2019 Morgan Winery, Albarino, Arroyo Seco, Monterey County.
The bright, fresh and salty crisp Morgan Albarino is a great Summer wine and shows off plenty of varietal character and nuance to be taken seriously, especially when enjoyed with classic shellfish pairings.There’s a good aromatics, brisk energy and mineral notes that frame the Albarino’s zesty citrus, led by Kaffir lime, and green apple core along with tart peach, wet stones and a light herbal essence. This lean white is great alternative to the sea of generic Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio wines in this price range, it is nicely refreshing and cleans the palate with vibrant natural acidity, while still having enough structure and texture to please the senses. While we usually consider Albarino a Spanish varietal and most famously grown in the Rias Baixas region of Galicia, the grape is traditionally grown in both Spain and Portugal, where it more often blended and one of the grapes used in regional wines, such as (in) Vinho Verde. Albarino has found a happy home here in California and is now found throughout the state, though it does particularly well in coastal, marine influenced sites, like here in Monterey and especially in the Arroyo Seco AVA, where Morgan sources this well crafted version. We all owe Michael Heavens a big thank you for bringing up the first California example, his first vintage from Carneros in 1999 was absolutely delicious and showed the potential of this exceptional grape and now, after more than twenty years, we have stellar versions available with this lovely Morgan joining Heavens Cave Dog, which comes from those first cuttings, Joyce Wine Company’s Albarino that comes from the sister vineyard, to the one used by Morgan, in Arroyo Seco and Ian Brand’s La Marea from the Kristy Vineyard in southern Monterey County on ancient river bed soils.

The Albarino grapes for this Morgan 2019 release was all sourced from the Mission Ranch vineyard in the Arroyo Seco AVA, farmed by Mark Chesebro, who also does a fine example and who was an early fan of this grape. The daytime temperatures in Arroyo Seco regularly reach the mid to upper 80’s during the Summer months, but the warm days are mitigated by the ever present morning and night time fog and the constant cool breezes that are drawn south from Monterey Bay. The climate in Arroyo Seco provides an extended growing season, resulting in quality fruit of depth in flavor and balance. The grapes for Morgan’s Albarino were hand-picked and, per the winery, whole cluster pressed to stainless steel tanks for a cool fermentation, retaining freshness and bright fruit flavors. After primary fermentation, the wine was then oak aged for six months in a combination of French and Hungarian barrels, that included about 11% new, which doesn’t make its presence felt in flavor, but adds to the mouth feel. The year was long and cool, highlighting the Ocean effect on the Albarino, and while there was some concern about full ripeness, but by dry-farming, according to the winery, in select parcels helped get the grapes there, allowing healthy phenolics, acid, and concentration. The use of Hungarian wood played a subtle role here to help smooth out the wine, without adding too much sweet toastiness that the new French would give, as they deliver a more neutral effect, which is much appreciated in a wine such as this. All of the latest Morgan wines show a heightened degree of elegance and lots of credit is due owner Dan Lee for bringing in the hugely talented Sam Smith as head winemaker, who has really taken these wines to the next level. He has now applied his gifted touch throughout the collection and this wine is greatly benefited by his precise detailing. Don’t miss these new releases, including this Abarino, along with the latest Chards, Pinots and the awesome estate Double L Syrah!
($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

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