Update: Jeff Morgan, who is featured below was the subject of a recent New York Times article by Jordan Mackay. Click here to read the article.
The mere sight of a bottle of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon sends me to a happy place: an imaginary study, me seated in a plush, high-backed leather chair fit for a Senator, surrounded by dark mahogany wood and first edition books from all the greats—only one window, looking out onto a vineyard, a glass of Cab in one hand, a copy of Fitzgerald’s first edition Gatsby in the other. On the subject of magnificent and elegant California Cabernet, The Noble Rot recently hosted winemaker Jeff Morgan, whose Covenant Wines label we had the privilege of tasting, and sharing with around 50 friends, some old, some new at New York Vintners.
Morgan’s three wines we tasted were:
- Covenant 2007 Cabernet (100% Cab Sauvignon)
- 2007 Red C (100% Cab Sauvignon)
- Covenant Lavan 2008 Chardonnay (100% Chardonnay)
Back in August of 2009, I met Jeff at the Meadowood Resort in Napa Valley, by the pool. I was carrying a book called Noble Rot by William Echikson, and Jeff called out: “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?” Needless to say, he was right. And, we got to talking.
Morgan who was carrying two samples of his wine, destined for the palate of David Green, a friend and consultant, delivered them to Mr. Green who was taking in the hot tub at Meadowood (apparently a good place to do business if you’re in the wine industry). Green tasted and the two talked and offered me a taste as well. And what I recall thinking was: if I made a wine this delicious, I’d carry samples around too, destined for myself whenever I wanted it.
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 Ramey had, in fact, taught Morgan a great deal about winemaking.
So, I was absolutely thrilled to host Jeff at New York Vintners and we had a terrific crowd. We served up a spread of cheeses, antipasti, bread, cured meats, baba ganoush, and some tasty braised beef prepared by A Razor, A Shiny Knife. Jeff led our guests through a lecture/dialogue dubbed, “Taste Like a Pro.”
The Covenant 2008 Lavan Chardonnay was poured first, as we discussed 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 Morgan’s Burgundian style Chardonnay, balanced between oak and citrus character as well as some tropical fruit notes.
The Red C, Robert M. Parker Jr. points out, is a play on words given that Covenant happens to be a kosher wine (Red C, get it? Look again: Red Sea. Got it?) and according to Parker, the “best on planet Earth.” Red C is a plush, velvety wine showing dark berries notes and well-integrated oak flavor, a seamless wine, through and through.
Lastly, we sampled the Covenant 2007 Cabernet. The wine is Bordeaux-in-style, and before he could finish explaining what that meant, I was getting rowdy, given my constant desire for attention. I said that the wine tasted to me like all French wine, which I explained, taste like beef chili. “That’s interesting,” said Jeff, playing along. “What other kind of chili is there?” he asked. “Vegetarian Chili,” I shouted, then accused many people in the room of being vegetarians–all in good humor. The Covenant Cab was gorgeous–more refined blackberry character, earth tones and complexity–a wine certainly meant for aging.
Beyond winemaking, Jeff regaled the audience with stories of his many careers: He played the saxophone and was the band-leader for a time at the famed Monte Carlo, then was the West-Coast editor of Wine Spectator and now winemaker and author of several fabulous cookbooks (like The Working Parents Cookbook and The Plumpjack Cookbook).
We are grateful to Jeff and his partner Leslie Rudd, who we hope will join us as well for a future event. This event was really the epitome of what The Noble Rot aims to do:: equip amateur enthusiasts with weapons of mass destruction! No, no, no…wait. That should read: 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 the evening was provided by Ray Charles. No joke. You’ll just have to ask someone who was there for those details. Please enjoy these tasty photos below and we hope to see you at a Noble Rot event soon.
Definitely visit Jeff’s website: www.covenantwines.com