Marcus Rafanelli of L’Ecole No 41

Was there a specific wine, moment or place that unlocked your passion?

Marcus Rafanelli: There is only one wine that brought me to tears and that was a 1988 Columbia Winery Red Willow Syrah (the first commercially made Syrah in Washington State). I had the pleasure of making a Red Willow Syrah from 2008- 2013 when I was the Winemaker at William Church Winery in Woodinville and always had a goal of trying this specific wine.

My wife and I were at the Herbfarm for their 100 Mile Dinner and I saw the wine on their list and ordered it. I felt lucky as it was their last bottle. When I first smelled that 25-year-old wine, everything “clicked” for me as a winemaker and the tears started to well up. It was truly a historic wine and I made sure to share it with everyone I could around me that night.

What did you study in school and what were you doing before you started in the wine industry?

MR: I graduated in 2006 from Boise State University with a B.S. in Biology and Botany. In 2008, I graduated from the Institute for Enology and Viticulture in Walla Walla with an Applied Associates in Arts and Science. I also cooked in restaurants for almost 10 years. 

How has being in the wine industry changed you?

MR: It has given me a happiness and satisfaction that is hard to describe. I literally love going to work every day. I look back on all the long hours and hard work and it was totally worth it.

What’s your favorite part of being in the wine industry?

MR: It is one job that encompasses all my favorite subjects: Biology, Phytology, Meteorology, Geology, Mycology, Entomology, Microbiology, and Gastronomy!

Looking back, was there something in your past that led you to wine?

MR: The moment that started my intrigue into wine was Beaujolais Day in 2005. I had been working in the kitchen at the Red Feather Lounge in Boise and the owner Dave Krick and Sommelier Brandon were big into staff education in wine.  That third Thursday in November, Brandon came in with a small cask of the 2005 Beaujolais Nouveau to share with staff and customers. He explained the whole story behind the making and release of a young carbonic macerated wine. I had never heard of Beaujolais Nouveau before and loved hearing that story and history and it sparked the interest to learn more about wine production.

I chatted with my Grandpa soon after and he also suggested that I investigate the Washington Wine business as he thought I would make a great winemaker. I investigated wine schools that afternoon and made the career switch from high school education to E&V without hesitation.

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