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“Suddenly I saw the cold and rook-delighting heaven
That seemed as though ice burned and was but the more ice,
And thereupon imagination and heart were driven... “
- William Butler Yeats
Originally from North Carolina, Morgan Clendenen found her way to wine following a winding path, starting with brick sales, then wine sales, working for Robert Sinskey Vineyards in Napa, and finally establishing Cold Heaven Cellars in 1996. It was a time in California when winemakers seemed to be in competition to make the biggest wines possible, but Morgan had other ideas.
Starting with fruit from the legendary Sanford & Benedict, she has always sought out cooler sources for her fruit, preferring an acid and mineral driven expression of Viognier to the flabby renditions she kept encountering. She barrel ferments everything, which tempers the acids, but never obscures the pure flavors with oak. She calls it “Lazy Winemaking” but really she’s just keeping out of the way so each individual vineyard site can be expressed.
The results are clear. Many think of Morgan as the “Queen of California Viognier” and while she doesn’t submit her wines to critics, occasionally someone does and you hear things like “as close to Condrieu as you can get from California” (Jeb Dunnuck, Wine Advocate). And if that’s too much hyperbole, then how about a quote from Morgan herself: Her first wine broker told her “I hate the label”. Morgan replied “Well, I hate your tie, but that’s not the point. It’s what’s in the bottle”.
It is indeed.