Staglin Family Vineyard, which has been on a hot streak lately, wants to make even better wines, and its owners think Luc Morlet is the winemaker who can do it.
Today the Napa Valley winery announced it has hired Morlet, who has spent the past five vintages at Peter Michael Winery in Sonoma County, to take over its winemaking responsibilities.
At Peter Michael, Morlet crafted Wine Spectator's No. 5 wine of 2004, the Les Pavots Knights Valley 2001 (98 points, $125). Morlet replaces consultant Larry Cherubino, who was hired to manage Staglin's 2005 harvest. Peter Michael has not yet announced a replacement for Morlet, who is under contract until Nov. 22.
"It's time to move," Morlet said, simply. "Five years at a place for a winemaker these days isn't seen much any more."
Morlet joins the Staglin team of vineyard manager David Abreu and consulting enologist Michel Rolland at a time when Staglin is making the best wines it ever has. The last four Cabernet vintages have all earned 94 points or more, and the current release, the Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford 20th Anniversary 2002, earned a classic rating of 95 points. Staglin also produces Chardonnay and Sangiovese from its 50-acre estate in Rutherford.
Both Staglin and Peter Michael have gone through several transitions with their winemakers. Peter Michael, founded in 1987, first hired Helen Turley as winemaker; she was succeeded by Mark Aubert, who in turn was replaced by Vanessa Wong. Staglin, founded in 1985, has seen winemaking stints by Celia Masyczek, Andy Erickson and Gerard Zanzanico.
Proprietor Garen Staglin cited Morlet's innovation and passion for terroir as reasons they picked the French-born winemaker. "We feel that kind of energy and commitment is what we need," he said.
Staglin and Morlet have discussed adding a Meritage-style wine to complement the current lineup, and Staglin will also provide Morlet with an opportunity to start his own brand. "It's a dream for a winemaker to make wine under their own label," said Morlet, who hopes to make Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from somewhere in Sonoma County.
Morlet previously served as technical director at his family domaine, Pierre Morlet et Fils in Champagne, and has worked for Burgundy's Maison Chanson Pére et Fils, Bordeaux's Château Dauzac, Champagne's Le Val d'Or, and Napa Valley's Newton Vineyard. He holds a master's degree in enology from Rheims University in Champagne, a viticulture degree from Ecole Viticole de Champagne and an MBA in wine business from Dijon Business School in Burgundy.