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Zen and the art of Cabernet Sauvignon

May 4, 2011 12:37 pm - Posted by Tracy Ellen Kamens in Drink

At 25, Patrick Campbell belonged to a Zen Buddhist colony in Sonoma County. Although he already possessed a master’s degree in religion and was a professional musician, he wasn’t certain what his ultimate path would be. Among his first tasks at the colony, Patrick Campbell was assigned to tend the community vineyards, which ignited his passion for viticulture.

Three years later, Campbell left the Buddhists to pursue his new path and purchased vineyard land in the Sonoma Mountain AVA, which had originally been planted in the late 1880s.

Campbell spent his initial years selling grapes to Chateau St. Jean and Kenwood until the lure of making his own wine became too powerful to ignore. He experimented with a barrel or two until he felt confident that he could make wine on a larger scale. Consequently, he produced his first vintage in 1981—the Laurel Glen Cabernet Sauvignon.

Thirty vintages on, Campbell has much of which to be proud. Laurel Glen was included in Paul Lukac’s book, Great Wines of America: The Top Forty Vintners, Vineyards, and Vintages and has developed a loyal following.
However, Campbell’s path with Laurel Glen has come to an end. Instead, with his recent sale of the winery, Bettina Sichel picks up where he leaves off.

Sichel’s current journey began in November 2008 when a conversation with a friend ended with his statement, “We should buy a winery together some day.” After hanging up the phone, Sichel realized that it was the perfect time to consider such an opportunity. By July 2009, the investors and an action plan were in place. Knowing that they wanted a winery with name recognition and a good history, Sichel found Laurel Glen to be a perfect fit. She acknowledges that it wasn’t easy, but notes that buying Laurel Glen “is the culmination of everything I’ve worked for.”

Sichel is joined by winemaker Randall Watkins, consultant winemaker, David Ramey and viticulturist, Phil Coturri. Under Coturri’s tutelage, the vineyards are being farmed organically, along with a focus on dry farming, a more open canopy and fewer clusters per shoot.

But, despite these changes, Sichel holds fast to Laurel Glen’s illustrious history and stressed that the vibrant acidity that is characteristic of Laurel Glen will remain untouched. With Sichel at the helm, the winery is poised for continued success.

Written by Tracy Ellen Kamens, Ed.D., DWS, CWE

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