Laurel Glen – A Cabernet Sauvignon lover’s dream

Last night I attended a lovely seminar and tasting hosted by Uncork-it! and Laurel Glen winery. I should probably mention that Laurel Glen Counterpoint Cabernet Sauvignon 1990 was what I call my "A ha!" wine. In other words, this is the wine that made me go "Oh! This is what all of the fuss is about. Now I get it! Wines can taste like THIS!" Since then, I have been a loyal drinker and advocate of this innovative and responsible winery as a consumer, buyer, and now writer. I can honestly say, if you love the forward fruit of California "Blue Chip" Cabs and the elegance, acidity, and earthy, gravel notes of Bordeaux – this is a wine you need to try.

 Laurel Glen is the creation of the passionate and upstanding Patrick Campbell. The estate vineyards are on Sonoma Mountain in California, but he crafts some tasty and extremely affordable offerings from Lodi, California and Mendoza, Argentina. Patrick himself is quite a story. Armed With an undergrad in English Lit and a graduate degree from Harvard in Divinity studies, Patrick spent some time in the late 60's hitchhilking across the country and teaching himself to play the viola. He came back to California to play with an Orchestra in Santa Rosa and lived for three years on a Zen Buddhist Commune on Sonoma Mountain. While working as a vineyard manager by day, and a musician by night – the dream for Laurel Glen was born.

 His daughter Arya is now a partner in the business and National Sales Manager for the family winery. She lives in Chicago for now and occasionally speaks at classes and winedinners in the city. If you ever get the chance to attend one of her events – GO! She is a charming and enthusiastic speaker that reminds me of why we all love wine in the first place. The Campbell family has a dedication to be good stewards of land while making wines that ignore fads in winemaking and marketing. The wines have integrity and value – much like Patrick himself. In fact, he was the first recipient of The Wine Industry Integrity Award for his work at Laurel Glen and in the wine business community as a thoughtful activist and leader in the trade.

 But enough of my shameless gushing – the wines speak for themselves. Here are my quick notes on the current releases:

Laurel Glen REDS 2004: A hearty blend from Lodi California meant to be enjoyed everyday. Its primarily made from old vine Zinfandel, but often has Carigane, Petite Sirah, and other fun grapes from the area to give it added spice and maintain its value price of about $10. This year's is jammy, juicy and fun. Perfect for BBQ's.

Za Zin! 2004 A zin with class! A blend of 90% Old Vine Zinfandel from Lodi and 10% Petite Sirah, this wine has all the berry fruit you expect from a Zin, but a suprising elegance and silkiness in the mouth. A touch of earthy aromas make for nice complexity.

Terra Rosa 2003 Old school fans of this wine know it used to come from California. Basically, Patrick wanted to make an inexpensive Cab for everyday quaffing. Unfortunately, the CA wine market didn't make that feasible for very long. Rather than raise the price or compromise quality, he started sourcing grapes from Chile with good results. Now he believes the best value for a tasty red lies in Argentinian Malbec and that's where this wine will be focused for the near future. This vintage is 90% Malbec, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and full of blueberry fruit and spice.

Laurel Glen Counterpoint Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 This is the entry level wine from the Sonoma Estate property. It is 100% Sonoma Mountain Cabernet and gets the same meticulous treatment as the its big daddy, its just more forward and drinkable in the near term. Already the 2002 is showing terrific blackberry and black cherry aromas, with soft accents of toasty oak, black pepper, lead pencil, green pepper and herbs. Its like a young Bordeaux with more sexy fruit. A steal in the low $20's.

Laurel Glen Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 This may well be Laurel Glen's most ageworthy offering to date. Holy cow. The rich body of the wine is balanced by a soft and pleasant acidity that tastes both bold and refined at the same time. This has all the stuffing for a 25 year cellar stay, but tastes pretty delightful now. It has all of those red fruit characteristics of the Counterpoint with the addition of currant, and all of those wonderful gravelly Bordeaux aromas as well. Rosemary, clay, coffee, and cocoa all come in to play. What a treat! And still an incredible value at $50.

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