2012 Maison Pierre Morlet, Premier Cru Brut Champagne, Avenay-Val-d’Or, France.
This small Champagne house is always a rare treat to experience and this mineral driven Pinot Noir led 2012 vintage is wonderfully pure and structured with an elegant, but luxurious profile of stony citrus fruit and leesy density on the palate. This very distinct and stylish vintage Champagne, about 72% Pinot Noir and 28% Chardonnay, has a beautiful energetic beading and a smooth almost creamy mousse, while always staying impeccably crisply detailed and transparent with lemon, white peach and golden fig notes, a hint of clove and hazelnut, along with wet chalk and doughy brioche. A big thank you to Chef Todd Fisher and Parker Fisher, who picked this excellent stuff for their new series of Wine Wednesday events, that bring together some spectacular bites that are mini versions of some of their delicious menu options at the Bear & Flag Roadside deli in Carmel Valley, along with a tight selection of local and far flung wines, with this Morlet being a special choice that went surprisingly well with their fried chicken poppers and mini BLTs! This combination was insanely good, in an event that highlighted the flexibility of sparkling wine with food, with Parker picking some rare and inspired wines that were mind opening, even more me with my long life of food and wine, so I’m excited to see where these causal events go in the future. Like most grower producers, the Morlet family only selects the best years to produce their vintage Champagnes and they are laser focused on showcasing the vintage’s individual nuance and character, and while usually Pinot dominate, the blend will reflect the best of the year and can be quite varied. These Morlet bubbly offerings are not easy to find, but are well worth searching out and should not be missed when the opportunity comes along.

You just might have heard the name Morlet before, as Luc and Nic Morlet have become famous here in California for their winemaking, especially as winemakers at the legendary Peter Michael winery, as well as Luc’s own Morlet Family Vineyards, where he has crafted some of the most coveted Chardonnay and Cabernet Based wines, as well as being a huge fan of and maker of Pinot Noir. The Morlet boys’ family have been making Champagne for generations, who have been cultivating vineyards in Avenay-Val-d’Or since the early 1800’s, making small batch stuff for hundreds of years, as well as providing top quality grapes to the famous Grand Marques as well. It is a rare thing, to find a success story here in Champagne that is a tale of humble beginnings, but that is the history of Auguste Morlet, an orphan from an impoverished background, who worked as a gardener, that went on to found this Champagne label for his son Gaston. Gaston went on to add vines and build the name, before his son Pierre brought fame to this property and defined the style here that, now under Eric and his sons (Luc, Paulin and Nic) continues today. In recent years this label has really improved and refined, I remember being hugely impressed with the 2002 and 2004 vintages and heard that 2008, which sadly I wasn’t able to sample, was even better. In some ways this 2012 reminds me of the 2004 with its fresh chiseled form, it is a style I admire and look for. Morlet only use Premier and Grand Cru grapes with each vintage having its own unique percentage of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with their primary fermentation being in either small tank or in French oak “Demi-Muids” barrels, with the wine matured in a combination of stainless and wood with the oak aged wines seeing a weekly batonnage of the lees, which leads to the richness and depth, as this 2012, which was done with a low dosage and an eight year maturity, shows in bottle. These ancient limestone soil, terroir influenced, grower fizz are a divine way to spend an evening.
($80 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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