Article by SouthFloridaReporter.com
Listen to the winemakers and grape growers in the Santa Lucia Highlands and you’d think there is no better place to make wine. They may be right.
This 18-mile-long sub-appellation benefits from a confluence of climate phenomena. A deep canyon of cold water, just offshore of the Pacific Ocean, fuels winds that sweep down the Salinas Valley at speeds of 10 to 15 miles per hour and often gusting to 25.
Morgan winemaker Dan Lee called the winds “our air-conditioner.”
Most of the well-drained vineyards are planted on the lower slopes of the Santa Lucia mountain range at elevations ranging from 50 to 1,650 feet. Granite and other minerals that wash down from the mountains and enrich the soil.
Coupled with the morning fog, the winds create a condition too cold for zinfandel and cabernet sauvignon, but perfect for chardonnay and pinot noir – the two primary grapes grown in the region’s 5,900 planted acres.
Cooler conditions lengthen the growing season, the longest in all of California. Grapes ripen slowly and develop stronger acidity. Low rainfall, especially during crucial ripening periods, forces stressed roots to glide through loose sandy loam to absorb the minerals and create multi-dimensional wines. Berries are small and thick-skinned too. The wines we tasted from here have a consistent vibrancy, balanced acidity, and depth of flavor.
Santa Lucia Highlands may not have the tourist attractions of Napa Valley, but it certainly has the vineyards to give Napa a run for its money. Carmel, Monterey, and Big Sur offer upscale accommodations and for visitors.
Morgan Double L Vineyard Riesling 2019 ($25). With just a touch of residual sugar, this fresh and bright riesling gives this grape variety new life. Meyer lemon aromas, apple and melon flavors.
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Review By WineReviewOnline.com
"One of Monterey County’s best kept secrets is its Riesling. From the wines made at Mirassou back in the 1980s by Tom Stutz up to offerings like this one, I’m always impressed – and surprised that I don’t see more of it. I know, you’re thinking “Here it comes, another writer extolling the virtues of Riesling. Who cares?” I’m writing to say that you should care. I’ve reviewed this bottling in past vintages, and it is always a solid value. It’s done in the Kabinett style, with bright stone and citrus fruit up front and a crisp, stony finish that gets my juices flowing. I imagine those in the know snap up the relatively small production."
- Rich Cook, September 2020
Interview by The Crossroads Carmel
Melissa, what was your first exposure to the wine industry? Did you always know you wanted to work at a winery and tasting bar?
My father is a local Carmel Valley winemaker, so I grew up surrounded by a love of wine. But it wasn’t until I studied in Italy that my passion for wine really ignited. I’ve been lucky enough to work with Morgan for five years now. With Morgan being a local, family-owned winery, I feel right at home.
What makes Morgan wines special?
One thing in particular, I think, makes us special. Morgan was founded in 1982, and many of our customers have followed Dan Morgan Lee’s winemaking journey since then. Those who have, know that Morgan always offers consistency and value. People can depend on Morgan for a quality bottle of wine on a restaurant menu, at their local market, or straight from the source at Taste Morgan.
Which wines are your best sellers? Can you tell us a little bit about them?
That’s a tough one! We have more than 18 different wines, and of course people love them for different reasons. I will say, we are well-known for two of our flagship releases — the Twelve Clones Pinot Noir and the Highland Chardonnay. Both are quintessential SLH varietals, portraying the terroir and quality of the region while remaining affordable.
Where are the grapes sourced?
Morgan’s estate vineyard—the Double L Vineyard—is the only organically grown vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands. We also have partnerships with well-known growers throughout Monterey County.
Have you noticed any new wine trends since people are drinking more wine at home?
Time spent at home has encouraged more home cooking and family dining. Whether it’s a casual dinner or a home celebration of a special occasion, wine helps elevate the moment. Morgan has such a wide range of wines to choose from! We offer everything from wine for a casual everyday drink to high end wines to honor the moment.
Should we keep our eyes peeled for any new or limited-edition wines?
Absolutely! We just released our 2017 Double L Pinot Noir which received 96 points from Wine Enthusiast. It’s spicy with rich red fruit and showcases our winemaking team’s hard work. It’s truly the kind of Pinot that first made you fall in love with wine. I also have to mention our new Rose of Grenache—perfect for the summery weather we’ve been having!
How do you hold tastings at Taste Morgan wines at Crossroads Carmel amid the Covid-19 pandemic?
Good question! Our tastings are currently held outdoors. We’ve revamped our patio with socially distanced seating, umbrellas for the sun, and blankets for those foggy Carmel days. Walk-ins are welcome, but reservations are encouraged due to limited seating. You can visit our website at www.morganwinery.com or give us a call at (831) 626-3700 to make a reservation for our pet-friendly patio.
We’ve all been impacted by Covid. We are grateful to have the support of our loyal Club members, customers, and community. Our main priority has been to let them know we are up to date on all safety regulations, and we are here for them, too.
What membership options are available for wine tasters?
We offer four club options:
—Double L Club – a mix of our estate and single-vineyard wines
—Club Crimson – all red wines
—Club Blanc – all white wines
—Club Highland – a range of our entire portfolio
We are currently working on a Club Exclusive Virtual Tasting to celebrate the September Club release!
Any advice for people navigating this crazy time in our lives?
Early on, a friend told me to take things day-by-day, and not to worry about things that haven’t happened yet. It’s important to be grateful for the things we do have, and to continue to seek out happy moments. Also, pour yourself a glass of wine. You deserve it!
Click here for a link to The Crossroads Carmel article.
Review by Misty at RedWineCats.com
With fruit dedicated solely to the production of Rosé, Morgan’s 2019 blend of 86% Grenache and 14% Cinsault was created from grapes picked at just the right time to maintain higher acidity and lower sugar. Perfectly crisp and dry with fantastic balance of fresh, bright fruit, this bottle tastes above its price range.
During the Pink Society wine chat on August 20th, Morgan Winery did a series of informative videos highlighting winemaker Sam Smith and an introduction to the rest of the winemaking crew. They all seem to really like each other and even shared some (bad;) wine jokes. All of that good energy must leak into the wine, because it’s a really great wine. I received this bottle as a sample, but will absolutely seek their wines out any time I see them on a shelf (or their website) and hear great things about their Pinot Noir.
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Review by Joey Casco at TheWineStalker.net
Wasn't Morgan just on this blog? Well, they're back! And delivering that same great quality as they always do. The 2018 Highland Chardonnay is like a buttered biscuit with a side of pineapples. It's pretty oaky and you know that's my jam with Chardonnay. However, the bright and tart finish makes it more versatile with food than most oaky buttery Chards. Speaking of bright and tart, the 2018 Sauvignon Blanc out of Monterey is all about the zip! There is Semillon in here so it's got a medium body and a round mouthfeel, but I hope you like Sour Patch Kids because the tartness will make your mouth pucker. And not in a bad way, because it's pretty yummy and very refreshing. It's very grassy with grapefruit and lemon. I'm drooling thinking about this with Oysters Rockefeller. Finally, it's the 2019 Rosé of Grenache. With a weighty mouthfeel and tamed acidity, this is a rosé that's meant to savor instead of porch pound. Of course there's watermelon and strawberry, but there's also vanilla and orange skin. The best part of this wine is the finish. It's super juicy and, in a big surprise, spicy.
This impressive dish comes together in just 15 minutes, but you’ll be talking about it for days. Perfectly al dente pasta is tossed in a silky sauce of white wine, butter, garlic, clams, and herbs. The dish is finished with a bright burst of lemon zest and juice plus lots of freshly chopped parsley for good measure.
Pair with 2017 Double L Chardonnay
Tasting Notes | Lemon curd, baking spices, and caramel aromas are echoed on the palate by Meyer lemon and salted butter toffee. One of the finest food wines, the organically farmed Double L Chardonnay will pair wonderfully with seafood and poultry dishes, as well as a buttery steak.
1 lb linguine pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 garlic cloves - sliced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 - 10oz cans of whole baby clams, in juice
3 tablespoons butter
2 lemons - zested and juiced
1 bunch parsley - chopped
1. Cook the pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta, cooking according to the box’s directions and until al dente.
2. Make the sauce: Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add the olive oil when hot. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the garlic is aromatic and turns translucent. Make sure the garlic does not brown. Add the white wine and simmer until reduced by half. Next, add the clams and their juices and warm through for about 2 minutes. By this point, the pasta should be cooked. Drain the pasta, but reserve a cup of cooking water.
3. Finish the sauce: Add the pasta to the skillet along with the lemon zest, lemon juice, and butter. Toss the pasta in the pan continuously for 30 seconds as the butter melts. This will help the sauce become silky. Return the pan to heat and add a few tablespoons of the reserved pasta water as needed if the sauce is too thick. Taste the sauce and season with salt as needed. Add the chopped parsley and serve.
Review by Fredric Koeppel @Vinohead
The color is a lovely transparent cherry-magenta hue; a ripe, spicy cherry-berry nose evolves notes of sandalwood and cloves and, after a few minutes, sage and thyme; a lovely, lively, silken, dusty texture feels sanded by slightly gritty tannins, but juicy berry flavors dominate through to a burnished finish heightened by leather, loam and flint-like minerality. Drink through 2022 or ’23 with grilled sausages, leg of lamb, veal chops with green olives. Excellent.
Review by @wineryreflections
Tart blackberry, fragrant sage, fresh mixed currants. Wild huckleberry, cracked black pepper, spiced dark cherry. Crunchy boysenberry, cranberry, and black licorice erupt with incredible energy and tension yet are immediately outshined by fresh thyme, rosemary, and a complex medley of wild herbs. Cardamon, anise, and tarragon continue the ambrosially spiced and herbal attack aided by an additional savory jolt of black olive, lavender leaf, and tree bark. A waft of young violet complements nice floral lift before oyster shell, crushed gravel, and rock salt leave a deliciously earthy impression. Delightfully peppery, raw, and feral; boasting an incredibly layered and multidimensional profile that is only just barely beginning to reveal its true depth. Medium plus in body/tannin/acidity with palpable energy and structure that implies it is still many years from its peak. This 2018 "G17" Syrah by Morgan Winery is an outstanding and unique cool climate red from the Santa Lucia Highlands.
While it is primarily known as a source for high quality Pinot Noir, the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation in Monterey County it is also home to a growing concentration of absolutely incredible Syrah. This bottling, crafted by Morgan Winery using mostly Syrah plus a pinch of Grenache and Tempranillo, is a terrifically interesting example of the complex subtleties possible in California's cool yet sunny Central Coast. Contrary to many new world Syrahs this wine is dominated largely by its pronounced savory and herbal character rather than its fruit, yet it still manages to express wonderfully juicy freshness. It is well balanced and quite restrained with excellent tartness and drive. This is an extremely well executed and food friendly offering that will stand up to even the most intricately flavored dishes.
Have you tried Santa Lucia Highlands Syrah?
Review by @WineryReflections
Ripe Bing cherry, fresh lavender, pomegranate reduction. Candied orange peel, Asian five spice, black raspberry compote. A delicately concentrated and lifted core of Santa Rosa plum, cranberry cocktail, and cola seamlessly collides with forest floor, coriander, and nutmeg in a fragrant and gorgeously expansive display. High toned perfume continues to radiate as violet, wildflowers, and pine needle reveal fresh floral and natural overtones intricately complicated by clove, cardamom, and an ample helping of complex spice. A waft of grilled mushroom emerges to impart a dousing of beautiful umami while ocean fog, sea spray, and gravely earth expose subtle yet seductive hints of terroir. Fresh, fruit-driven, and nicely balanced on the palate; presenting a wonderfully layered and expressive attack that maintains authenticity to both grape and place. Medium plus in body with moderate yet soft tannin backed by elevated acidity. This 2017 "Twelve Clones" Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir by Morgan Winery is a bright, aromatic, and archetypal Monterey County red.
Known for its warm sunny days juxtaposed against cold and foggy nights, the Santa Lucia Highlands has quickly developed into one of California's greatest growing zones for robust and expressive Pinot Noir. This bottling, crafted by Morgan Winery using 12 distinct clones of Pinot Noir sourced from within the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation, brilliantly showcases the ethereal power and aromatic depth that this region has become famous for. While it leads with a medley of rich and ripe fruit this wine maintains impressive weightlessness and energy, and its spiced, floral, and natural charm gorgeously complicates the intriguing fruit-focused bouquet. This exhibits nice restraint to balance its decadence, and while enjoyable now it will certainly improve with 5-10 years in the cellar. A deliciously classic SLH Pinot.
Have you tried SLH Pinot Noir?
Featured article in the Monterey County Herald:
Not unlike that uneasy moment of peeking outside one’s shelter after the storm — or, in this case, while the pandemic persists — our community is beginning to open its doors, as we move into the next phase of reopening the local economy. Among the various businesses easing back into service starting Friday are the winetasting rooms throughout Monterey County...
...When the shelter-in-place order went into effect, Morgan Winery’s Taste Morgan in the Crossroads Shopping Center of Carmel, went from serving wine seven days a week to shuttered. As it eases into “tasting in the time of COVID,” it has condensed its week to three days, Friday, Saturday and Sunday — for now.
“We want to do this right, so we’re limiting ourselves to three days, and reservations for three parties per time slot to give people a safe, social distance,” said Jackie Lee, sales administrator for Morgan Winery. “We are fortunate to have both indoor and outdoor seating to adequately accommodate our guests, and those seated outside can bring their dog.”
Reservations, one hour apart, will give guests 45 minutes of wine tasting, and reserve 15 minutes for staff to sanitize the space for the next round. Also, Taste Morgan is supplying disposable masks for patrons who need them, as well as disposable spit buckets and Govino glasses, the “go anywhere, shatterproof, reusable, recyclable” wine glass guests can take with them when they leave.
“Govino glasses don’t give quite the same experience as something in a stem,” said Lee, “but they’re not Solo cups, either. We don’t have to wash or reuse glasses, and customers get to have a really fun, cool memento.”...