We said it before, and we’ll say it again: We’ve never met a wine from Morgan Lee that we didn’t like. Or love. From Two Vintners Wines to Covington Cellars to his Full Pull partnership with Block Wines, Morgan Lee makes killer juice. Not surprisingly, he’s frequently described as a superstar winemaker. We caught up with him two weeks ago when Washington Wine invited media and trade to the scenic Chateau Ste. Michelle to a “Celebrate Washington Wine” Grand Tasting. He poured his amazing new release, Two Vintners 2018 Gayle Syrah. And we also recently opened six of his other wines: Block Wines 2018 Ankleroller Rocks Syrah and Starside Cabernet Sauvignon 2020; Two Vintners 2015 Some Days are Stones Syrah, 2017 Syrah, and 2018 Lola; and Covington Cellars 2017 Franc. Read on for details.
Winemaker Morgan Lee
Our first bottle of Morgan Lee’s wine: Syrah from Covington Cellars, where he became the winemaker in 2007. In the same year, he founded Two Vintners in a partnership with the owners of Covington Cellars, David and Cindy Lawson. “The winemaking philosophy has always been simple; work with great vineyards and don’t mess it up.” Although we were fans of Morgan’s beautifully balanced wines for years, we didn’t meet him until 2018 at the Auction of Washington Wines Winemaker Picnic and Barrel Auction (pictured here). Not only is he a talented and skilled winemaker, but he also is one of the nicest guys in the WA wine industry. In addition, he’s got a great sense of humor.
Morgan Lee Wines
Above all, Morgan makes impressive wine. And we seem to be drinking a lot lately! In the last few weeks alone, we tasted Two Vintners 2015 Some Days are Stones Syrah, 2017 Syrah, and 2018 Lola Syrah-Cab blend; Block Wines 2018 Ankleroller Rocks District Syrah and 2020 Starside Cabernet Sauvignon; and Covington Cellars 2017 Franc.
Subsequently, Morgan introduced us to Two Vintners 2018 Gayle at Celebrate Washington Wine. Here are the details.
2020 Two Vintners Gayle
This 90% Syrah is blended with 10% Roussanne. This is unusual and brings pretty floral scents to the Syrah. As well, aromas of oranges, blackberries, smoke and chocolate echo on the palate, along with honey and and mineral notes. Morgan’s style of minimal intervention is evident. Gayle is approachable now, particularly after decanting. However, we’d rather put it in the cellar, where it will evolve for a few years.
2018 Block Wines Ankleroller Rocks District Syrah
Morgan crafted this outstanding Rocks Syrah, in collaboration with Full Pull Wines. I can hardly find the words to describe this incredibly funky wine. The grapes are sourced from Richard Funk’s Stones Speak Vineyard. And we couldn’t agree more with Full Pull’s notes: “Morgan working with Rich’s fruit is basically a dream come true for lovers of Washington Syrah.”
Why is it called Ankleroller? The stony rows of this vineyard can be very difficult to walk on – and people (and vineyard equipment) have to be very careful navigating them!
When you open Ankleroller Syrah, you immediately smell the classic Rocks aromas of smoked meat, wet stones, earth, pepper, orange peel and dark fruit. More smoked meat, blackberry, blueberry and earthy flavors show on the palate. The mouthfeel is luscious, and it rocked our steak dinner. (Rocks pun unintended!)
2015 Two Vintners Some Days are Stones Syrah
And here’s another of Morgan’s Rocks Syrahs, this time under the Two Vintners Label. The grapes for this beauty come from Stoney Vine Vineyard. The wine exhibits the earthy, funky, savory characteristics that Rocks Syrah is known for, with dark fruits, smoked meats, black olives, bacon fat, gravel and more. The seven years of age on it makes it the best Some Days are Stones Syrah we’ve tasted. And we have been drinking this incredible Syrah for years.
2018 Two Vintners Lola Syrah-Cabernet Sauvignon
Lola is a crowd-pleaser. We frequently share it with friends and take it to parties. Now on its 12th vintage, 2018 Lola blends 74% Syrah and 26% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Walla Walla Rocks District vineyard, Yellow Jacket. Consequently, a balance of dark red fruit and meatiness combine into a beautiful, approachable wine. Morgan notes that he fermented the Syrah with 100% whole cluster fruit, so there was no destemming “to build extra structure and savory herbal notes to complement the blackberry and orange rind and a distinct floral note specific to this vineyard.” Morgan named the wine after his black lab, Lola, who greeted visitors in the tasting room. Sadly, Lola passed away, but this popular wine continues to commemorate her.
2020 Starside Cabernet Sauvignon by Morgan Lee
2020 is the latest vintage of the house wine from Morgan and Full Pull. In the words of Full Pull, “Starside is our audacious effort to craft as compelling a $20 Washington Cabernet Sauvignon as our nature and terroir allow.” We’d say they achieved their goal! It’s $20 of deliciousness. This Cab is complex and balanced, featuring fruit flavors of black currants, red cherries, blackberries and plums, with earthy, herbal and savory notes, and a thread of minerality. With the 2020, Morgan Lee hit it out of the ballpark once again.
And in case you’re wondering about the name, Full Pull explains that “Starside” was shorthand during Lewis and Clark’s expedition for starboard side, the side of a ship that is on the right when facing forward. As Lewis and Clark moved west along the Columbia River out towards the Pacific, the starside was modern-day WA, and the Columbia Valley that is the engine room of Washington winemaking.
2017 Covington Cellars Franc
2017 Franc is 100% Cabernet Franc and one of Covington Cellar’s flagship wines. Morgan created this beauty from five vineyards in four different AVAs: Horse Heaven Hills, Yakima Valley, Wahluke Slope and Walla Walla Valley. As a result, it’s a beautiful example of what a Cabernet Franc should be. Franc is rich and structured, with aromas of cedar, green pepper and mushrooms, followed by herbaceous, earthy, mineral-soaked black fruit, and smoky, savory flavors.
2017 Two Vintners Syrah Columbia Valley
We opened our last bottle of Two Vintners Syrah Columbia Valley 2017 recently, and wow – at a $25 price point, this elegant wine remains one of Washington’s best Syrah values. According to Morgan, his Columbia Valley Syrah is the flagship, “the muse that started the whole operation that is Two Vintners … the motor that drives our winery.” In 2017, this Syrah was sourced from four different WA AVAs. When we last poured a bottle in 2021, we found a funky combination of earth and red fruit. But now, with five years of age on it, we tasted dark fruits, cassis, spices, light smoke and minerals. So good! Thankfully, we have several bottles of the current release, the 2019 vintage, in our cellar.
Summary: Morgan Lee
We can only find superlatives when talking about Morgan Lee’s red wines. His killer juice is available under several different labels: Two Vintners, Covington Cellars and Block Wines. Thankfully, we don’t have to choose.
Morgan also offers several whites and rosé, including two Grenache Blancs and Riesling under the Two Vintners label, Covington Cellars Chardonnay and Block Wines Sémillon and Chenin Blanc.
No wonder why so many people call him a superstar winemaker! We completely agree.
Meanwhile, find us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. And of course, here, at Write for Wine – It’s Wine O’Clock Somewhere.
Margot and Dave