Some fine new world Chenin Blanc: 2016-2018 L`Ecole No 41 Old Vines Columbia Valley

In early 2019, I received 3 bottles of L`Ecole No. 41 old vine Chenin Blanc from the winery in response to my agreement to taste and review their wines. I chose to allow them to rest and age prior to opening. As it turns out, it has been just over 3 years since receiving them.

This 3rd generation winery is “located in the historic Frenchtown School depicted on our label”. Their tech sheets state “they are engaged in growing and making 100% of our wines”. The grapes are picked and whole cluster pressed cool, eventually racked and fermented to approximate dryness in stainless steel tanks, cold stabilized and then filtered. The “old vines” in this case refers to vineyards planted in 1978-79.

My Monday night blind tasting group seemed like the perfect setting to taste these bottles in that format plus being able to share them with others. So, over 3 different weeks, I took a bottle starting with the 2016 and then moving up.

I can easily say that each bottle was impressive, expressing a very intriguing and pleasantly different profile than what I anticipated from new world Chenin made in “Vouvray-style”.

My notes primarily reflect the impressions I had on each occasion:

2016 L`ECOLE No 41 OLD VINES CHENIN BLANC COLUMBIA VALLEY- 13.5 % abv; 4,000 cases made; tasted blind; the color was a clear yellow and the nose offered mild mineral accented tropical fruit that on the palate translated into passion fruit, pear, apple and grapefruit with accents of fennel and pine; it was nicely crisp and refreshing and paired beautifully with our appetizers.

2017 2016 L`ECOLE No 41 OLD VINES CHENIN BLANC COLUMBIA VALLEY- 13.5 % abv; 3,900 cases made; tasted blind; pale yellow color followed by aromas of mild mineral accented grapefruit and lemongrass which continued on to be joined by honeysuckle, pear and yellow apple; this has bright acidity and has a tangy, zingy mouthfeel eventually cleaning the palate; it’s medium bodied at best, nicely balanced and holds a steady course throughout to provide a nice experience.

2018 L`ECOLE No 41 OLD VINES CHENIN BLANC YAKIMA VALLEY- 13.5% abv; 4,000 cases made; tasted blind; following its pale yellow color came aromas mineral and lemongrass accented tropical fruit joined by honeyed pear and apple once tasted; this has nice acidity and a soft and easy mouthfeel to add to the sensory pleasure.

This vintage carries the Yakima Valley labelled distinction, an AVA within the Columbia Valley, whereas the other 2 indicate Columbia Valley although the fruit is sourced from vineyards located within the former. According to a note attached to the tech sheets I received, the winery chose this change “to align with other Heritage Line items.

All in all, these are fine refreshing and savory wines that are made well, very food friendly and express a pleasant Chenin Blanc profile.



do you know production by any chance? I tend to dig some new world Chenin at times.

NVM, you included that info.

Thanks for the notes

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If you like Chenin, you`ll like these.

If you had to rank the three vintages, what would your order of preference be?

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Thanks, Blake, for posting. I’m a Chenin lover as well. L’Ecole’s Chenin is always under the radar, partly because it’s only $18 per bottle. It has its loyal fans, though, and I believe sells through most every year. The story is that Megan Clubb’s mom loved Vouvray, and prevailed on her husband Baker Ferguson to make one, which they’ve done every year since the 1980’s.

The grapes come from three sites in the Yakima valley, which may be the only long standing sources in the state. Erica Orr in Washington makes a very fine Chenin as well, and I suspect that she sources from the same sites.

By coincidence, a couple of weeks ago, I was with the recently retired general manager of L’Ecole, and we happened to be wandering thru the tasting room of an unnamed decidedly mediocre winery in Washington state, who had a chenin on the shelf. Try as we might, we couldn’t find out from the staff where they sourced their grapes.

(Blake, BTW, even though the website says ‘three generations’, the winery is still decidedly in the hands of the second generation. The kids have been involved, but I don’t think they are interested taking over the operation.)


Nice notes, Blake. I was born and raised in the Yakima Valley and wonder who in hell had the foresight or plain dumb luck to plant Chenin Blanc during the decade of the 1970’s. Did you happen to notice any difference between the Yakima Valley and Columbia Valley fruit sourcing.


16> 17 > 18, 16 being the best.

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John, thank so much for adding on and clarifying. I called the winery prior to posting these notes to talk to and again thank the one who sent me the wines/ info and was informed they were unable to take the call. I had hoped to have a fact check on my remarks.

Steve, as I understand it, all of the vineyards sourced are within the Yakima Valley AVA which is within the Columbia Valley AVA. I have tech sheets for 16 and 17 and that is true for sure for those and probably a safe assumption for the 18`.

Here’s more: All from Yakima Valley AVA

2016: Willard Farms
Rothrock Vineyard
Upland Vineyard
Phil Church

2017: Upland Vineyard
Phil Church


Erica Orr posts on the site so she may weigh in. Her 2021 release Chenin which was sold on Berserker Day along with others is sourced from… VINEYARDS
Upland, Roza Hills, Gresswell. (from her website) Only overlap is Upland on Snipes Mountain, which is inside Yakima Valley. Roza Hills is also Yakima (Rattlesnake Hills sub AVA). I don’t know where Gresswell is, but my guess is somewhere outside of Yakima since Orr Chenin is labelled Columbia Valley.

Pontin del Roza, Prosser which is closer to Church Vineyard in lower Yakima Valley used to make a very nice estate Chenin Blanc, but the production stopped a few years ago after Scottie Pontin passed away. I recently learned those grapes were “gone” but I don’t know how accurate that info was or if it was just referring to the winery production.

Paul Gregutt the retired Wine Critic had/has a label, Waitsburg Cellars, made a Chenin. Not sure if that is still around.

Full Pull Block Wine made one using Rothrock Vineyard fruit, but I thought I heard that source “went away”

It’s a hidden treasure in Eastern Washington with pockets around. Very glad the L’Ecole 41 Old Vines is holding strong, after 35+ years they have it dialed in, and also glad that they are now using Yakima Valley on the label.


Thanks for weighing in, Chris. Does my heart good to see some of these names again. My Grandfather farmed an apple/peach orchard near Zillah and relied upon irrigation water from the Roza Canal which draws from the Yakima River. I spent the first 16 years of my life in a small town called Wapato in the heart of the Yakima Valley. My great grandfather was for a time sheriff in the town of Naches. I love the fact that there are Chenin Blancs from this area that deliver amazing value and scratch my growing itch for Chenin.


Hi- responding to some of these Chenin questions

L’ecole’s website is very good - there are pdfs of Chenin tech sheets that might be helpful to you guys?

My understanding is that both Waitsburg Chenin bottlings were sourced from Upland vineyard on Snipes Mountain. I don’t think Paul Gregutt has made that wine in many vintages though…

The Chenin parcel at Rothrock vineyard in Prosser was ripped out in the spring of 2020.

With regard to my 2021 Orr Chenin, yes, technically that could be labeled Yakima Valley. Gresswell vineyard (the old Tefft property) is in Outlook, WA in Rattlesnake Hills AVA within Yakima AVA within Columbia Valley AVA.

Cheers to Washington state Chenin blanc!