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Production: 10k cases annually (1996)
L'Ecole's inception dates back to World War II, when Baker Ferguson, the winery's founder, served in the Army Air Corps as a navigator. He was shot down over Germany and spent two years in a Nazi prison camp. There he used fruits and sugar provided to him to make some potent wine, having developed a taste for the beverage in his prewar days working as an investment banker in San Francisco. This experience whetted his appetite for the winemaking business, and in 1949 he married Jean, a high school chemistry teacher, who he jokes he married as a potential winemaker.
The winery plans were put on hold for almost 40 years, while Baker pursued a career in business and banking. In 1979 Jean started taking some seminars and short courses on winemaking from University of California, Davis, among other places, in preparation to begin winemaking. In 1983 they started production in the old Lowden Schoolhouse. Jean started making wines, initially a Semillon and a Merlot, while Baker handled marketing.
In 1987, Baker and Jean's son-in-law, Marty Clubb, joined the winery. He had a degree in Chemical Engineering from Texas A&M and a master's in Management from MIT, and was working at Bechtel when he was summoned to Lowden. Baker and Jean transferred the winery's operation over to Marty, and retired from the day-to-day operation.
The Wines: Current releases (Fall 1996)
Martin Clubb 1988-present
Jean Ferguson 1983-1988
Eric Dunham ?-? (Assistant winemaker)
Of special note:
The old Lowden Schoolhouse was built in 1915 and operated as a school until 1974. When the Fergusons purchased the building, they raised the roof to add a second story living area, restoring the first floor to make a tasting room and banquet facilities that retain a schoolhouse flavor. The wine production occurs in the cellar.
The winery's label was produced as a result of a contest held among Baker and Jean's young relatives in 1983 (contestants had to be under the age of 12). The winner, Ryan, who was in 3rd grade at the time, has had his drawing of the old Lowden Schoolhouse, complete with grape cluster hot air balloon, immortalized since that time.
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