Laurel Glen Vineyard, a thousand feet up the slopes of Sonoma Mountain, has long been considered one of the iconic Cabernet vineyards of California. Originally planted to Cabernet Sauvignon in the 1960’s, the present-day vineyard was developed in the 1970’s by Sonoma wine pioneer Patrick Campbell. The vineyard’s combination of high altitude, eastern exposure, rocky soils, and small diurnal temperature swings combine to produce memorable wines, rooted in a sense of place. After 30 vintages, Patrick Campbell sold the vineyard and winery to a group of wine lovers, led by Bettina Sichel, whose family has been in the wine business for so many generations.
The new era at Laurel Glen Vineyard began in 2011 with an ambitious new team. Organic viticulture guru Phil Coturri, who grew up on Sonoma Mountain and spent a formative summer in his youth working at Laurel Glen, manages the vineyard. Winemaker Randall Watkins, who spent many years developing his skills with mountain Cabernet at Moon Mountain Vineyards, manages the cellar.
The vineyard is now certified organic with CCOF, pruning and trellising practices have been upgraded to emphasize greater concentration and consistency of ripening, and more care is being taken to sort the fruit at harvest by both cluster and berry. What hasn’t changed is a commitment to expressing a sense of place in the wines through gentle treatment of the fruit in the cellar. As in Patrick’s day, fermentations are with native yeasts and take place in open top fermenters, Taransaud is the primary French cooper and the wines are unfiltered and egg white fined.
A warm winter and spring in 2014 caused early bud break, followed by beautiful mild weather in summer that allowed for long, even ripening and excellent flavor development. Picking started on September 17 and ended on the 23rd, the earliest Cabernet Sauvignon harvest ever experienced by Randall Watkins in his 20 plus years of wine making! Despite drought conditions and a 6.0 magnitude earthquake on August 24, the quality of fruit was excellent.
Very dark ruby color. Big intense black cherry fruit, exotic spices with hints of chocolate and cedar undertones. Savory. A full-bodied, greatly structured Cabernet you can drink now, but will richly reward with aging. Balanced, but with a firm tannin that extends into the long finish. – My notes (ES)
“Beautiful fragrance of sweet boysenberry and dark raspberry fruit, mineral and smoke. Hints of espresso, charred oak and baking spices. Impressive on the finish, maintaining elegance and finesse amid firm mountain tannins. Fine, long finish.” – Randall Watkins, Winemaker
100% Estate grown Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged in 50% New/Used – 100% Tonnellerie Taransaud (French oak). After pressing off the skins, malolactic fermentation proceeds naturally in barrel over the course of the next couple of months. Upon completion of malolactic, the wine is racked for the first time and will be racked in total three times over 24 months of barrel aging. Racking introduces oxygen, which helps to develop the tannins in the aging process. 14.4% alcohol. 1220 cases.
Watch highlights from very rare and informative retrospective panel tasting (1981 to 2017) moderated by Esther Mobley San Francisco Chronicle wine editor, with former owner Patrick Campbell, winemaker Randall Watkins, viticulturist Phil Cotturi, and owner Bettina Sichel. (May 2019)