A few weeks ago, we had the good fortune and great pleasure to attend a strolling dinner party at Birmingham’s Forest Grill, featuring selected wines from Morgan Winery, located in California’s Santa Lucia Highlands. On hand was Morgan winemaker Gianni Abate to pour and talk about the wines, and Chef Brian Polcyn and Executive Chef David Gilbert prepared a brilliant array of finger foods to enjoy along with the wines. We’ve made no secret of our great pleasure in past visits to the Forest Grill, and are especially pleased that our dear friend, Master Sommelier Claudia Tyagi is now directing the wine program there. Claudia made sure that we knew about the event in advance, and having some experience both tasting and selling Morgan wines in the past, this was one we weren’t going to miss.
Kim was most pleased to get the opportunity to talk “pig,” “charcuterie” and “Ruhlman” for a few minutes with Chef Polcyn, who had a few choice, tongue-in-cheek, almost “Bourdain-esque” quips directed towards his partner-in-crime in the writing of their book, Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing. Brian told Kim that he and Ruhlman recently returned from Italy where they conducted research for a new book on salume to be published in 2011. You can read about this trip in Michael Ruhlman’s blog here, here and here.
Morgan Winery is a family owned and operated business, founded in 1982. Winegrower Dan Morgan Lee and winemaker Abate collaborate to craft wines from Morgan’s organically grown Double L Vineyard and select vineyards from the Santa Lucia Highlands and northern Monterey appellations, and the seven we tasted on this occasion were most impressive indeed. Prices listed range from event sale price to regular Detroit area retail price to price at the winery.
2008 Morgan Monterey Sauvignon Blanc, 13.3% alc., $13.99-15.99: Clean, medium color, and very nice Sauvignon character, being well-mannered, rather than exploding with Kiwi-styled intensity; offers nice flavors and aromas of grapefruit shaded with grass, sweet pea and undertones of mineral. Medium-to-medium-full bodied, with good acids and concentration. A blend of Sauvignon Musqué and classic Sauvignon Blanc clones, with grapes sourced from the cooler Arroyo Seco AVA and the warmer San Lucas AVA. Tank fermented , with 85% of the must transferred to Taransaud Bordeaux barrels, of which only 8% were new, for 5 months of aging for complexity and texture. Find this wine
2007 Morgan Double L Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay, 14.4 alc., $34.99-45.99; $36.00 at the winery: Clean, medium straw in color; bigger and richer than the Metallico, offering flavors and aromas of ripe pear shaded with notes of tropical fruit (especially pineapple) and spicy oak in judicious proportion. Excellent balance and acidity, and quite food friendly. The Double L Vineyard was “Certified Organic” in 2002, although it has been conscientiously farmed in this method since the original plantings in 1997. Hand sorted grapes are gently pressed in whole cluster and the must is fermented in the finest French oak barrels: 30% new and a combination of one & two year old and neutral barrels. Malo-lactic fermentation is stopped before completion to obtain creaminess with bright tropical fruit acidity preserved. Find this wine
2008 Morgan Metallico Arroyo Seco Un-Oaked Chardonnay, 14.1% alc., $16.99-22.99; $20 at the winery: A pure expression of Chardonnay, unadorned with any oak, this clean medium straw colored wine really delivers the goods, offering pretty apple and pear flavors and aromas, underscored with some nice minerality and just a hint of sweet pea. Medium full bodied, with excellent balance and acids, this is California Chardonnay the way I like it.
Whole-cluster pressed, cold tank fermented, and not allowed to go through a secondary, malo-lactic process. Find this wine
2007 Morgan “Twelve Clones” Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir, 14.2% alc., $27.99-33.99; $32.00 at the winery: Smoky ruby garnet color, with toasty oak in good proportion to the smoky black cherry and Asian spice flavors and aromas, all with a subtle earthiness underneath; medium-full bodied, with good tannin and acid structure and nicely balanced. Sourced from vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation, including Morgan’s organically farmed “Double L” estate (44% of the final blend). The “Twelve Clones” refers to the original Pinot plantings at the Double L. Whole berry fermentation using native yeasts in small open top tanks; the cap is gently punched down by hand three times a day. After fermentation, the wine was transferred into a combination of new and one and two year-old French cooperage, then aged for almost a year before being bottled. Find this wine
2007 Morgan Santa Lucia Highlands Tondre Grapefield Pinot Noir, 14.4% alc., $49.99-57.99; $48.00 at the winery: Smoky ruby garnet color, and very smoky on the nose, following through on the palate with a solid core of earthy black cherry, plum, Asian spice and mineral flavors. A bit bigger and decidedly more intense than the “Twelve Clones,” with excellent structure, intensity and length, this is rich and luscious, with several years of development and improvement ahead of it. The vineyard is next door to Garys’ Vineyard on the east facing terrace of the Santa Lucia Highlands. Northwest-southeast orientated rows take advantage of daily fog and wind events from the Monterey Bay. Grapes are de-stemmed after hand sorting. Native yeasts start the whole-berry fermentation in small open top tanks, with manual punch-downs, then transferred to French oak barrels, 40% new, for malo-lactic fermentation and 11 months of aging. A blend of nearly equal parts Dijon clones 115 and 777. Find this wine
2007 Morgan Santa Lucia Highlands Garys’ Vineyard Pinot Noir, 14.4% alc., $47.99-55.99; $48.00 at the winery: Clean, medium color, with sweet oak, cola and smoky black cherry aromatics that jump right out of the glass, following through beautifully on the palate with subtle earth underneath. Medium-full bodied, silky smooth and yet deceptively well-structured, with great balance and aging potential and intense concentration that never goes over the top. Garys’ Vineyard is situated in the Santa Lucia Highlands, 4 miles south of the Double L property. Garys‘ 42 acres, established in 1997, is planted to the “Pisoni” clone of Pinot Noir. Grapes were completely de-stemmed and hand sorted twice. Whole-berry fermentation was induced using RC212 yeast in open top tanks, with manually punched downs, then transferred to a combination of medium and medium- plus toast Burgundy barrels, 50% new, for malo-lactic fermentation and 11 months of aging. Bottled un-fined, in August 2008. Find this wine
2007 Morgan Santa Lucia Highlands Double L Vineyard Pinot Noir, 14.5% alc., $47.99-55.99; $48.00 at the winery: Clean, medium dark color; a bit more restrained than the previous two selections, with mineral-driven black cherry and plum leaning towards “the dark side;” well structured, with nice length, and while it’s very nice now, it shows great aging potential. The earth and mineral set the tone with this one without obscuring the lovely fruit. The grapes were hand picked and sorted in the vineyard, and again at the winery before being destemmed. Whole berry fermentation in small open tanks; manually punched down three times a day. After fermentation, the wine is transferred into a combination of new and one and two year-old French barrels. Find this wine
Thank you Chef Brian Polcyn and MS Claudia Tyagi for a special evening!
Reporting from Day-twah,