2012 Morlet Family Vineyards La Proportion Doree White Wine Sonoma County
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ST 93 points
(Read the full review below)
 
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Winemaker Luc Morlet & Morlet Estates Luc Morlet's Ode to Haut-Brion

Nearly 30 years ago, while attending Vinexpo in Bordeaux, we tagged along with a friend and weaseled an invitation to a private tasting at Château Haut-Brion. It would be a night to remember.

That evening, we were treated to what most consider to be the world's most ethereal white wine, an extravagant blend of juicy, small-berry Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon, drawn from the gravelly soils of Pessac-Léognan. The vintage was 1985, a superb year in Bordeaux, as much for the mineral whites of Graves as for the region's Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc. The wine was pale golden in color, rich and juicy, yet marvelously light on its feet, infused with seamless layers of honeysuckle, lemon and candied apricot. Paired with seared foie gras, the first whiff of 1985 Haut-Brion Blanc was a career-defining moment.

As we'd learn over dinner at Meadowood a dozen years later, we weren't the only young wine enthusiasts to be charmed by the beauty of Haut-Brion's great white.

Luc Morlet was born in the early 1970s. As a youngster, he was already working harvests alongside his mother and father, clipping small-berry clusters of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay from the family's hillside vines above Avenay-Val-d'Or outside of Reims. While in his early teens, Luc joined his father Pierre in the cellar, barrel-tasting young wines, imagining multi-vintage Champagne blends. In short order, their village realized the Morlets had given birth to a prodigy. Their son had been born with a perfumer's sense of smell.

Occasionally, on weekend nights, the Morlets would indulge themselves and their boys, popping corks on priceless bottles. On one such night, Pierre Morlet treated the family to a bottle of Haut-Brion Blanc. "It was one of the first bottles that really surprised me," Luc told us. "Unlike Chardonnay, there was nothing straightforward about Haut-Brion Blanc. The aromas were so complex and chameleon-like. Honey. Apricot. Musky lemon. Changing quickly but subtly in the glass. I was smitten."

Years later, after completing his enology studies in Reims and Dijon, Luc Morlet came to Napa Valley. His talents weren't lost on Su Hua at Newton, who brought Morlet on as head winemaker. After conceptualizing and crafting multiple high-scoring vintages of Newton's famed Unfiltered Chardonnay, the young Champenois was lured by Sir Peter Michael to the chilly slopes of the Sonoma Coast. It wouldn't be long before Luc Morlet would rekindle his affair with Haut-Brion Blanc.

While at Peter Michael, Morlet discovered two astonishing vineyards from which he would soon craft one of the highest scoring (non-Chardonnay) white wines on the coast. The first was an old planting of Sémillon, the oldest vines having been planted in the mid-1950s. At harvest, the small berries were golden in color, the thick skin imparting marvelous phenolic complexity. The other was a rare, meticulously tended slope planted to Sauvignon Blanc Musque. Farmed to just one cluster per shoot — per Haut-Brion protocol — sugars were sky-high at harvest, yet acids remained firm and vibrant.

It would be from these two sites that Morlet would soon craft his hommage de Haut-Brion, the incomparable La Proportion Dorée.

The just-released 2012 La Proportion Dorée, comprised of 66% old-vine Sémillon and 32% "one cluster per shoot" Sauvignon Blanc Musqué, and just a dash of Muscadelle, is the juiciest and most complex to date. Richly textured, juicy, and light on its feet, this spectacular 2012 is drinking beautifully on release, but like every vintage of La Proportion Dorée, will age gracefully for 10-15 years.



Tasting Notes

2012 Morlet Family Vineyards La Proportion Doree White Wine Sonoma County
"Light-medium straw-tinged yellow. Aromas of orange blossom, waxy Semillon, apricot pit, minerals and nutty vanillin oak reminded me of a dry white Bordeaux wine. Dense, spicy and rich; viscous and voluptuous without being heavy, offering terrific chewy depth to its fruit and mineral flavors. Boasts the texture of a much sweeter blend of these two grapes yet retains a juicy freshness. Lovely combination of richness and acidity here. This reminded me of a top Pessac-Leognan white wine but with more early texture and thickness."
93 points -- Stephen Tanzer, International Wine Cellar

 

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