Our Hillside Vineyard
The Sonoma Mountain AVA
The summit of Sonoma Mountain stands at 2,463 ft and offers expansive views of the Pacific Ocean to to the west and the Sonoma Valley to the east. Until roughly twelve million years ago, this location was part of the Pacific Ocean seabed. In the Miocene era a massive period of uplift formed the volcanically based Sonoma Mountains as well as the Mayacamas Mountains to the east. The Sonoma Mountain AVA is one of the smallest in Sonoma County at only 667 vineyard acres. The AVA, american viticultural area, extends up the eastern slopes of Sonoma Mountain to almost 1,700 feet (520 m) in elevation. Laurel Glen Vineyard ranges in elevation from 850 to 1,100 feet.
Optimal Sun Exposure
Located on an east/northeast facing plateau, the vineyard’s slope angles it toward the morning sun, allowing generous light throughout the day and reducing exposure to the withering afternoon heat that can result in sugar accumulation that outpaces ripening. This enables a long, even ripening period which gives our Cabernets their characteristic bright acidity.
Protection from Wind & Fog
Because the vineyard sits on the east-facing slopes of Sonoma Mountain, the vines are shielded by the mountain from the coastal wind and fog that comes pouring through the Petaluma gap to the west; an extended break in the mountain range running along the California coast west of the town of Petaluma. The protection offered by the mountain allows Cabernet grapes to thrive in a cooler micro climate than many well known growing areas for Cabernet Sauvignon.
Smaller, Concentrated Fruit
Hillside vines grow in shallower, rockier soils than their valley floor cousins. The stress of less available nutrients causes the plant to send its roots deeper to find water and other nutrients. The fruit born by our hillside vines is smaller, typically the size of a blueberry, with a higher ratio of skin to flesh. Because the skin of the grape carries all the color and most of the aroma, flavor, and tannin, it makes for more complex and layered wine.
Laurel Glen founder Patrick Campbell trained his vines into a California sprawl-type canopy, with 3-4 arms and multiple canes on each vine. This resulted in a heavy fruit load per vine that often resulted in uneven ripening. Vineyard Manager Phil Coturri, who took over management of the vineyard in 2011, has cut back the arms to two, resulting in fewer clusters per vine. The new training system, widely used in Bordeaux, is called Double Guyot. Each vine now has only two canes which are trained in opposite directions along the fruiting wires. The lower yields result in more uniform ripening and better concentration in the berries.
The vineyard has always been cane pruned. Coturri brought the pruning to a higher level. He shortened the canes to 8-10 buds and eliminated spur positions. This reduces short shoots and gives a more even bud push across the canes. Coturri insists upon no canes crossing over the head and, instead, leaving the head area open, so that the clusters don’t end on top of each other. The new training creates better air flow through the fruit zone and increases dappled light onto the clusters to produce better phenolics.
Coturri has also improved trellising to allow more precision in shoot positioning and again increase air flow in the canopy, reducing potential for mildew.
Since 2014, Laurel Glen Vineyard has been certified organic by CCOF. To find out more about our organic farming practices, click below
A Brief History of Our Vineyard
19th Century Beginnings
Our vineyard was originally planted to mixed red varietals by German Immigrants at the end of the 19th century, and replanted to Cabernet Sauvignon in 1968 by Carmen Taylor, just prior to the modern proliferation of vineyards in California. The grapes were initially sold to Chateau St. Jean, and at one time provided the backbone of Kenwood’s Artist Series. In 1977, Ms. Taylor sold the property to Patrick Campbell, who would become one of Northern California’s winemaking pioneers and a leading industry figure. Campbell took cuttings from the three acres of Cabernet vines planted by Taylor to develop the 14 acres comprising our vineyard today.
The Laurel Glen Clone
Shortly after Patrick Campbell purchased the vineyard in 1977, he started to expand it. He took cuttings from the existing Cabernet Sauvignon vines, grafted them to St. George rootstock and increased his Cabernet vineyard from three acres to fourteen. At some point he discovered that the clone of Cabernet he had inherited was genetically unique. Eventually, the Laurel Glen clone was certified as a unique clone by the University of California at Davis. Today, our vineyard is planted exclusively to this clone of Cabernet Sauvignon, uniquely well suited to the cooler conditions of the Sonoma Mountain AVA.
Laurel Glen Vineyard was purchased by the current ownership in 2011, a small group of wine lovers led by industry veteran Bettina Sichel. Bettina immediately appointed viticulturalist Phil Coturri to manage the vineyard. A true pioneer and leader in organic and biodynamic farming in California, Coturri started using exclusively organic farming practices in 2011. Laurel Glen Vineyard received certification from CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers) in 2014.