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Average critic rating : 89.5 points
The 2011 L’Esprit des Pavots, a 1,060-case blend of 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, exhibits sweet tannin as well as espresso roast, red and black currants, licorice and tar, a touch of herbaceousness, medium to full body, and a decade of drinkability. ||The Peter Michael estate has grown considerably with their vineyards in the Fort Ross-Seaview region of the Sonoma Coast region producing some remarkable Pinot Noirs, and their Chardonnay vineyards in Knights Valley having been at the top of the qualitative hierarchy for many years. Add to that their proprietary Bordeaux blend called Les Pavots, their remarkable Sauvignon Blanc and their Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blend. Additionally, they have purchased a great parcel of vines in the Oakville Corridor near the well-known Dalla Valle property. Owned by Sir Peter Michael, this estate has employed a bevy of brilliant winemakers over the years, the current being the two Morlet brothers from the Champagne district in France. Nick Morlet is employed full-time as the main winemaker, and his brother, Luc, consults at Peter Michael. Both have brought French savoir-faire and applied it to extraordinary vineyard sites to produce world-class wines of extraordinary richness, intensity and complexity. Readers looking for some of the best Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs, Sauvignon Blancs, Sauvignon/Semillon blends, and Bordeaux proprietary red blends can do no better than the wines from the Peter Michael Winery. Since I had not visited this estate in several years, I asked to do a complete retrospective of the last three vintages of Chardonnay and the last four vintages of Pinot Noir. The result was one of the most remarkable tastings I experienced over the last several years. First, Nick and Luc Morlet gave me a summary of their vintages. They were staggered by the quality of 2013 after what was clearly a great vintage in 2012. The three previous years were among the most challenging in recent years. Following one of the hottest years they had ever experienced, 2008, 2009 produced a small crop because of a cool year, 2010 was another small crop because of some rain issues, and 2011 was the most difficult vintage since 1998. Extremely cool, with no heat spikes, the 2011's microscopic crop had to be harvested extremely late, with many vineyards not finished with their harvest until the end of October or early November. The brilliance and flexibility exhibited by the winemaking team at Peter Michael has brought in a treasure trove of wines that readers will adore. All of the following Chardonnays are bottled without fining or filtration. From the hillside stony soils of La Carriere, the three Chardonnay vintages I tasted have a kinship to a great Burgundy grand cru from Chevalier-Montrachet or Corton-Charlemagne because of the wines’ minerality. I hope these notes persuade a lot of readers of just what an extraordinary winery owned by the visionary Englishman, Sir Peter Michael, sits up in Knights Valley. The Belle Cote Chardonnay comes from a Knights Valley vineyard planted in 1990 with the Rued clone of Chardonnay. Peter Michael has long produced one of the finest Sauvignon Blanc cuvees in Northern California. Another serious white is the blend of equal parts Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon called Coeur a Coeur. I suspect you can only buy this at the winery as only 100 cases are produced in each vintage. Peter Michael’s proprietary wines made from Bordeaux blends include their flagship red, Les Pavots, and their second wine, L’Esprit des Pavots, which is meant to be drunk at an earlier age. In 2011, the winery added a new cuvee, the Cabernet Sauvignon Au Paradis, made from the vineyard they purchased on the Oakville Corridor on the eastern hillsides.||Tel. (707) 942-3200 Wine Advocate.December, 2013
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