We often say people look like their dogs. Have you ever wondered what dog would represent a particular wine? I will begin my quest to pinpoint the match between wine and dogs. I am starting with L’Ecole No 41 Frenchtown. The wine consists of Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Malbec Petit Verdot and Grenache. It is a Bordeaux/Rhone blend, so one might say it is a mixed breed.
In the case of Frenchtown, it represents all the best qualities found each year in the L’Ecole portfolio. It is a cross-section of the entire wine program. It represents L’Ecole entry-level red wine and, for the price, a real winner. Frenchtown is the first red wine to be bottled and released each year. In a sense, Frenchtown gives one a sneak preview of the upcoming red releases and an outlook on the vintage.
Frenchtown utilizes grapes set aside after the team decides the amount produced of each varietal in a particular year. Often they will add some hard-pressed juice to the Frenchtown wine to give it some guts. Sometimes the blend will include Mourvédre.
Wine and Dogs
I chose a mixed breed for this wine because Frenchtown mixes both Bordeaux and Rhone varieties. It is a mixed breed of grapes and varieties but done with an intentional style. Like the cross-section of L’Ecole’s wine program, a mixed breed dog is a cross-section of breeds. The gene pool is vast in a mixed breed, and you could say Frenchtown’s blend consists of a mixture of grapes. My analogy, the grapes gene pool is similar to a mixed breed dog’s gene pool.
From Recess Red to Frenchtown
Originally this red blend was called Recess Red. Its name comes from the 1915 Schoolhouse that houses the winery. When it came time to rebrand their wines, L’Ecole changed the name to Frenchtown, representing the winery’s district, a historic community west of Walla Walla. Walla Walla’s first settlement was called Frenchtown because French-Canadians founded it in the 1800s. Frenchtown pays tribute to the legacy of the area.
Recently visiting the winery, I loved seeing the references to the schoolhouse history. The tasting room has the original chalkboards giving the space a sense of history back when it was built. The old drinking fountains still exist.
On the nose, I found notes of savory and cedar. The wine displayed ripe fruit, especially mixed berries, and savory herbs such as thyme on the palate. Frenchtown exhibits complexity, texture, and balance, all common features of L’Ecole’s quality. The wine aged nine months in neutral oak followed by six months aging in bottle.
The Art Of Wine and Dogs
To me, wine is an art form. The winemaker has a palette to work with to create the wine. That palette can be the grapes themselves. It could be the oak treatment, the process used to make the wine, the length of aging in the barrel, or the barrel type.
As an animal artist, my palette consists of pastels to convey the dog I am portraying. The dog’s eyes are my focal point. The eyes say it all. So carrying my wine and dogs theme further, I picked one of my drawings of a mixed breed to represent Frenchtown. I chose a drawing of a black dog named Asia. This dog’s dark pigment and hair remind me of the rich dark fruit and color of the wine; Asia’s hair represents the texture of the wine. The calmness we feel in the drawing reminds me of the smooth balance of Frenchtown.
This article is the first in an occasional series I plan to write pairing wine and dog breeds.
To view more of Cori’s animal art, go to Cori’s Pawtraits.
Note: Common to the wine industry, this writer received hosted wine samples. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure.