Boisterous Walla Walla Blend - Wine & Spirits Magazine

Boisterous Walla Walla Blend

Winemaker Marcus Rafanelli (left) with Owner and Managing Winemaker Marty Clubb (Photo courtesy of the winery)

Ferguson is a Bordeaux-inspired blend developed at L’Ecole No 41 by Marty Clubb and his winemaking team. Along with Perigee and Apogee, the winery’s two other vineyard designates, the wines represent a kind of three-dimensional snapshot of Walla Walla terroirs. Ferguson is the youngest, newest vineyard, arguably the most dramatic: forty acres set high on a syncline slope beneath a brigade of windmills for one of the largest windfarms in the country. Clubb’s new head winemaker (since 2019), Marcus Rafanelli, is still coming up to speed on Ferguson, where vines are routinely buffeted by intense winds, clinging to fractured basalt, with soils so shallow they seem tossed there by the handful.

Rafanelli must take great care with extraction for a wine like this one. He monitors the press fractions for this blend, using mostly free run juice, but leaving a bit of the edge, which Clubb insists on. “If you strip the structure,” says Clubb, “it’s not Ferguson.”

In 2020, its identity was clear. A blend of about 60 percent cabernet sauvignon, the rest merlot, malbec, cabernet franc and petit verdot, this is impressive in its build. You smell clove and peppercorn, a hint of soy and tobacco, old-school cedar and olive, salted plum; behind all that, somehow you can smell its structure, the dust and basalt, perhaps settled on the fruit from the SeVein winds. The palate is generous, dark plum and cassis, with a texture that feels like a rocky edifice, and tannins that do not let you go. Cellar, or decant for steak.


L’Ecole No 41 2020 Walla Walla Valley Ferguson Vineyard Red

Every week, our editors highlight a wine that intrigued them in our blind panel tastings, expanding on their tasting note in this space. These are entirely editorial choices; there are no paid placements. Subscribers can also access the original tasting note by searching here.

Patrick J. Comiskey covers US wines for Wine & Spirits magazine, focusing on the Pacific Northwest, California’s Central Coast and New York’s Finger Lakes.

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