onions and garlic until soft add salt and cumin. Add chicken stock and reduce to simmer, set aside. Peel cooled peppers and tomatillos and place in bowl of food processor or blender. Add cooled onion mixture and cilantro then puree until well combined.
3. For Masa: In a large bowl combine salt, baking powder, chile powder, Harina flour and hot water. Adding chicken stock a little a time work dough until light and fluffy. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Cover and let rest.
4. Set up steamer: in a large stock pot place a collapsible steamer basket, add an inch or so of water.
5. To make tamales: separate out the largest and most pliable husks, at least 6 inches across on the wider end and 6 inches long. Spoon a couple of tablespoons of masa onto a husk, spread with a spatula out to the edges of each side save for the narrow top. Spoon a teaspoon of verde sauce onto center of masa add a couple of blanched asparagus, top with pepper jack cheese. Roll up the tamale and fold the bottom up. Place in steamer folded side down. Layer the finished tamales in the same fashion open end up. Watch carefully that all the water doesn’t boil away and, to keep the steam steady, pour boiling water into the pot when more is necessary. Tamales are done when the husk peels away from the masa easily. Let tamales stand in the steamer off the heat for a few minutes to firm up.

 

Tacos al Pastor and Fidelitas Malbec

I recently ventured up to Red Mountain to taste some wines, walk some vineyards and see old friends. There are few places in Washington that produce better wine, some say, some of the best in the world. But, for me it’s the people. The Williams’ family, the Holmes’, the Hedges’, the Hightower’s, the Frichette’s, the Pearson’s – Red Mountain is the smallest AVA in the state and it feels more like a neighborhood than an appellation.

If Red Mountain had football team Charlie Hoppes would be the head coach. He is the sergeant at arms, the baby whisperer, Charlie Hoppes is the Wine Boss.

Charlie Hoppes is one of the most respected winemakers in Washington State. A Yakima Valley native with a degree from UC Davis he got his start in 1988 working with Mike Januik at Snoqualmie Winery and followed him to Chateau Ste. Michelle in 1990 becoming the head red wine maker until 1999. After stints at Waterbrook in Walla Walla and Three Rivers he started his own winery Fidelitas. In 2007 he purchased his first 3 acres on Red Mountain and built a tasting room.

Did I mention that he has a degree in economics? Instead of taking up prime vineyard land on Red Mt he has a 30,000 sq ft production facility in nearby Richland – “Wine Boss”. There he produces his wines plus makes wine for a half dozen clients. The tasting room on Red Mountain has a beautiful panoramic view of the valley.


I first visited Charlie and the tasting room shortly after it was built. Tasting the wines with the “Wine Boss” himself and eating some of the best tacos I have ever had is one of my fondest memories. Charlie is one of the most generous, easy going and intelligent people working in the Washington wine industry. 2017 marks his 30th vintage, and in that time he has made quite a name for himself including being named Seattle Magazines Winemaker of the Year in 2013. His wine continue to garner high ratings from press – his 2012 Ciel du Cheval Cab rated 94 from Parker and the 2013 Quintessence was ranked #4 in Seattle Metropolitan Magazine Top 100. Recently 6 of his 2014 releases received 93 -95 pt scores from the Wine Advocate!

Did I mention every time I go to Red Mountain I end of having tacos? Just thinking about Red Mountain makes me crave Tacos.

So today I give you my  simplified recipe for Tacos Al pastor. Paired with some of Charlie Red Mountain Malbec and you have winner!

FIDELITAS MALBEC RED MOUNTAIN 2014 

Tacos al Pastor
________________________________________

*****Marinade
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon dried ground cumin seed
3 chipotle peppers, packed in adobo sauce, plus 2 tablespoon adobo sauce
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 Tablespoon Paprika
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 Tablespoon Cider Vinegar
3 whole cloves garlic
2 Tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
½ cup pineapple juice from canned pineapple
½ cup water

3 pounds boneless Pork Shoulder

To Finish and Serve:
1 14 ounce canned pineapple diced
20 small flour or Corn tortillas, heated and kept warm
1 medium red onion, finely diced (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup finely minced fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
4 ounce Cotijo cheese
1 cup Pico de Gallo, salsa
3 to 4 limes, cut into 8 wedges each for serving

1. In bowl of blender combine the ingredients for the marinade. Puree until smooth about 3 minutes.
2. Cut Pork roast into 4 or 5 large pieces toss with marinade. Place into large roasting pan or Rondeau and cover.
3. Place into 275 degrees oven and roast for 4 hours.
4. Remove and let cool. When cool use two forks to pull pork apart. Stir to combine.
5. Serve meat and garnishes immediately with warmed tortillas, pineapple, onions, cilantro, salsa, cotijo, and lime wedges. Meat will be very moist and should be packed into double-stacked tortillas for serving

 

Taking Care of Each Other

Ashley Trout has been making waves throughout the Pacific Northwest after launching Vital Wines and March Cellars in 2016. Vital Wines is a community-driven, non-profit winery founded on providing better healthcare for vineyard and winery workers in the Walla Walla Valley. All profits are donated to the SOS Health Services of Walla Walla. A pioneer effort of its kind.

We were able to grab a couple cases of the rarely available Vital The Gifted for you.

Vital The Gifted $24.99

52% Cabernet Sauvignon 29% Malbec 10% Cinsault 10%Tinta Cao

Blackberry and plum, fig and woody thyme stems lead to cracked pepper and baking spices, dried papaya and rare white chocolate notes. An absolutely stunning Washington blend!

Join Ashley Trout as she pours Vital Winery + March Cellars wines on Friday from 4-7PM, at our tasting table, while supplies last

 

Esquin’s Exclusive Quilceda Tasting with Arnie Millan

Quilceda Creek has been producing celestial wines since its inception in 1978. Quilceda Creek produced its first commercially-released Cabernet Sauvignon in 1979. Owner, and winemaker, Alex Golitzin had the good fortune to have the assistance of legendary winemaker and uncle Andre Tchelistcheff who was a mentor to Alex in Quilceda Creek’s early days. Over the years, Quilceda has earned lavish praise from the world’s wine press, sometimes bordering hyperbole.

Today, Alex and son Paul have made Quilceda Creek one of the world’s greatest estates, racking up an amazingly consistent track record of 98-100 points scores over the past 15 years with no score lower than 96 points (only twice in 15 years) with their flagship Cabernet. Quilceda Creek’s Cabernet Sauvignon remains the benchmark for what can be achieved in Washington  – and dare we say, and the United States.

So imagine our excitement when we learned that my colleague Jeff Fournier and I, along with David Leclaire, had been invited to attend Quilceda’s release party for the 2014 Columbia Valley Red (CVR) and the 2014 Columbia Valley Cabernet last month.

When we arrived, there was already a crowd. We quickly found the two tasting tables and made a beeline to the 2014 Columbia Valley Red Blend. Good thing we were early because the tasting room soon was filled to capacity. Amazing appetizers were tray-passed around the room. This was a party for the Seattle area wine trade, so we were able to hobnob with friends we hadn’t seen for months.

2014 is looking to be another outstanding vintage in Washington State and you can taste the concentration in both the Columbia Valley Red (CVR) and especially in their flagship Cabernet.

When we were done tasting, we went to the winery behind the tasting room to pick up our allocation of both wines. Thankfully, Jeff’s car was big enough to hold the cases of wine.

Below are my tasting notes.

Quilceda 2014 Columbia Valley Red $51.99/bottle

The 2014 Columbia Valley Red was beefier than the 2013. The fruit was noticeably darker and fuller bodied and the tannins were smooth and well-integrated. If I had to rate the wine, I’d give it 93 points.

Quilceda 2014 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon $171.99/bottle

The big brother, the Columbia Valley Cabernet was outstanding. The wine is rich, intense and loaded with black currant and cassis fruit. The tannins were big and long on the finish accentuated by a contrail of that dark fruit. This wine needs some age to come together but I think it will be amazing in 7 to 10 years. I’d give it 97 – 98 points but I’m being very conservative because the Cab is in its infancy.

~ Arnie

Women in Wine in the Sky Lounge

Curated by Brass in Pocket, in support of the Walla Walla Community College, comes an event celebrating amazing women in Walla Walla wine history. Join us for appetizers and wine tasting on March 22nd, 5 – 8PM, in the Sky Lounge at Esquin Wine and Spirits!

Featuring:

Ashley Trout – VITAL WINES – Vital Wines produces wines that complete a circle. All proceeds go to the SOS clinic,  a free, non-profit health care clinic in the Walla Walla area dedicated to helping people get the healthcare they both need and deserve – no questions asked. These wines give back to those that provide us with beautiful wines throughout the Walla Walla valley.

Amy Alvarez-Wampfler – Abeja – With it’s namesake meaning Bee in Spanish, Abeja ‘ah -BAY – ha’ pays homage to the care of the land and the times when farming implied a respect for the environment . Abeja creates wines with the philosophy that each day we can make a difference in the quality of our care for the land.
Mary Derby – DAMA Wines – Started by Mary Tuuri Derby,  a visionary, artist, and dreamer, DAMA wines began with community and continues with love. Recognized for their bold, trailblazing wines, DAMA has been emerging from a small boutique winery to a power brand.
Selena Kritsonis – Woodward Canyon Winery – Along with a 14-acre Estate Vineyard in Walla Walla Valley, Woodward Canyon sources fruit from a handful of well-established Washington state growers including Champoux Vineyard, one of the older vineyards in the State.

Sabrina Lueck – College Cellars – A non-profit teaching winery located at the Center for Enology and Viticulture on the campus of the Walla Walla Community College. College Cellars wines are crafted by students as a part of their study of the science of wine making.

$40

100% of ticket sales support a scholarship for women in the Walla Walla Community College Enology & Viticulture program, additional donations accepted at the event.

 

Saviah tasting with the winemaker Rich Funk

Richard Funk winemaker of Saviah Cellars has been crafting wines in Walla Walla Valley since 2000.  The winery strives to produce rich, artfully balanced wines that showcase unique soils and climate.  We are proud to say we have carried their wines since their first commercial vintage production.  You could say “we got that funk”!

Join us for our tasting with the winemaker event with Saviah and Rich Funk on March 15th, 6 -7:30pm, in the Sky Lounge.

$15 tasting fee, which can be used towards your purchase, space is limited RSVP by calling 206.682.7374

 

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