It’s said that good things come in small packages, and that applies to Copain winery.
In 1997, 27-year-old Wells Guthrie, who had only a passion for French wines, moved from California to France’s Rhone Valley and landed a two year stint working and learning at the legendary Michel Chapoutier winery.
After returning home, Guthrie founded Copain winery in 1999 with software developer Kevin McQuown. The winery is located in California’s bucolic Russian River Valley, light-years from the Architectural Digest-styled wineries of Napa Valley.
Copain, which means friend in French, makes pinot noir, syrah and a rose’ wine from grapes of its 60-acre Mendocino County vineyard and fruit purchased from local growers. Recently, I tasted two delicious Copain wines that showed Guthrie’s passion has been transformed to craft.
My eyebrows raised when I poured a glass of the 2012 Copain Tous Ensemble Rose’ Anderson Valley. The bright orange-salmon color and attractive red fruit aromas immediately captured my attention, and my focus intensified when the savory symphony of cherry, strawberry and cranberry flavors streamed across my palate.
Guthrie made this rose’ only from pinot noir sourced from various vineyards in the cool climate Anderson Valley. He fermented it in stainless steel tanks, which preserved its crisp acidity. The medium-body, mouth-filling flavors made the 2012 Copain Tous Ensemble Rose’ a stunning mate to mahi mahi with black forbidden rice.
The 2012 Copain Tous Ensemble Anderson Valley Rose’ will flatter summer dishes ranging from chicken Waldorf salad to a vegetable frittata to grilled salmon marinated with soy, ginger and spicy sesame oil.
Only 1,321 cases of this impeccable wine were made. Don’t miss the opportunity to get yours. The 2012 Copain Tous Ensemble Rose’ Anderson Valley retails for about $25.
A few evenings later, I opened the 2010 Copain Pinot Noir Les Voisins Anderson Valley and again Guthrie immediately captured my focus with the wine’s eye-catching clear red color and the floral and red fruit scents that floated from my glass. My mouth was treated to a savory mix of black cherry and raspberry flavors with tannins and acidity that were in a non-aggressive pact with the ripe fruit.
Where many other California pinot noirs are opaque, alcoholic and oaky, Guthrie as opted for the less traveled road that leads back to his French wine training. This is a pinot noir that is all about the grapes and vineyard and ignores the winemaking style du jour. A miniscule 1,072 cases were made of the 2010 Copain Pinot Noir Les Voisins Anderson Valley; its retail is around $45.
Copain like other small wineries has had it trial in the economic environment of the last five years. McQuown sold his shares to another financial investor, but Guthrie has continued to hone in on his vineyards and winemaking. There isn’t volume at Copain; but there is artistry. Don’t miss it.