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Elin’s Wine Pick for Parties II: A Lively, Bargain California White

Elin's Wine Pick: 2011 Morgan Sauvignon Blanc

Elin's Wine Pick: 2011 Morgan Sauvignon Blanc

My last pick was a bargain Chilean red ideal for big holiday parties. This week I’m recommending an equally good inexpensive white, the lively, lemon-lime-and-mint scented 2011 Morgan Sauvignon Blanc from California’s cool Monterey region.

Elin McCoy’s Wine of the Week

2011 Morgan Sauvignon Blanc

Price: $13 - $16

Region: Monterey County, California

Grape: 90% Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Musqué, 10% Semillon

Alcohol: 13.5%

Serve with: Apéritif, appetizers, salad, sushi, shellfish


» Red wine: 2010 Calcu Cabernet Franc

» White wine: 2011 Morgan Sauvignon Blanc

With its refreshing herb and citrus flavors, bright mineral notes, and attractive round texture, this white is exceptionally versatile: It’s good alone as an apéritif as well as with prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, sushi, shrimp, scallops and all kinds of salads. And it’s widely available at $15 a bottle, even cheaper at discount liquor chains.

Morgan is known for its top single-vineyard Pinots and Chardonnays, especially those from its certified organic Double L ranch in the Santa Lucia Highlands. But owner and winemaker Dan Morgan Lee has also been making fine, modestly-priced bottlings since the winery’s beginnings in the early 1980s. This Sauvignon Blanc from their less-expensive “Classic” line is always on my best-buy list.

Many people say they don’t like the grassy taste of Sauvignon Blanc, but Lee softens that flavor by blending in Sauvignon Musqué and Semillon grapes. The Musqué clone adds intense aromas and notes of tropical fruit. Semillon, a golden-skinned varietal used in Bordeaux’s white wines and popular on its own in Australia, adds depth and richness. Six months of aging in mostly old oak barrels gives the wine roundness and texture. All of this adds up to a wine that’s easy to sip and has crowd-pleasing appeal.

Dan Morgan Lee

Dan Morgan Lee. Credit: Courtesy of Morgan Winery

The deep cold waters of Monterey Bay’s underwater Blue Grand Canyon, morning fog and strong Pacific breezes ensure a long growing season, which translates into tangy acidity and energy in the region’s wines. Vineyards in the narrow, 90-mile long Monterey appellation south of San Francisco were first planted in 1961, and the region now has eight AVAs. Grapes for Morgan’s Sauvignon Blanc come from two of them — the cool Arroyo Seco and the warmer San Lucas AVA further south.

Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are Monterey’s star varietals, but hardly bargains, like this 2011 Morgan Sauvignon Blanc, which comes with an easy-opening screwcap. Just put bottles in a big tub of ice and let guests open bottles for refills themselves.