Morgan Winery and Lee Family Farm: New Releases from the Santa Lucia Highlands and Alta Mesa/Lodi

Morgan Vineyards

Even before we prepared our Report #20 The Santa Lucia Highlands: Unique Terroir, Marvelous Wines we were big fans of Morgan Winery. Dan and Donna Lee founded Morgan in 1982, built a state-of-the art winery in Salinas in 1984, and purchased the 65 acres Double L Vineyard in the northern Santa Lucia Highlands in 1996. Planted with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the Double L has been farmed organically since its founding and is certified by Monterey County Certified Organic.

Like most of the winemakers in the Highlands, Dan Lee also grows and purchases grapes from other parts of Monterey County. He is experimental by nature and works with unusual grape varieties for California such as the Portuguese Verdelho, Touriga Nacional, and Touriga Franca varietals. These grapes are sourced from Ron Silva’s Silvaspoons Vineyard located in the Alta Mesa AVA. The wines are released under Morgan’s sister label, Lee Family Farm.

The wines reviewed here are a small sample of the diverse range of high quality wines produced by Dan Lee under the Morgan Winery and Lee Family Farm labels. These wines all exhibit high quality fruit, outstanding winemaking, and are exceedingly pleasant to drink. Readers will want to try both the Morgan wines and the innovative Lee Family Farm bottlings.

Winery telephone: (831) 751-7777

Morgan 2009 Pinot Gris Santa Lucia Highlands ($17) 87+

Morgan’s 2009 Pinot Gris has a pale green tint and aromas of white flowers, citrus and lime on the nose. The palate is fresh with quite neutral flavors, a creamy mouth feel and a crisp finish. A tasty Pinot Gris, but we liked Dan Lee’s excellent 2008 R&D Fransiconi Vineyard Pinot Gris even more.

Morgan 2009 Sauvignon Blanc Arroyo Seco ($15) 88

This pale green Sauvignon Blanc reveals pleasant aromas of citrus, green melon and pear on the nose. The creamy palate shows concentrated fresh pear fruit, good acidity and crispness on the finish.

Morgan Double L ChardMorgan 2008 Chardonnay Double L Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands ($36) 90

The estate grown Double L Vineyard Chardonnay is Morgan’s highest caliber Chardonnay. It has a medium yellow gold hue and ripe melon and buttered toast aromas and flavors. It has good volume and a creamy texture with persistent fruit flavors, good balance and a long finish.

Morgan 2008 Highland Chardonnay Santa Lucia Highlands ($26) 90

The 2008 Highland Chardonnay has a yellow gold hue and very ripe aromas of dried stone fruit, toast and a hint of butterscotch. On the palate it is crisp and flavorful with good concentration and balance and a long finish. The 2008 vintage does not look to be as good as the 2007.

Morgan 2008 Metallico Chardonnay, Monterrey Country ($22) 89

The Metallico Chardonnay is one of California’s finest unoaked Chardonnays. This wine has a medium yellow gold color and a rich nose showing notes of butter and tropical fruit. The attack is soft and opulent and is full-flavored, showing pineapple and tropical fruit on the palate with a nice rich finish.

Morgan 2008 Cotes du Crow's Monterey ($16) 89+

The 2008 Cotes du Crow is a tasty blend of 55% Syrah and 45% Grenache. Dark ruby in color, it offers savory blackberry fruit with slight reductive notes on the nose. On the palate it is soft and nicely concentrated with pure blackberry fruit, soft round tannins, and a long flavorful finish. A delicious wine to drink young.

Morgan 2008 Twelve Clones Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands ($32) 90

Morgan’s Twelve Clones Pinot Noir is one of several excellent Pinot Noirs produced by Dan Lee. It exhibits a medium ruby color and boasts ripe dark raspberry aromas and flavors with notes of toasted oak, cola and spice. It has a lovely soft texture, good volume and acidity and a slightly tart finish.

Morgan 2008 Syrah Monterey ($20) 89

The dark ruby 2008 Syrah offers ripe black fruit on the nose and is soft and velvet smooth on the palate with black fruit and a touch of olive. Aged for 14 months in new French barriques, it is nicely concentrated with beautiful balance and a long finish. This is certainly one of the better Morgan Syrahs we have tasted in recent years.

Morgan 2007 Syrah Double L Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands ($40) 91

The opaque ruby and perfumed 2007 Syrah Double L Vineyard is a cut above the regular Syrah and is joy to drink. It is rich in cool climate blackberry/cassis fruit flavors and is brilliantly focused with notes of chocolate. Aged for 14 months in 30% new French oak, it has polished tannins and excellent acidity on the long finish. A gorgeous wine. Only 75 cases produced.

Lee Family Farm 2009 Verdelho Silaspoons Vineyard Alta Mesa Lodi ($15) 89

The 2009 Verdelho offers rich aromas of apple, melon, and minerals. On the attack it has a creamy mouthfeel with ripe flavors and herbal notes, crisp acidity and a fruit-rich long finish. Whole cluster pressed, cold fermented in stainless steel and aged in three-year old French oak barrels for three months, this is a lovely wine that’s true to its Portuguese heritage. It’s an excellent value within its price range.

Rio Tinto Silvaspoons Vineyard Lee Family Farm 2008 Rio Tinto Silvaspoons Vineyard Alta Mesa Lodi ($16) 88

The 2008 Rio Tinto is a unique blend of four Portuguese varieties: Touriga Franca (56%) Alveralhão (24%) Touriga Nacional (13%) and Tinta Roriz (7%). The grapes are sourced from Ron Silva's Silvaspoons Vineyard in Alta mesa, a sub-appellation of Lodi. Dark ruby purple in color, the Rio Tinto offers fragrant red and black fruit aromas with notes of black pepper and spice. On the palate, it is soft and velvet smooth with ripe concentrated blackberry and black cherry flavors, good acidity and a long finish. The wine is aged in 100% French oak, 15% new.

Mike Potashnik and Don Winkler