Covenant Winemaker Jeff Morgan and THE NOBLE ROT | Sun Jan 31st
Brief update to this post, as Jeff was written about in the NY Times recently by Jordan Mackay: click here to read the article.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it once more: I’m a fan of California wines, especially their Cabernets. The mention of the word alone sends me to my imaginary study, seated in my plush high-backed politician-style leather chair, admiring the dark mahogany from floor to cieling, the room dimly lit, but for one window looking out onto my vineyard, glass of Cab in hand. That being said, Brian Quinn and I were thrilled to host Jeff Morgan, a winemaker from Napa Valley whose Covenant label we had the privilege of tasting, and sharing with 50 other Noble Rotters, many new, some old.
Jeff’s three wines we tasted were:
- Covenant Cabernet (100% Cab Sauv)
- Red C (100% Cab Savu)
- Covenant Lavan Chardonnay (100% Chard)
Before we get into the evening, a little personal back-story: Back in August 2009, I ran into Jeff at Meadowood in Napa Valley. I was carrying a book called Noble Rot (no relation), and Jeff being the perceptive author and expert on all things wine+food, noted an abomination: how could the author have allowed the publisher to print a picture of a glass of red wine on a book mostly about France’s most celebrated Sauternes. Indeed! Hmmf! Now, accompanying Jeff that day were two samples of his wine destined for David Green, a friend and consultant (I know that if I made a wine this delicious I’d carry samples around too, destined for myself when I wanted it). This led to more wine-speak and a fascinating insight into the small world of wine we live in: I told Jeff about The Noble Rot’s recent Chardonnay event only to discover that David Ramey, who’s Chardonnay we poured and loved, was a good friend of Jeff’s, and on and on.
So, this past Sunday we hosted Jeff at NY Vintners with a spread of breads, cheeses, antipasti, cured meats, baba ganoush, and some tasty braised beef braised by our noble counterpart Michael Cirino of A Razor, A Shiny Knife. After a brief intro by myself, Brian Quinn, and Jesse Warner-Levine, we let Jeff take it away as he led our guests through a lecture/dialouge dubbed “Taste Like a Pro.”
We poured his 2008 Covenant Lavan Chardonnay first and talked about smelling and tasting wine. Jeff recalled an experience with an experienced Frenchman who without swirling his wine, plunged his nose – nose first – way into the glass. Surprised, Jeff wondered what good that would do, and the Frenchman explained that the nose is a powerful, capable device and he wanted to see what it detected first without any aeration of the wine. You see, good reader, swirling increases the surface area of the wine making the nose-to-wine ratio that much smaller thus creating more opportunities for your sensory receptors to pick-up on something you hadn’t, perhaps, before. Our sense of smell, Jeff explained, is really an extension of what we taste. So we tasted, and delighted in the French-Style, crispness of the Chardonnay, with subtle Oak character and body I would classify as medium – the wine was very well-balanced and I wanted more, but we had to move onto the 2007 Red C.
Red C, as my arch-nemesis Robert Parker points out, is a play on words (Covenant happens to be a Kosher wine, the “best on planet Earth” opines nemesis Parker.) (Okay, he’s not my arch-nemesis, that’s Tom Buchanan). Red C is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and it’s a fruity mother of a wine. Dark berries, dark chocolate, darkened stary-less night, purple, plush, velvety high backed-leather chair, me with gallons of it reclining away the day in the study…yum!
Next, we opened the prized 2007 Covenant Cabernet. Jeff prides that this wine is bordeaux-in-style, and before he could finish saying so, I agreed and added that it tasted to me like all French wine, which I explained, tastes like Beef Chili. “What other kind of Chili is there?” Asked Jeff, “Vegetarian Chili,” I shouted and accused many people in the room of being Vegetarians. The Covenant Cab was lighter in style than the Red C, and certainly a complex wine that would age well in your cellar (if you live in Napa) or on your nightstand (if you live in NYC).
Jeff indulged our audience in stories of his many careers from: Musician in Monte Carlo, West-Coast editor of Wine Spectator (which brought about hilarious insider revelations) to making wine in Napa and authoring several fabulous cookbooks. I was fascinated by the down and dirty aspect of wine-making from choosing the right barrel (Coopers make different styles of barrels that impart various characteristics), to pressing the grapes, choosing which wine becomes RED C and which for the Covenant Cab, blending (not as complicated as you’d think), to bottling.
On my newly invented Connoisseur Rating System (CRS) scale of likability factor (4.4 – 16.5) I rate the wines and our Noble Rot experience a 16.0.
And here’s a blurb Jeff can use if he’d like to for press purposes: “All of Jeff’s insights and revelations about senses and our ability to taste and smell have left me with the confidence to trust my own instincts and to taste like a pro. His wines show superb balance and are easy to drink. Made with 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, the Covenant Cabernet and Red C each exhibit the incredible versatility of the Cabernet grape, highlighting how the right touch and attention to detail can lead to the creation of distinct and elegant wines.”
Many thanks to Jeff, and his partner Leslie Rudd, who we hope will join us as well for a future event, and the entire Covenant cru. Jeff helped Brian and I to do what The Noble Rot is here to do: arm our guests with weapons of mass destruction! No, no, no… enable our guests to learn how to taste and how to judge a wine by their own standards while having a damn good time doing it. Live music for this event was provided by Ray Charles. I’m not joking. You’ll have to ask someone who was there for the details. Please enjoy these tasty photos below and we hope to see you at a Noble Rot event soon.
Oh, and check out Jeff’s site! www.covenantwines.com