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Bruno Michel "Blanche" Brut Champagne $34.99One of our best non-vintage Champagnes, this organically grown blend of half each Chardonnay and Meunier comes entirely from Bruno Michel's estate. It has been aged for six years on the lees and shows wonderful natural toasty quality as well as incredible vibrance! This was the big hit of our most recent staff Champagne tasting and we think you will love it too.

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Entries in Copain (2)

Monday
May062013

Blasting Through Sonoma: A Euro Palate's Perspective

Euro wine geek Eric Story puts Sonoma to the test, with surprising results!

By Eric Story | K&L Alsace, Austria, Croatia, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary & Loire Valley Wine Buyer

A European Palate in Sonoma?

Let's start off by getting one thing straight, I DO NOT HATE CALIFORNIA WINE. In fact, it is just the opposite. One of the best wines that I have ever had was from this great state. What I am adverse to is the utilitarian recipe, gimmicky marketer style of wine which--let's face it--exists in all wine regions, but is a trend born largely from California and its influence on the industry in recent times. You know the wines that I'm talking about - wines that lack all individuality, presence of place and, worst of all, a complete disregard for integrity and pride. Get 'em fruity, a dash of this, a dash of that, make some friends in the right places and you got yourself a 92 pointer. Mmmm, well done!

But enough with my ranting.

When I found out that I would be included on the Sonoma tour along with one of our domestic buyers, Michael “Lead Foot” Jordan, Patrick “I’ll Hang In There” Cu, and Scott “Can I Have a Nap” Beckerley I was pretty fired up to say the least. I have been a fan of Sonoma for quite a long time and was excited to get my teeth purple and make my gums sore. Many asked why one of the import buyers was going on such a trip. This answer is simple: my name was the first to be pulled out of a hat. But, there is a more serious purpose: I have deeply immersed myself into the belly of European wines for the last 10+ years, crudely ignoring my own back yard. Pretty weak on my part. It was time to step up the game.

So, we were off, bulgey eyed and full of coffee, up the 101 corridor. We made our appointments in a timely manner, for the most part did our thing, grabbed a few tacos from a truck on the side of the highway – a must do for any occasion – went to sleep and did it all over again the next day. We tasted A LOT of wines, but the purpose of this trip was getting to know the faces behind the labels, getting your shoes dirty in the vineyards -  the bigger picture kind of thing. I was curious about the back story behind these producers and the whether the wines were points-driven or a product of passion.

This is just a starting list of highlights of the many wines tasted that to me reflect this intimate relationship between the land and farmer, all are currently in stock at K&L:

2011 Cyprus Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($21.99) K&L Notes: The 2011 Cyprus, from our friends at Brack Mountain Wine Company, is made from fruit grown at Dutton Ranch Mill Station Vineyard in Green Valley. Entirely barrel-fermented in a combination of new and neutral French oak, this viscous, nutty Chardonnay rewards with pear, citrus and green apple fruit on the nose and palate. Long and satisfying.

2010 Copain "Tous Ensemble" Anderson Valley Chardonnay ($19.99) K&L Notes: As with his Pinot Noir, Copain founder Wells Guthrie aims for a Burgundian expression with the 2010 Tous Ensemble Anderson Valley Chardonnay. Very limited use of oak and "hands off" winemaking results in a clean, bright Chardonnay that is balanced, food-friendly, and made for immediate enjoyment.

2010 Porter Creek Mendocino County Old Vine Carignane ($22.99) K&L Notes: In addition to the lovely range of wines made from the Porter Creek estate in the Russian River, the winery makes a small amount of old vine Carignane from an organically-farmed, 60-year-old vineyard in Hopland, Mendocino County. The juice is aged in half large wooden tanks and half small barrels for 11 months, rounding out the grape's rustic edges while imparting just a little bit of spice on the nose and palate. None of the wood character overpowers the pretty red raspberry and strawberry fruit, anise qualities or peppery elements that make this surprisingly elegant wine and a joy at the dinner table.

2009 Acorn "Medley" Russian River Valley Red Wine ($34.99) (Blend of 44% Syrah, 14% Cabernet Franc, 13% Sangiovese, 11% Cinsaut, 7% Viognier, 5% Muscats, 3% Zinfandel, and 3% other varietals) K&L Notes: Field blended, food-friendly wines are the specialty at Acorn Winery and the "Medley" exemplifies this philosophy - a blend of field blends that sings in harmony. Winemaker Bill Nachbauer co-ferments 18 different varieties including syrah, cinsault, mourvèdre, viognier and black and white muscats, zinfandel, sangiovese and cabernet franc in two lots with different yeasts. After fermentation the lots were pressed into 50% new oak barrels for aging. The lots were then blended after three months and aged further prior to release. The 2009 is a crowd-pleaser, with lots of plum and black fruit, pepper, and chocolatey oak spice.  To learn more, check out Patrick's post about our visit to Acorn Winery here.

Here are a few snapshots...  

Porter Creek is a family-owned and operated winery located alongside Porter Creek, one of the Russian River's major tributaries. To showcase their unique hillside terroir, this father and son team focuses on Rhone and Burgundian varietals, which they farm organically to produce primarily vineyard-designated wines,but the make some killer Zin and Carignane!

K&L's Michael "lead foot" Jordan (left) with Porter Creek winemaker Alex Davis.

Wells Guthrie founded Copain in 1999 with the intent to produce Pinot Noir and Syrah in styles inspired by his travels and experiences in France, where he was influenced by producers in Burgundy and the Northern Rhone.It took ten years for Copain to release a Chardonnay, the first vintage of which was 2009.

Tasting at Copain.

In a nutshell, the wineries visited included Iron Horse, Porter Creek, Ridge, Copain, Acorn, Alexander Valley Vineyards, Stonestreet, Preston, Bella, and Brack Mountain Wine Co. Overall, as a native to the area,  I experienced a great sense of pride and a vision for a fantastic future by the end of those two days. We are surrounded by ton of the “recipe” wine in California but if you look deeper you will find wines and producers with a great sense of being and a story to tell. Every winery we visited had real people with a passion behind the wine.

These are the people that are making, not only each other better but everyone else better too. These are the men and women who are setting new standards each and every year and lending inspiration to those who are looking to become the best at what they do, because they are the best at what they do. These are the people who think Sonoma is a special place, care about the land they are farming, the people that they work with and ultimately the quality of wine that goes into the bottle which gives them their identity. We have to remember that most of these wineries are typically first, maybe second, rarely third generation. Hopefully this type of commitment and passion will be passed down another ten of fifteen generations, and I think that it will.

Thank you to all who opened their doors and took the time to share all of this with us. It was and is appreciated many times over. And, to those of you who we missed, don’t worry, we’re out there and on the prowl.

-Eric

 

Tuesday
Sep112012

Sonoma Road Trip Stories, Part I: Copain Winery

Copain Winery

By: Sarah Covey | K&L Staff Member

A recent trip to Sonoma with Bryan Brick, Jim Boyce, and Kyle Kurani means many fun and educational Road Trip reports! I have a few stories to tell, and you will see my stories interspersed with Jim and Kyle's stories here for a while to come. As I put it in my thank you email to the people within K&L who made our trip possible: "The trip to Sonoma helped me personally to have a true understanding of the passion of the winemakers we visited as they spoke about what they do, to stand on the soil where their grapes are grown and to be able to see what they see in their visions for the future of their businesses. These kind of trips put faces on the bottles on our shelves, and help us develop a holistic understanding about the business we are in." We hope you enjoy reading our stories as much as we enjoyed creating them. Cheers!

Copain Winery, Healdsburg

Copain Winery was founded in the hills of the Russian River Valley in 1999 by Wells Guthrie. Tucked away atop a quiet hillside with a spectacular view, one feels an immediate sense of calm upon entering the property. Sitting on the terrace overlooking the valley on that warm summer morning, we were treated to a lovely tasting of Copain’s full portfolio, accompanied by delicious French and Italian cheeses.

First, some history: Mr. Guthrie worked as the Tastings Coordinator for Wine Spectator magazine for many years, and during his tenure there, he fell deeply in love with the wines of France- most specifically, the wines of the Rhône Valley. He decided to move to France to learn the art of winemaking from the people whose wines had inspired him. He worked as an apprentice to the famed winemaker Michel Chapoutier for two years, and was impressed not only by his experience with Chapoutier, but also by the general European attitude that wine is an essential part of life. He returned to California and apprenticed with other famous winemakers in Napa Valley before starting a winery which would reflect this same philosophy.

Wells Guthrie started his winery with an old friend, naming the winery Copain, which means “friend” in French, in tribute to their friendship. He chose to focus on pinot noir and chardonnay, and with his background in the Rhône, syrah also made perfect sense. Originally, Copain’s wines had much bigger fruit, but as time went on, Guthrie realized that the wines he was drinking at home- older French wines, lower in alcohol and higher in acidity- were the kinds of wines he wanted to produce for his clientele. Through the courageous act of changing his style to reflect this need, Copain has become even more successful than before. Sourcing fruit from a variety of vineyards, he worked with the landowners to plant the vines as he directed, and also dictated specific vineyard practices he wanted them to implement to get the results he was looking for, guaranteeing them that in return he would purchase all of the grapes if they did so. This practice continues today, Guthrie is able to create wines that show a distinct expression of the vineyard sites from which they come.

Tasting at Copain

Our tasting was hosted by Ezra Chomak, Copain’s gracious tasting room manager. We had the good fortune to try the full portfolio of Copain’s current offerings, which was a treat as we have just a few of the wines here at the store. We started with a couple of lovely 2010 Chardonnays, one from Anderson Valley AVA from the Tous Ensemble vineyard and another from the Brousseau vineyard in the Chalone AVA. The “Tous Ensemble” was all stainless steel with 10 months on the lees and no malo. It showed apple, pear, honeysuckle and brioche with a soft sweetness and medium acid. The Brousseau came from a 40 year old parcel with limestone and granite soil. It saw neutral oak for fermentation and ageing; its’ profile was of apple, bright pear, white flowers, butter, vanilla and toast. Combined with the brie on the plate in front of me, I could have been very happy to stop the day right there and just stay on that patio for the rest of our trip! Up next was a wacky, deliciously lip-smacking 2009 wine called “P2” from the Hein vineyard in Anderson Valley. It was 50% pinot noir and 50% pinot gris- a departure for Copain’s traditional Burgundian style. Cherry, smoke, earth, game, mineral, citrus, floral and somewhat ethereal, it was fresh, crisp, and had juicy acid. Incredibly food-friendly, quaffable and would be delicious with a slight chill on it.

Following these wines we tasted of a couple of Copain’s wines that we carry here at K&L, which was great for us to experience sitting on the terrace of the winery. First, the 2009 “Tous Ensemble” Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. This wine, translated from the French as “all together” is a blend from several vineyard sites within the southern part of Anderson Valley. Red cherry, spice, mineral, earth, some game, raspberry, hints of smoke. Medium plus acid and medium plus but fine tannins. Delicious! It appears that the 2009 is sold out, but the 2010 "Tous Ensemble" is here! Next was the 2009 “Les Voisins” Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, a wine which we sell out of almost immediately upon receiving it! “Les Voisins” means “the neighbors”, so logically these 3 vineyards are literally next door neighbors to one another. The vineyards are about 10 miles from the coast, in the Northwest corner of Anderson Valley, and as such, the sites are considerably cooler. Appropriately, the wine showed those cooler climate characteristics- red cherry, mineral, soft smoke, game, spice, strawberry, rose. It had medium plus acid, medium plus tannin, and was well-balanced and elegant.

Up next were a couple of wines from the Kiser vineyard sites. First was the 2009 “En Haut” (meaning above) Anderson Valley Pinot Noir and then the 2009 “En Bas” (meaning below) Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. Differences in the vineyard sites include: 1) the elevation- En Haut is at 800 feet and En Bas is at 650 feet and 2) the soils- En Haut is compressed sandstone, with almost no clay, while En Bas is clay and crumbly sandstone. Both sites produce distinctly different wines, classically styled, and with great potential to age.

2009 Copain "Les Voisins" Yorkville Highlands Syrah ($34.99)It was Syrah time, which I was admittedly very excited about. We started with a wine we carry- the 2009 “Les Voisins” Yorkville Highlands Syrah. Again, the wine is a blend of grapes from 3 neighboring vineyards, which have schist and granite soils, planted on the sloped mountainside of the rocky Yorkville Highlands in Mendocino County, which rise from 600 to 2500 feet in elevation. Guthrie employs whole cluster fermentation for 30% of the wine and does not use new wood for ageing. The wine was full of ripe blackberry, violet, and plum- quite floral for not co-fermenting with viognier, which is traditional in the Rhône for syrah. It also had a savory meaty character classic to Northern Rhône syrah. Amazingly, the wine was only 13.9% alcohol- so well-balanced that it fooled all 4 of us sitting at the table.

We tried two syrahs after that from the Brousseau vineyards in the Chalone AVA- the 2008 Brousseau Chalone Syrah and the 2010 Brousseau Chalone Syrah. The 2008 was blackberry, black plum, licorice, cedar, spice, rose petal, meat and an interesting cherry cola note. Refreshing at only 13.5% abv. The 2010 was much more high-toned, violet, plum, blackberry, black cherry, cassis and white pepper. It surprised us again at 13% abv. I had no idea that syrah could have this much depth and not be ridiculously high in alcohol. Eye-opening!

Ezra poured us a final wine to show us how far Guthrie’s wines had come- the 2009 James Berry Paso Robles Syrah. While loved for the character and expression of syrah from this area, Guthrie is choosing to focus further north in Anderson Valley and the Yorkville Highlands in the future. The James Berry was beautiful. The wine was another 100% syrah, this time from chalky limestone soil, a vineyard which lies 6.7 miles from the coast- so the range of temperatures between day and night is quite great. This means that the fruit gets ripe during the day but holds its acid at night, something very important for syrah. Strawberry, raspberry, cassis, mineral, violet and flowers, it felt much less like a classic syrah, but still very interesting, drinkable and delicious.

It was hard to drag us from the table, as we all wanted to just relax and enjoy a nice lunch, but many appointments beckoned. I have firm resolution to return, next time with a picnic and a loved one.

 ~Until Next Time,

-Sarah