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2000 Morgan "Gary's Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands, California

It's not a huge leap from veterinary medicine to winemaking, and that leap is made even shorter when you're enrolled at UC Davis which happens to be the top school in the nation for both. Dan Lee initially thought he wanted to work with animals, but a few courses as electives during his vet school tenure were enough to convince him to immediately enroll in the Enology program as soon as he finished his undergraduate degree.

While he still loves animals, Dan hasn't looked back, graduating and continuing on to become a winemaker for Jekel and Durney (now Heller Estate), all the while plotting to start Morgan Winery. In 1982 he and his wife Donna celebrated their inaugural vintage with the release of a Chardonnay and since then have been making Chardonnays, Pinots, Cabernets, and Sauvignon Blancs with fruit sourced from other vineyards, and starting in 1999 with fruit from their own vineyard, the "Double L."

With the maturation of this vineyard, Dan has switched both to all Monterey County fruit as well as to completely organic farming of his vineyard site. Dan also continues to make several wines from fruit sourced in the Monterrey appellation, including this wine.

This is not the first wine that I've reviewed from the famed Pinot Noir vineyard owned by Gary Pisoni. I'll spare regular readers the retreading of old ground, but if you're interested in more about what may be the most famous Pinot vineyard in California, you can read more about the Pisoni Vineyard here.

Dan sourced 550 cases worth of fruit from Pisoni and fermented it with native yeasts before ageing it in French oak barrels (Francois Freres) for 14 months.

It is worth noting that Dan recently was awarded the designation of being San Francisco Chronicles "Winemaker of the Year" for what is an ever increasingly impressive portfolio of wines.

Tasting Notes:
Deep blood red in color this wine has a splashy, juicy nose with scents of wild strawberry, mulling spices, and incense. On the palate it shows flavors of cherry, sweet oak, sawdust and a bright acidity that drives a long clean finish with hints of tea and wet earth.

Food Pairing:
Despite some bright fruit, this is a more Burgundian style Pinot Noir that will go better with more savory dishes like this chicken crepe with asparagus and mushrooms. I had it with herb roasted Salmon and it did pretty well with that, too.

Overall Score: 9

How Much?: $30

I got mine from Porthos, but they seem to be out of it at the moment and the 2001 is already in stores. Wine Searcher says several people on the Internet and one retailer in San Francisco have the '01.

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The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise adventures on the wine route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud