2009 Morlet Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Mon Chevalier Knights Valley
Expert Ratings
RP 95 points
ST 94+ points
(Read the full reviews below)
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95-point "Mon Chevalier" in NJ Horse Country

Top 7 Cabernets of 2009 (11/3/13)

Wine Price RP
Shafer Hillside Select $350 98
Screaming Eagle $1500 96
Harlan Estate $500 97
Hundred Acre Precious $450 94
Morlet Mon Chevalier $155 95
Bryant Family Bettina $700 93
Scarecrow $600 92
We'd known about the tasting for years, but never imagined being invited to attend. In the heart of New Jersey horse country, a half dozen collectors get together each November for what has to be the most decadent Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon tasting in America. For years, we're told, the crystal stemware was Riedel, but in 2010, the group shifted to Zalto Bordeaux. The linens were bleached white. The baguettes were warm to the touch. The pictures on the walls were painted by guys with names like Chagall and Soutine.

While we've often found uber-rich wine collectors pretentious, this group is a breed apart. Their cellars contain neat stacks of the most highly rated bottles in the world, but these Wall Streeters are anything but "score hounds."

Rather than trusting Parker and Tanzer with their buying decisions, they do their own legwork, tasting Bordeaux and Napa First Growths from barrel during their evolution, then again just after bottling, before making their calls. Most refreshingly, they aren't afraid to acknowledge their mistakes, admonishing themselves when fooled by the youthful promise of Cabernets that don't quite pan out.

In the early evening of Monday, November 3rd, we left NYC and drove south on the New Jersey Turnpike, then looped west on 287. As night descended on rural farmland, we entered the pass code at our host's gate, then edged up the driveway to the brightly lit mansion. It was a scene right out of Chandler — and just for a night, we were Philip Marlowe.

The tasting to which we had been invited featured 24 Napa Valley Cabernets from the 2009 vintage. We'd been sent the lineup in advance and had already done a bit of back-of-the-envelope arithmetic. Today, the retail value for the wines in attendance was $11,000, plus or minus a couple grand. And that was for a single bottle of each — not for the backups in the Eurocave, available in case the first bottle was corked.

Before we began, the host provided us with a quick synopsis of the much heralded 2009 vintage. He read from the Wine Advocate, the International Wine Cellar, then interjected a bit of his own research, all carried out while visiting the valley before harvest, then several times before bottling in late 2011 and early 2012. "In many ways, up until the second week of October, 2009 was like 2007, except that 2009 was a far smaller crop, and tannins were riper and softer. But while the Fall of 2007 was dry, I was staying at L'Auberge du Soleil when the rain came on October 12th. It wasn't pretty. All of the great Cabernets, I believe, were picked before the rain. The vineyards that weren't yet ripe suffered through the storm — as did the wines made from those vineyards."

The tasting began at 7 p.m. sharp. We were allowed to evaluate the wines at our own pace, but it was understood that the night's work would end no later than 9:15 p.m. While we'd been alerted to the names of the featured Cabernets in advance, every bottle was clothed in white linen and poured by staff so we couldn't be influenced by the feel of the bottle's weight or shape. Barely a word was spoken for over two hours — until the votes were tallied and the wines disrobed.

While some at the table admitted to "missing the boat" on a few entries, this was one of the most unforgettable Napa Valley tastings we've ever attended. There was surprising consensus among among the collectors, all agreeing that there was little to choose from among at the very top echelon, a group of just seven 2009s. The top tier included almost every "super collectable" — Harlan Estate, Screaming Eagle, Bryant Family,Shafer, and Scarecrow, all now fetching between $300 and $1,500/bottle.

The only small surprise came from Luc Morlet, whose powerhouse 2009 "Mon Chevalier" came in a solid fifth in the starstruck lineup of 24. Here are our notes from November 3rd:

Brilliant purple to the rim. Powerful aromas of black fruit, dark plum, graphite and kirsch, mineral and lively. Big, rich and tremendously powerful on the attack (one of the more explosive wines of the evening), infused with an ultra-ripe mix of blackberry, black raspberry and cassis — dense and brooding — bracketed by supple, slightly dusty tannins. Two hours later, still coming on, putting on weight, still explosively primary. A pity to pop a cork before 2020.

Tasting Notes

2009 Morlet Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Mon Chevalier Knights Valley
"A huge, muscular wine, the 2009 is endowed with deep, resonant layers of dark red cherries, plums, cloves and crushed rocks. The Knights Valley tannins are present, but masterfully integrated. Smoke, incense, tobacco and scorched earth inform the dark, brooding finish. The 2009 is 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 3% Merlot, 2% Malbec and 1% Petit Verdot. Anticipated maturity: 2017-2029."
95 points -- Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate

"(blended with 8% cabernet franc, 3% merlot, 2% malbec and 1% petit verdot): Bright red-ruby. Captivating floral lift to the aromas and flavors of cassis, black cherry, blueberry and graphite. A dead ringer for a Medoc wine, showing superb chewy depth and solid tannic spine but a bit less mid-palate sweetness today than the Coeur de Vallee. But these tannins are quite firm and the finish boasts terrific lift. Morlet cites Peter Michael's Les Pavots and Ducru-Beaucaillou as the inspirations for this wine."
94+ points -- Stephen Tanzer, International Wine Cellar


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