It’s no secret that my favorite wineries are those owned and operated by real people with a real story who have a passion for making good wine. Sonoma’s Laurel Glen Vineyards has a history going back to 1968, has vines on the estate with mystery red grapes that may date back to 1880 and, and has an ownership partner who is the 5th generation of a winemaking family originally from Germany. There should be no doubt they qualify.
Bettina Sichel grew up in a German winemaking family. Her father, Peter Sichel, took over his grandfather’s wine business and was responsible for making Blue Nun an International household name, but only after first spending time as the head of the CIA in Berlin (Peter is also the voice on Beasties Boys interlude called Blue Nun on the Check Your Head album). Encouraged by her family to move to California to pursue her own career in wine, Bettina helped launch and market Qunitesssa before spending four years as the head of marketing for the Napa Valley Vintner’s Association. In 2011, she and investment partners bought Laurel Glen Vineyards from founder Patrick Campbell. Bettina was staked her claim in Laurel Glen because it married an established brand presence with wines that have a distinctive sense of place.
Located above Glen Ellen on Sonoma Mountain, the vineyards lie above the fog line in the morning. The fog coupled with vines growing on the eastern facing slope limits the morning and warmer afternoon sun, which slows ripening and produces a Cabernet that retains more of its bright fruit acid. This gives the Laurel Glen wines a unique signature against the bigger and riper Napa and Sonoma Cabs. It’s a signature that earned the winery 95 points from Robert Parker for the 2012 Sonoma Mountain Cab and 93 points from Wine Enthusiast for the 2014 Counterpoint.
The Dallas Wineaux had the pleasure of meeting Bettina and sampling her wines with her last week. We tried the 2016 Rosella Rosé and the 2014 Counterpoint and then compared the 2012 and 2013 Sonoma Mountain Cabs side-by-side.
Laurel Glen Rosella Rosé
In the 2016 vintage, the Laurel Glen Rosé has changed its name from Crazy Old Vine Rosé to Rosella Rosé. The bottle that Betinna brought had just left the bottling line the day before our tasting, so we were honored to be the first to drink from the new label. The Rosé is made from a blend of the vineyard’s Cabernet grapes and red grapes from a vine remaining on the estate that was most likely planted in the 1880s. Not even the winery really knows for certain what varietal the grapes are, but the three remaining rows of these grapes are field pressed and mixed with Cabernet. Rosella had an intriguing nose filled with strawberry, rose florals and a slight spice. On the palate, the strawberry turned richer and mixed with the touch of spice, bordering it on cranberry and raspberry.
Laurel Glen Counterpoint Cabernet
By blending Cabernet fruit from 3 different vineyards and 10% Merlot, Laurel Glen has created a 2014 Counterpoint that is juicy wine and amazingly food-friendly. The wine has aromas of raspberry, licorice, and cloves and transitions to deeper blackberry, cola, and dark chocolate on the palate. The fruit is balanced by burnished acid and silky tannins. If you are looking for a high-quality value Cabernet from a trusted producer wine country, put this toward the top of the list.
Laurel Glen Vineyard Estate Cabernet
The 2013 Vineyard Estate Cabernet is produced from 100% Estate fruit from the Eastern slopes of Sonoma Mountain. The nose on this wine is pronounced blackberry with notes of black olives. In the mouth, it is full-bodied with a subtle ripeness and pleasant softness that layers on plum and cassis. Although there is certainly the structure to cellar this wine for a number of years, the purity and freshness of the fruit makes the Estate Cabernet worth drinking today.