Time will tell of course, but Laurel Glen seems to be on the right path, and the fact that it continues to try and move the dial, not satisfied resting on their assets (you thought I was going to say laurels, didn’t you!) is always a good sign. Of course everything in moderation and the vinification of Laurel Glen wines’ movement has indeed been moderate. A further refreshing sign of people not only saying that great wines are made in the vineyard, but proving it by making better and better-balanced fruit their priority, while moving away from intervention in the cellar.
Vinification at Laurel Glen is rather straightforward: six 2000 gallon open-topped fermenters and a single 3500 closed-top version, all stainless and all temperature-controlled, are used for a wild yeast fermentation that generally lasts about two weeks. Once the wines have fermented to dryness, the lots are examined and the blends are assembled for Laurel Glen and the earlier maturing wine from Laurel Glen, known as Counterpoint.
In three years, a reserve lot was identified before the blending process. A single tank representing a single parcel of vineyard was identified as being so much better than the rest of the wine that it warranted being bottled on its own. In 1993, 1995 and 1999 this reserve bottling was produced, but in hindsight Patrick seems to regret having opened this door, while at the same time producing the classic Laurel Glen wines in these vintages that lacked an essential element of each Laurel Glen bottling.
All the wines, reserve and classic bottling alike, underwent the same aging regiment, spending some 18 to 22 months in Taransaud oak barrels, some 50% to 60% of which were new in any given vintage. Today’s wines undergo the same treatment as always, but the fruit is picked later and there is no denying that the wines are less green, riper, plumper and fruitier than they have been in the past. Does that make them better, one has to ask? I am not entirely convinced, but one thing that yet again stood out in this tasting was how fundamentally wrong the vintage charts are!
The entire lineup of wines showed well today. The level of brett in several of the wines was alarming and will cause severe bottle variation among these wines, so if you plan on buying any be aware that your results will vary. The wines generally showed nice black fruits (tough but balanced structure) and the elusive vegetal top note that may have been the signature of Cabernet in its earlier incarnation.
I found wines that I liked in each of the vintages presented and while I may have a tough time explaining my choices, let me just say that the wines of the early to mid-1990s all are at peak, with a spectacular showing today by the 1994. And while fundamentally the 2005 and 1994 are bigger and more complex wines, the 1988 – a supposed stinker of a vintage – outclasses them both with its finesse, nuance and transparency.