Pair the Wine to the Diner with L’Ecole No.41

Steak – no brainer for wine pairing?

Lose the Preconceived Notions for Wine Pairing
Does red wine always go with steak, white wine with fish?  What if you don’t like red wine? Oloroso Sherry is the best pairing for barbecued ribs with a sweet/spicy sauce, but have I ever been able to get ANYONE to even try it? Nope.

Back when I started this blog, I was in search of perfect pairings. Over time, I’ve come to realize that excellent pairings exist only for a few combinations and only for some diners. If the diner doesn’t like either the food or the wine, there is no way the combination is going to magically change that person’s appreciation of either one. Tim Hanni MW (Master of Wine) coined the phrase “pair wines with the diner, not the dinner” and he makes an excellent point. We all have our individual taste preferences and sensitivities.

Julie prefers white wine, so I almost always try to find something appropriate for the meal that she’ll enjoy. I like to test out both wines to see for myself which goes best – for me. Sometimes, I’m surprised. The next time you’re thinking about which wine to open with dinner, try something new!

Dinner is Ready, but Which Wine?
Dinner tonight was ribeye steak with sautéed mushrooms, twice roasted sweet potatoes topped with scallions and flaky salt (Bon Appetit recipe here), and roast cauliflower. Red wine would be a normal first thought for the best pairing, and I had a pair of samples from our friends at L’Ecole No. 41 in Walla Walla. As you can see, I poured glasses of each so I could give them both a try. As we enjoyed our meal, I found myself going back time and again to the Semillon. I never would have guessed beforehand, but it was the better of the two pairings.

Yes, it really was a school. Loudon County No. 41. Today it’s the offices and tasting room for L’Ecole No. 41

L’Ecole No. 41
L’Ecole No. 41 is one of the pioneering wineries in Walla Walla, Washington. Founded in 1983, they were the 3rd winery established in the Walla Walla Valley. The founders had a special affinity for Bordeaux wines which explains their commitment to Semillon, less familiar here in the US, but the #1 white grape planted in Bordeaux.

Disclosure: Wines for this post were provided as samples by L’Ecole No. 41. No other compensation was involved, all opinions expressed are mine.

L’Ecole No.41 Cabernet Sauvignon “Walla Walla Valley” 2017 (sample, $39 SRP or online here) 14.5% abv
Eye: Deep ruby
Nose: medium plus aromas of cassis, ripe blueberry, blackberry, black plum, vanilla, cedar,
Mouth: Dry, medium plus acidity, medium plus slightly chalky tannins, full body, high alcohol, long finish of cassis and blueberry. Medium plus intensity flavors mirroring the nose, especially the dark fruit and cedar.
Observations: Well done. Clear traditional influence with firm acid and tannins (yay!) while showing the bright, ripe new world fruit. A pleasure to drink now, but this wine will easily improve with more bottle aging.

L’Ecole No.41 Semillon “Columbia Valley” 2019 (sample, $15 SRP or online here) 13.5% abv
Eye: medium lemon
Nose: medium intensity aromas of fresh honeysuckle, lemon, green apple, pear, wet stones
Mouth: Dry, high acidity, medium body with a crisp texture, medium alcohol, long finish with lingering pear and wet stone. Medium intensity flavors of pear, green apple, wet stones.
Observations: Refreshing acidity with a nice medium body and impression of wet stones. I was surprised to find I preferred the Semillon to the Cabernet Sauvignon with this meal. Perhaps because of the vegetable choices?

5 Responses to “Pair the Wine to the Diner with L’Ecole No.41”
  1. Karen Nielsen says:

    For me, orange wine is that constant surprise pairing with food as a true enhancer. The only problem is if you don’t have a good gut on pairings, it can be worse than not enhancing, but actually conflicting.

    • Thanks for your comment! I’m with you 100% on the food-friendliness of orange wine and I’m a big fan. It’s another example, though, no matter how good the pairing, my wife won’t touch an orange wine. I always have another option for her!

  2. Excellent write up and beautiful pictures! At first glance I thought you were blogging from somewhere in Europe. Where can we find these wines on the east coast?

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