“Twenty Six Years
More About L'Ecole No. 41 Winery
The Clubb’s were tired of being on the road and knew if they ever wanted to have a family life, a career and lifestyle change was in order. By 1988, they had two small children, Riley, 2, and Rebecca who was born that year.
“You can’t raise babies on airplanes,” said Clubb. “I knew in December of 1988 that my wife wanted to return to Walla Walla. Having a family life was the motivating factor in our move.”
The Ferguson’s offered to have their daughter and son-in-law move to Walla Walla to take over the winery. Both were getting on in years and needed help if the winery was to stay afloat.
It turned out that Walla Walla was a fabulous place to raise children. As Marty and Megan took over L’Ecole, the winery grew upward and steady, a bit like the Clubb children. From 1,000 cases in the early 1980s to the 25,000 cases today, Clubb watched his wine move from solid, simple Merlot and Semillon to towering, gorgeous, high-scoring Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Semillon. The couple also produces Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and two Bordeaux blends.
The steady growth is sometimes hard to see on a daily basis. It just happens. One day, you turn around and your storage area is full, more people are working for you, and you manage more and more land. Clubb took over an operation that was “under water and losing money,” and turned it into one of Washington’s finest wineries.
But the operation is a bit like raising children. Clubb said one day you turn around and suddenly notice your kids have grown inches and one is about ready to walk out the door and start his own life.
Another measurement of growth: 8-year-old Ryan
Campbell, (one of the Ferguson’s grandsons) who designed the
old schoolhouse label with a crayon in a family contest, is now in
his late 20s and can actually drink the wine that carries his design.
Images from L'Ecole No. 41 Today
Although Clubb sources fruit from both the Walla Walla and Columbia valleys, he is obtaining the purest expressions from two vineyards in Walla Walla—Pepper Bridge and Seven Hills vineyard. Many of his wines showcase both vineyards.
L’Ecole produces three different Semillons (barrel fermented, single vineyard from Walla Walla and a single vineyard from the Columbia Valley), three Merlots (Columbia Valley, Walla Walla and single vineyard), one Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc, two Cabernet Sauvignons (Walla Walla and Columbia Valley) one Syrah from Seven Hills (another one next year from the Columbia Valley) and two Bordeaux blends (one Apogee from Pepper Bridge and a new one from Seven Hills, to be released next year).
Out of the 13-14 varietals, Clubb said only about seven or eight are actually circulating widely in the marketplace. Some are sold mostly in restaurants or at the L’Ecole tasting room.
New Bordeaux Blend from Seven Hills
At a time when wineries are scaling down operations due to a sluggish economy, Clubb is adding one more wine to his portfolio—a Bordeaux blend from Seven Hills Vineyard. He already produces Apogee, a Bordeaux-style blend from Pepper Bridge. He will likely stop producing one of the Merlots to keep the varietals at the same level.
Although he doesn’t have a name for the new blend, he is considering calling it perigee. Apogee is the furthest point from the earth; perigee is the closest point to the earth.
“We thought it would be a crime to not show off what we could do in the Seven Hills Vineyard or the Pepper Bridge Vineyard,” Clubb said. “Seven Hills tends to be a little spicier, more feminine and elegant. The wines tend to be showier at a younger age.
“Pepper Bridge is weightier, with more tannins. It produces a bolder wine that ages well.”
This is the winery’s 20th anniversary. Baker Ferguson, 86, is completely retired. Megan Clubb runs his business, the Baker-Boyer Bank, the oldest bank in Washington. Jean passed away in 1998 but her image and presence at the winery is still felt.
For now, Clubb says the winery is right where it should be.
“We can maintain our quality, even though we are producing 25,000 cases of wine per year,” Club said. “We still use small bins, punch downs and gently handle everything from start to finish.”
His goal is to produce more wine from estate vineyards (he is a partner in the Seven Hills Vineyard with Gary Figgins of Leonetti and Norm McKibben from Pepper Bridge). About 40 percent of L’Ecole’s production comes from Seven Hills. The Columbia Valley line of L’Ecole tends to be less expensive. The majority of L’Ecole wine is sold in the Northwest.
Steady, consistent and high quality—characteristics helpful in raising children and producing wine. You just don’t always notice, on a day-to-day basis, the growth spurts.
and L’Ecole Wineries
Rick Small, age 10
By Christina Kelly
It was the days of one- and two-room schoolhouses, coon-skin hats and hula-hoops.
Rock ‘n Roll, a blend of Southern blues and gospel music, filtered out of transistor radios, during the 1950s, appealing to teenagers looking to break out of mainstream music and fuel a growing gap between teens and parents. The baby boomers were emerging.
It was also a time of sandlot baseball, when kids begged the local hardware store to pay for uniforms since the local school districts earmarked funds only for reading, writing and arithmetic.
In the Walla Walla area, the two-room schoolhouse was public school number 41 located in Lowden, WA, which now houses L’Ecole No. 41 Winery. Across a field stood the teachers’ apartment during the 1950s. The two teachers walked across the sandlot to teach first through sixth grades. It is now Woodward Canyon Winery.