Luc Morlet's 95pt Magie Rouge
Since the top wines were released late last year, we've remained steadfast. The most extravagant 2009 Napa Cabernets, drawn from earlier-maturing spots that were picked well before the rain began to fall on October 11th, outpointed their more heralded 2007 counterparts. On our last visit to the valley in April, one superstar winemaker after another mimicked our opinion, no one more vociferously than the newly anointed King of Highway 29, Luc Morlet.
Luc was born in Avenay-Val-d'Or, on the red grape hillsides of Champagne. Still in his early teens, while working at his father's side in the cellar, Morlet stunned the region, purportedly blending with a perfumer's precision. He honed his skills tasting Champagne's barrel-fermented reds and whites, which are both highly acidic and delicately aromatic. The stinging acidity creates tasting table challenges even for the most experienced.
In 1995, Morlet moved to Napa Valley with little more than the shirt on his back, a master's degree in enology from the University of Reims, and an MBA from Dijon. In short order, he would turn the valley on its ear, first at Newton, and then during a miraculous five-year winemaking stint at Peter Michael.
In April, we squeezed in an hour with Luc at his brand-spanking-new winery on Highway 29. As the collectors' black Suburbans waited outside, Luc took the time to explain why he believes his plush 2009s outshine the class of 2007. "In many ways, the vintages were similar. Both were drought years with very little rain over the summer months. But while the crop was copious in 2007, the spring frost of 2009 trimmed yields by almost 35%. The smaller harvest not only enhanced concentration, but it provided for riper seeds and more supple tannins. More silk. Less astringency."
Luc poured the carafe of the deep purple 2009 Magie Rouge into oversized Riedel. Then he flashed the devilish smile we've come to know so well. "Que pensez-vous?"
The key word in The Wine Advocate's review of Morlet's 2009 Magie Rouge Cabernet Sauvignon is "MASSIVE." Deep purple-black to the edge, with luscious, sensual aromatics, a plush mix of blackberry and licorice. The attack is utterly voluptuous, with palate-coating black fruit velour, gently braced by fine, sneaky tannins. Parker called it Morlet's greatest Magie Rouge to date, "bring[ing] together the best elements of both the 2007 and 2008 vintages," before lobbing on the 95-point score that would suck almost every case out of the most talked about new cellar on Highway 29.