Grapelive Latest: July 30

Grapelive Wine of the Week

By Kerry Winslow

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faurysyrah09.jpg2009 Domaine Faury Syrah Collines Rhodaniennes, Northern Rhone Red, France.
Domaine Philippe Faury makes some classic and wonderful wines from the Northern Rhone, I have raved about about their Condrieu and am very impressed by the Domaine’s St. Joseph wines, but this wine is just plain fantastic and one of the best values in Syrah that I have come across yet. The Faury 2008 was and is a lovely wine and it has al the right stuff, but the 2009 vintage goes way beyond in all areas. This Syrah has deep and heady perfume, jasmine, violets and wild flowers along with crushed rocks, mineral spice and a touch of pepper. The mouth is full and lively with lots of cassis, plum, blueberry and black currants leading the way in the pretty layers of fruit. There is a classic pure Syrah essence and it delivers pleasure and complexity with out an oak influence, the fruit gives everything you need and doesn’t lack for anything. The background has subtle mineral, white pepper, lavender, kirsch, chalky earth and just a hint of licorice. This balanced and young Syrah has ripe tannins that hold things together, but are not aggressive, so enjoy now. ($20 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

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Grapelive Latest: July 26

Grapelive Wine of the Week

By Kerry Winslow

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meovr06.jpg2006 Meo-Camuzet Vosne-Romanee (AC) Red Burgundy, France.
It is certainly a rare and welcome treat to taste Burgundy, and even more special to try a Meo-Camuzet, and this was a taste to remember. The village of Vosne-Romanee is in the heart of the Cotes de Nuits, if not the heart, and home to many famous Domaines and Grand Cru vineyards and took part of its name to honor and associate with the most famous vineyard, Romanee-Conti. Many great sites for Pinot Noir reside around the village and while outside Premier Cru and Grand Cru appellation controls, produce fantastic fruit that makes some amazing and more affordable Burgundy. Meo-Camuzet’s Vosne-Romanee is a cuvee of many different sites, some that are Cru are included too, and made to the Domaine’s high standards. I have had some of the Meo-Camuzet wines, but since they are very limited and rare jewels, I cannot claim to be an expert, though I have enjoyed and been very grateful to have had the few I’ve tried. This 2006 Vosne-Romanee is still a youthful wine with lots of wound up and tight details, but giving enough to be a real joy to drink even now. The nose is pure Burgundy with flower petals, game, violets, cranberry and smoke leading to a palate of black cherry, plum, briar, crushed rock, blackberry and some classic barnyard earthy notes. The opens up with air and becomes much smoother and silky with delicate notes and giving way to more perfume and an amazing long finish that is touched by subtle oak and lingering fruit. This is a fine and balanced Burgundy and should be even better in 2 years or so, but can be opened at anytime if needed! ($90 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

*a few bottles are still at: www.sfwtc.com

San Francisco Wine Trading Company

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Grapelive Latest: July 20

Grapelive Pick of the Day

By Kerry Winslow

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billet.jpg2009 Morlet Semillon “Billet Doux” Late Harvest Sweet Wine. (375 ml)
This is Luc Morlet’s latest work and the results are very satisfying if not wonderful for this little gem. While not quite Chateau D’ Yquem, it is a sweet wine of massive appeal and quality. Aged in new oak barrels and naturally fermented this wine is developing nicely and is thick with noble rot goodness, but still balanced with freshness and stone fruit. The nose is honeyed with citrus and yellow peach notes while the sweet palate has lemon, apricot and candied dried fruits. A great wine to finish any meal and or have with Foie Gras, though it should prove hard to get and may only be offered to his mailing list.
($85 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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Grapelive Latest: Luc Morlet Profile

Morlet Family Vineyards from Champagne to Napa Valley
By Kerry Winslow

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lm1.jpgLuc Morlet’s star is rising, and after setting the world a light while the head winemaker at Peter Michael he is proving to be one of Napa’s elite stylists of artisan wines. Morlet comes from more than four generations of Champagne making and growing heritage and in which he started young, before his 6th birthday working the vineyards in Ay, a Grand Cru site in the region. Luc began humbly, as he was put to use as a compost spreader, making sure there was equal parts, horse manure, cow manure and chicken droppings and over the years worked his way up to crafting the family bubbly. Always eager to learn and innovate Morlet took his organic and natural concepts with him, but was always ready to adapt to the vintages needs, a less dogmatic approach, but one that has served him well, and it shows in each of his wines. He married his wife Jodie, an American from Sacramento, and has made his home in Napa Valley, leaving Champagne and his family wines behind him, striking out on his own path. For a Frenchman, this must have been a huge weight to bare, but one he has managed in spectacular fashion, as he is now world renown for his California wines, which he makes in very limited quantities and which sell out with weeks of release.

Luc studied in Rheims, earning a viticulture degree at the Ecole Viticole de Champagne, a Masters graduate in Enology, then an MBA in Business from Dijon Business School in Burgundy. Morlet explains that while the winemaking degree was important, he knew to make his life better and to be a success in the wine industry he had to focus on the business side with equal energy. All the while, during his years of study, he interned at as many wineries as he could, both in Burgundy and in Bordeaux. In Bordeaux at the ripe age of 22, Luc got cast as the head winemaker at a Chateau, when the owner though a change was needed and let the former master of wine for the property go before harvest, and Luc not only pulled it off, he thrived and the owner has since told him that he thinks that the best wine the Chateau has ever produced came under young Morlet’s direction. But Luc’s big chance to star came when he took over at Peter Michael in California, and with the world watching his every move and drop of wine, he raised the game there and produced some of the famed winery’s most successful wines. He just seems to have a special touch, and a few tricks to make what he calls seamless wines of great depth, but of greater pleasure as well.

morletlineup.jpgWith his own label, Morlet has taken his style, “naturalist” winemaking to even greater heights with a line up of Chardonnay and Cabernet that rival the worlds top wines, plus a wonderful Semillon and Sauvignon blend that has almost cult like status, as well as a selection of fantastic Pinot Noirs. Tasting through the Morlet Family Vineyards wines was a moment to be cherished; as each one offers massive amounts of hedonistic joy and Luc’s personal touch that is part terroir and part passion. His wines showcase his no compromise mentality and dedication to his craft, he has a deft touch and while his wines are very lush, plump and giving they also show how skilled in allowing the vineyards to shine through and for allowing complex and delicate flavors to shine on the palate without losing any of the richness and smooth texture that are hallmarks of his wines.

Luc tries to let the wine do its own thing from the beginning, and promotes natural yeasts and with very gentle handling of the grapes from the vines to the bottle. Most of his wines see no filtration or fining at all and he picks his lots of fruit at night to ensure maximum freshness, in small bins and put directly on cooled transport. Morlet also believes air flow in the vineyard and in fermentations are one of the most important factors, often overlooked, in winemaking and goes to great length to ensure that the grapes and the wine itself have it all right, and that they breath in just the right amount at key moments along the way to the finished product. He credits Helen Turley as the one of the first people to relate this to him and focus his attention to every detail of how air can make a difference. Morlet know owns his own vineyards in Knights Valley, near to Peter Michael’s Estate and he is making sure his land has just the right air flow to produce the kind of wines that he has in mind. While Luc has left Peter Michael as head winemakers, he has still remained close and has in fact turned over the winemaking control there over to his brother Nicholas Morlet, so the style there has not changed from his own in any great way and you can see the great similarities in both sets of wines.

morletwhites.jpgLike Helen Turley and Marc Aubert before him, Luc, after leaving Peter Michael has succeeded in making handcrafted masterpieces for which the wine world can’t seem to get enough of! Morlet recently showed of his line up of 2008 vintage Chardonnay, of which came and sold out in days and the as of yet unreleased Cabernet Sauvignons, as well as the mentioned Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc (with some Muscadelle) blend called “La Proportion Doree” all of which were mind-blowingly awesome. Luc at first seems quiet, a bit shy even, but when he gets talking his intensity of passion lets loose and he bursts out of his shell with vigor and an enthusiastic glow, it is hard not to enjoy his company and even harder not to fall in love with his wines. Almost every top wine critic has given their stamp of glorious respect and endorsement, from Tanzer, Wine Enthusiast to Wine Spectator to the king of all wine critics Robert Parker, all have been captivated by Morlet’s wines, and I admit I am a huge fan now as well.

morletprincesse.jpgThe Morlet whites, the “La Proportion Doree”a Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle cuvee, Sonoma County ( 93 Points, grapelive $60) and Chardonnay’s “Ma Douce” Sonoma Coast (95 Points, grapelive $75) , and “Ma Princesse” Russian River Valley (97 Points, grapelive $85) that I tried from the 2008 vintage were all remarkable wines that had that something special that all great wines seem to have, a dimension beyond that words can’t do justice. These Chardonnay’s are made with old Wente clone, meaning they are from older cuttings and that the berries are tiny, giving more intensity and concentration of flavors. While all the wines have distinct California fullness they also capture the soul of their historical inspiration, with the “La Proportion Doree” having reference to and relation to a fabulous Graves Blanc, like Haut-Brion and the Chardonnay’s as well give many of the same pleasures as the great Grand Cru White Burgundies of which I likened to Batard-Montrachet and Corton-Charlemagne personally, as I had enough experience to make that comparison, though in the case of “Ma Princesse” I think might even better than any of the Grand Cru. These wines show class and elegance that put them in an elite group, and unfortunately the price does too, as they are not as easy on the wallet as they are on the palate, and while Luc wants all his wine to be drunk and enjoyed as purely wine, they have also been bought up by those that want to show off their cellars and by those that primarily purchase wine for investment, for which we might think would be a shame, but given the cost, it is understandable.

morletcabs.jpgThen there was the 2008 samples of the future release of Cabernet Sauvignon, three very different versions that will again show the talent of Luc and his family’s team and of the quality of the vineyards used. Again the pricing is extreme, though when compared to like priced top wines from Napa and or Bordeaux they fit nicely and don’t seem out of place, it is just that I wish I could afford them myself, so it there is any sour grapes on the cost, it is from my only, and because I am envious of those for which these wines must seem like a value or bargain! Which, I am sure they are, no question. The vintage 2008 is still not getting much press attention and may not garner the same praise as the 2007 has, but I think it is a mistake to make a real judgment on the year as I have found across the board that the wines have taken a bit longer than normal to develop and from what I’ve tasted there is promise of a great future to come. I find them extremely young and closed, but when given time to open there is enough to tell you that with a bit more age there is magic to be had. I found this especially true in Pinot Noir, where some critics had almost written over the vintage as light and simple, I have found lately the wines filling out and offering much great depth and detail that the highly praised 2007’s. Anyone that has had Pinots from Brewer-Clifton or anything from the Gary’s Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands can tell you with a doubt are much better now than the 2007 vintage and getting better all the time, and I think we’ll see much the same thing with the 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon’s over the next couple of years. Now, whether the original critics are willing to be honest later is another thing to be considered, but I am willing to bet 2008 will not be anything but a superb vintage to have and cellar mid to long term. This view was put to Luc Morlet, and he had a twinkle in his eyes, and wholeheartedly made it know that was how he felt too and after tasting his early bottle samples I am even more convinced as they were as good as any 2007 wine, with a few exceptions, that I’m tried from top Napa estates.

Morlet’s Cabernet(s), the “Coeur de Vallee” (93-95 Points, grapelive $175) from grapes that came exclusively from Beckstoffers To-Kalon Vineyard, the “Mon Chevalier” (95-96 Points, grapelive $155) from Knight’s Valley (Like Peter Michael’s Les Pavots) and his “Passionement” (94-96 Points, grapelive $225) a best barrel selection from the cellar all are stars in their own right, though I found at this stage still need a some time to show off the best that is in hiding now, that said, I loved them all and see amazing potential in all of them. I did personally favor the “Mon Chevalier” from vineyard sites in Knight’s Valley, as it was showing the most at this time and had softened enough to show layers of massive black fruits and smoother tannins, and I was thinking it had a wonderful Chateau Margaux likeness and style.

lmkw1.jpgMorlet also does a tiny amount of Syrah, that was inspired by his experience of trying a Chapoutier Emitage, a Northern Rhone 100% Syrah, though I have not had a chance to try yet, it is called “Bouquet Garni” and is available through his mailing list and a few wine merchants. Also, Luc in the 2009 vintage was able to produce a Chateau D’Yquem style sweet wine from late harvested Semillon, of which I did try and found again sublime and it will be release at a later date to his mailing list clients. One thing he will never do is make sparkling wine outside of Champagne, that is the big promise he made to his family when left France, and one he feels he must keep, even though he has been tempted I’m sure. Luc is rooted in tradition and honors the nature of a place, something he picked up from his father and grandfather, but not locked into and single way of doing things. I think from reading this, you can get a sense that rust never sleeps with Morlet around and that he is a hard working guy that has to be doing something all the time, and his attention to detail is beyond doubt. He is also a man that follows his heart, but also a man that is open to a better way and not overly opinionated or set in his ways, always allowing for new ideas or able to change paths when the vines or vintage shows a more promising signal. Morlet has his feet on the ground though he considers himself an iconoclast, and from my limited time around him, had me believing him a winemaker in total pursuit of perfection, but intelligent enough to enjoy everything that nature ends up giving, and I think his wine reflect all of the qualities and more.

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A Special Thank you to 750 Wines, in St. Helena for inviting me to this tasting with Luc Morlet

www.750wines.com

Grapelive Latest: July 12

Grapelive Wine of the Week

By Kerry Winslow

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maprincesse.jpg2008 Morlet Chardonnay “Ma Princesse” Russian River Valley.
Luc Morlet, former head winemaker at Peter Michael, and his wife continue to rise in star power and are producing some of the finest wines in California. His Chardonnays are some of the greatest I’ve tasted and are made from vineyards that are planted to old went clones, that give small berries and intense flavors, while retaining good acidity, making for rich and seamless wines. This plot is close to the famed Ritchie Vineyard and delivers the promise of amazement and glory. This Chardonnay, named for his daughter, is Grand Cru like, in fact I was reminded right away of a perfect and wondrous Batard-Montrachet, but with California terroir and ease. The nose is full of mineral notes, white flowers and has hints of toast and white peach. The palate is full and lush with pear, apple, peach and lemon tart, while in the background and texture are layers of mineral, fig, honeysuckle, kiwi and lovely vanilla oak shadings. The finish is super lengthy and will drawn you back to the glass over and over again, this wine is awesome and Morlet is at the top of his craft. ($109-155 Est.) 97 Points, grapelive

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Grapelive Latest: July 1

Grapelive Wine Pick of the Week

By Kerry Winslow

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masi06camp.jpg2006 Masi “Campofiorin” Rosso del Veronese IGT, Italian Red, Veneto.
Masi’s Campofiorin is a unique red that is made semi-Amarone style, but truly its own wine. First done back in 1964, the Campofiorin is sometimes called a Ripasso, though it has been refined in technique to be very much a stand alone creation, and Masi uses the term Refermentation or double fermentation, which means they make a completed wine from normally picked and fermented grapes; Corvina (70%), Rondinella (25%), Molinara (5%) then using semi-dried, like Amarone, where they let the grapes air dry on mats or racks to concentrate the flavors by letting the grapes dry out, this gives extra ripeness without losing too much natural acidity. The dried grapes are then mixed to the main wine and allowed to referment and the whole lot will go through secondary or malolactic fermentation in cask. For a complete explanation you can go to Masi’s website where they have everything in more complete detail. (www.masi.it)
Masi rates each vintage by giving stars, 1 to 5, with 5 being the best, and since 1964 only a handful have garnered 5 stars and 2006 is a 5 star year, and I will concur, this is an amazing wine and I’ve had a few good Campofiorin in the past, but this vintage is by far my favorite, even though they say the 2007 is looking really good and rated 5 stars, which is the first time ever that two vintages in a row merited 5 stars!
This 2006 is lush and smooth with chocolate covered cherries, plums, blackberry, leather, with hints of sweet herbs and spice finishing bright and clean. There is a touch of smoke and earth way in the background, but this wine is all about fruit without being over the top, even after plenty of air the wine remains fresh and vibrant. ($16-20 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

www.masi.it

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