What do you think would make a Frenchman come all the way to California to live?” teases Luc Morlet, of Napa Valley’s Morlet Family Vineyards. In his case, the answer is romance: his American wife, Jodie. But there are plenty of other reasons (even for Morlet) that explain why so many winemakers are leaving France to try their luck in the United States.
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Certainly freedom is part of the draw. Here, they can plant whatever grapes they choose and make whatever kind of wine they please, unlike in the highly regulated wine-growing regions of their homeland. For example, Morlet (who descends from a centuries-long line of Champagne producers) makes perfumed, perfectly poised Pinot Noirs; Christophe Baron crafts flamboyant Rhône-style reds at his Washington state winery, Cayuse; Philippe Melka turns out top Cabernets all over Napa, including at Métisse, Hundred Acre and Vineyard 29; and Stephan Asseo creates powerful Syrah-Cabernet blends in the Paso Robles region of California’s Central Coast.