While better known for Zinfandel or Pinot Noir, Sonoma County has always produced fine Cabernets and some, like Patrick Campbell’s Laurel Glen, have firmly established its reputation among winelovers as unique, age worthy examples of Cabernet that could only come from the historic Sonoma vineyards.
With the recent sale of Laurel Glen, now in the able hands of Bettina Sichel, it’s no surprise that the Laurel Glen team is on the road showing off a vertical of vintages, new and old. I was fortunate to attend one edition and the results surprised even me!
Since then the vineyard has expanded to its present dimensions, always using the genetic material that has been culled from the original vines planted in 1968. With the relatively recent replanting of the vineyards (most vines predate 1996), the average age of the vineyard is right around 25 years, a mature vineyard by any stretch of the imagination.
Along with the vineyards, the wine industry is almost as mature and the changes that Patrick has implemented over the years reflect this growth. The crown jewel in all of this may be Bettina’s hiring of Tony Coturri to handle to conversion of the vineyards to organic farming while bringing on David Ramey as a consulting winemaker. A powerhouse duo that caps three decades of evolution that has seen Laurel Glen wines move from a period of early harvest and acidification, to early harvesting with deacidification, to finally late harvesting for acid balance.
This late harvesting for acid balance has been the last bump in the road for California – in fact, for all warm climate winemakers. The latest theories tend to indicate that certain techniques such as dry farming, organic farming and a more vigorous vegetative cycle may contribute to lower sugar levels at a level of fruit ripeness that provides this acid balance that is our current holy grail.