Wine of the week: Laurel Glen Counterpoint, 2014 Sonoma Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

The savory flavors of this week's winner, coupled with bright acid, make it a unique, food-friendly cab.|

Randall Watkins is a chemist who can drive a forklift.

The winemaker with this impressive scope is behind our wine-of-the-week winner - the Laurel Glen Counterpoint, 2014 Sonoma Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon at $40.

This is a cab that has great structure, firm tannins and yet it manages to be fleshy. It has aromas and flavors of juicy raspberry fruit with cassis, anise, a hint of mushroom and cracked black pepper in the mix. Its savory flavors, coupled with bright acid, makes it a unique, food-friendly cab.

Watkins said “savory” is a key component of the Counterpoint’s house style.

“Classic cabernet sauvignon has both ripe fruit and a brilliant savory side,” he said. “In the ’90s, many wineries began picking grapes later and later, and the wines produced were lusher and higher in alcohol, residual sugar and new oak. ‘Herbal’ became a swear word to many winemakers.”

The terroir-driven altitude of the Counterpoint gives the wine its signature style, Watkins said.

“The most important factor in setting Laurel Glen’s Counterpoint cabernet sauvignon apart from others is that the grapes were grown on Sonoma Mountain,” he said. “The combination of high altitude, eastern exposure, even temperatures and low yields translates into a cabernet sauvignon that has higher natural acidity and greater affinity for food than the blockbuster cabs produced elsewhere in California.”

Watkins has winemaking in his blood; he grew up on a small vineyard in Santa Rosa’s Bennett Valley.

“When I was 10, my father made his first vintage of home wine,” Watkins said. “It was great growing up in the country in Sonoma County, and memories of early crush experiences later inspired me to become a winemaker.”

The business card of Watkins, 47, says “Grape Squisher.” He studied at UC Davis, earning a master’s degree in Enology.

Laurel Glen was purchased in 2011 by Blue Sky Vintners LLC with 10 partners. Bettina Sichel is the managing member of the LLC.

“None of my partners are in this for a quick return,” she said. “We are all wine enthusiasts who are excited to be continuing to build upon the pedigree of the Laurel Glen Vineyard.”

The flagship Laurel Glen Vineyard Estate Cabernet Sauvignon retails for $75. The Counterpoint sells for nearly half that price.

“We work really hard,” Watkins said, “to over-deliver on quality.”

Peg Melnik

Wine, The Press Democrat

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