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CLONYC 27 'Got Karl?' The Karl Lawrence Reserves.

On a rainy Wednesday in August during a temporary break from the heat waves we (a humble group of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon aficionados) gathered to partake in what we love best: Napa Cabernet. Not just any Napa Cabernet, this was a night of reserves from one of the better reserve houses in the valley, Karl Lawrence.

As a starter, Steve poured his newly released Congruence Zinfandel. This was my first taste and I was impressed. Not pretending to be an aficionado of Zin, I did notice its easy approach and its slight zestiness, great minerality and perfect balance. A very pleasing and honest wine. Well done, Steve.

Now lets drink us some Cabernet…
3 flights of 3 wines and 1 flight of 2 wines. I kept the Morisolis up front since we had 6, and I started with the oldest.

1997 Karl Lawrence Gary Morisoli Reserve
This was showing either its age or vintage characteristics I have come to expect from many a 97. Fruit, although slightly present, was reddish black. There was some cedar, some worn leather and dried cassis. This lacked a wee bit of acidity and was fully resolved. 88

1999 Karl Lawrence Gary Morisoli Reserve
Now we’re talking. This had more stuffing and bolder fruits of blackberries and black cherries. Some crème de cassis, cola, pomegranate and more. It had the prettiest nose of the three in the flight. As it sat, I found an interesting array of blueberries and sour cherries. It had perfect balance and is probably in its best spot right now. Just an elegant and near perfect wine with a 23.6 second finish. 7 people made it their number one in the flight. so WOTF. 93

2001 Karl Lawrence Gary Morisoli Reserve
More guts….more glory? That’s what we will see. This had the darkest fruit profile with the most backward attack of this group. Tremendous mouths feel with a lilty balance. Tannins were complicated and at full attention, this danced over the tongue like a ballerina on steroids. Of the group, this was most in my immediate wheelhouse. Long finish kept the fruits alive. 3 people had this as their number 1. I had it as my WOTF. 95

The next flight was an interesting one for sure; it showed a slightly different profile for the Morisoli Reserves. What I found was these stayed true to vintage.

2002 Karl Lawrence Gary Morisoli Reserve
This had the fat 2002 nose I have come to know form the half a million or so 2002s I have had. They fulfill in a totally different way and my yin-yang wines tonight and usually anytime would be a 2001 and a 2002 of the same label. It was redder and more soda pop like (in a good way). I got the cola AND the uncola. It had a big structure but wore the clothing loosely. Rounder and fuller with slightly awkward tannins and slightly higher acidity. The interesting this was this stayed true to the vineyard still. A fun & whimsical wine that I would not mind having more of on any snowy quiet Saturday afternoon….. 5 WOTF votes. 92

2004 Karl Lawrence Gary Morisoli Reserve
In keeping with the vintage typicity thing, this was a 2004 that showed like one; that is to say in my humble estimation, is slightly reminiscent of the 02s while having some more structure. What I have also found is the fruit is going slightly rogue on these. They lay low in the background and taunt you. It was blacker and more evenly balanced in the tannin/acidity department. This might have shown better a year or so back, or it might be napping, albeit a cat nap. I hope the latter as I grabbed some for really really cheap last season. 90

2005 Karl Lawrence Gary Morisoli Reserve
This was the boldest, more flamboyant of the whole group of Morisolis that came before it. It had an intensity and purity that was again, typical of vintage, but still maintained the Morisoli brand. Such a fantastically cerebral wine, this has guts to go. Currant and blackberry ruled, this had some lead pencil shavings, hints of vanilla and spice box. A medium plus weighted mouth feel with slightly edgy tannins and high-wire balanced acidity. Strangely enough, as this sat, it got slightly hallow for a time, and then returned to be even darker and purer. I kept some for the long run. Interesting. 5 WOTF votes (as mine). 94

This flight was evenly split between the 2002 and the 2005. Certainly, style preference is in control.

2001 Karl Lawrence Herb Lamb Reserve
While I really wanted to love this, I could not get beyond an ever so slight medicinal note that I could never really get past. After some time another at the table had mentioned the same. 4 number 1 votes for WOTF. n/r

2002 Karl Lawrence Herb Lamb Reserve
Corked, tainted, whatever we are calling it these days, it was. The discussion at to flawed/not flawed kept the table in turmoil until the Poobah put his foot down for a vote. 4 voted flawed. I need a new set of CLONYCers going forward…. n/r

2005 Karl Lawrence Herb Lamb Reserve
Back to the tracks. This was beautiful. Notes are thin though. Reddish black fruits of currant and raspberries. A little floral for a big boned wine. This had poise and pizzazz. I let this sit and it got darker and fuller, while becoming more fragrant. 6 votes for the WOTF. 93

2002 Karl Lawrence Beckstoffer To-Kalon Reserve
Wow. This was pure and purely To-Kalon; sweet black fruits were in control with the creamy mid-palate. Just an amazing wine that was different that anything else on the night. Perfectly resolved with lots of life, this had hints of mocha and vanilla. Some leather, cedar, and hints of graphite. Finesse-full and never coy, this was just a complete Cabernet, one in a style this group has had much experience with, and the oohs and aahs proved it. 96.

The WOTN was evenly balanced between the ’99 Morisoli and the ’02 To-Kalon.

All in all a fantastic array of well bred wines. The family traits were apparent with the Morisolis, and the ‘class’ obvious all around. As an interesting contrast, we had the good fortune to have a magnum of the 2002 Karl Lawrence regular Napa cab as cleanup and you spotted the pedestrian qualities it carried in such a revered group. A great night indeed.