Thursday, May 25, 2006

Morrison Lane Vineyards

Friday, during the Spring Release weekend, we had lunch at Stone Soup Cafe and from there visited Dean and Verdie Morrison at their Morrison Lane tasting room in the historic Dacres Building. I always enjoy visiting this charming couple, who give a good name to "soulmates." Verdie has decorated the corner shop in lovely pink Tuscan walls and with her collection of 1940s pottery. The day we visited she had what I think was an old collectible piece of Hull pottery filled with a bouquet of beautiful flowers from her garden, centered on the piano. They were really stunning.

Morrison Lane Vineyard has been growing grapes for Walla Walla wineries since 1994, when Dean and Verdie planted five acres of Syrah, and since then several local wineries have used the Morrison Lane Vineyard grapes to make award-winning Syrahs.

The vineyard has now grown to 23 acres of Rhone (to include Syrah, Viognier, and Counoise) and Italian varieties, as well as Carmenère. They are one of just two Carmenere producers in the Walla Walla area, and the first vineyard in the valley to grow Counoise, a red Rhone varietal. In 2002, Morrison Lane started producing their own estate wine under their own label. Their first releases were Syrah, Counoise and Sangiovese. Later releases included Reserve Syrah, Carmenère, Sangiovese, Barbera, Nebbiolo and Cinsault.

With the start of Spring Release weekend, Verdie had opened up their Sangiovese, Barbera, Nebbiolo and Syrah for tasting. Wines made from Morrison Lane Syrah grapes have always been a favorite of mine and their Estate Syrah didn't disappoint me: it brings a mouth of blueberries, with chocolate and licorice in the finish. The Italian varietals - - Sangiovese (very nicely balanced and rich) Barbera (a very full and lush wine) and Nebbiolo (floral and cherry notes) -- would be the perfect pairing to any tomato-based Italian entree, as these wines are balanced with just the right amount of acidity. I will be very anxious to try their future vintages as those grapes mature more.

The real star of our Friday tasting, however, at least for me, was the Cinsault. It wasn't part of the tasting line-up and Verdie offered to open a bottle for us. We couldn't resist. I was anxious to taste this new varietal to Morrison Lane. The most interesting news about this grape is that as unusual as it is, it is not new at all to the Walla Walla Valley; it was one of the first grapes planted in the area back in the late 1800s. It was known to the Italian immigrants as "Black Prince." My taste of Morrison Lane's Cinsault was the last piece of an uncompleted puzzle for me. While in wine school I did some research and a report on Black Prince, and later I assisted in tending the Cinsault vines at Fort Walla Walla Museum. Back then no local winery produced a Cinsault.

The taste of the Morrison Lane Cinsault had a bright strawberry flavor. There were few noticeable tannins, yet, again, as with the other Morrison Lane wines, just the right amount of acidity. The Cinsault continued with a huge clove, nutmeg and pepper finish. I mentioned that I could see why the Italians in our community grew this grape, since it would pair very well with food. Again, I am going to be anxious to try the Cinsault when those vines get older.

By the way, one of the many things that makes Morrison Lane unique is live music. You never know when a local muscian is going to stop by to make live, impromptu sounds from the piano and other various instruments that have a permanent home in the tasting room. This is a tasting room that I always tell visitors to be sure to check out.


Terence Hughes said...

Where would these wines be found east of the Mississipp? And, though I hate to ask, what is their price range? They sound pretty damned good to me.

Catie said...

Hi Terry, good to see you here and I know your speciality is Italian varietals. I would contact the Morrisons and see how they can get their wines to you. Their wines aren't priced as high as you think - average of $25. At this time I rather doubt they have their wines in any stores east of the Mississippi.

Macwriter said...

I believe there are three wineries -- Reininger, Morrison Lane, and, of course, Colvin -- bottling Carmenere, and at least three vineyards ( Seven Hills, Colvin and Morrison Lane) in the Walla Walla Valley working with this historic grape.

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