2009 Road Trip: Day 4--Copain and Wind Gap...TNs and Photos

Well, it was a great trip. Having now posted the first three days already, fondly, it’s time for the last day but a great day it was with Wells and Pax.

Each year for the last 5 years, we have made time to visit Wells Guthrie of Copain. I initially discovered Copain through my early love for Zin, attending ZAP and I believe drinking what at that time was the 2003 Copain Arrowhead Mountain, which Wells BTW no longer makes. I then signed up for the Copain list, which allowed me to get a drip of Garys’, Hawks Butte and Les Copain. I took it, began to then drink more syrah, buy more Copain and the rest is history. I no longer have any of the Copain zin, but I have a whole buncha syrah, with Copain as my #2 inventory behind Carlisle.

With Wells, you get a quiet calmness, and if you have met him before, you know you get someone who is passionate, very passionate about Rhone-style wines and making wines in the rhone ways. He’ll talk to you about Cornas, about Cote-Rotie, Hermitage…the producers he follows and styles he incorporates like Allemand and Jamet. He’s been suggesting I buy these wines for several years and it’s close, so close to becoming reality for my cellar. Thus, I always look forward to visit with Wells, to taste the current vintage in barrel and then visit with the bottled vintage. On this trip, we did just that, sampling the 2008s in barrel, then tasting over lunch the 2007s in bottle.

Before I offer some TNs and photos, I want to express my own feelings about how 2008 hit Copain. I’m not prompted to offer this but I felt a sadness, a disappointment for Wells, his team, when we visited, as the 2008 vintage, with its frost and smoke hurt. The barrel room is about 1/3-1/2 less full then past years, and I can see how it impacts him. Knowing Wells, he’s not going to release a shitty product or one that he has to screw with…it’s counter to his style of staying true and letting the wines talk, without intervention (a theme I will also note and affirm about Pax below). I just want to pass on back to Wells and everyone back at Copain, I am behind you guys and even though production for 2008 will be a challenge, I will look forward to my 2008 offers and support you 100%. 2008 was a tough year for some, let’s not forget that.

Heading back to the wines, in as much as the vintage took a whack to the options, Wells took us through the 2008 pinots and syrahs. And, as some of us have talked before about the new vision for Copain, it is rolling forward, which pains me some as more fruit could have meant more chances for Wells to build that vision more quickly. However, Wells stayed the course and so I offer the following barrel and bottle TNs, along with photos.

2008 Kiser Pinot Noir–fortunately, this vineyard is north enough, into the Deep End of AV, that the fruit survived. As with Kiser, bright flavors, minerals, red apple, cranberry, slate and intensity. I have three barrels noted and I liked all of them.

2008 Hawks Butte Syrah–this barrel was neutral, with 50% whole cluster. (As Wells dials in the syrahs into the new style, I think we should continue to see a balancing of the whole cluster and even further diminshing new wood, which is already comparably low–if that doesn’t thrill you, then you need to move onto some other wine variety…it pumps me up.). As for this barrel, blue flowers, blue fruit, meat, a hint of menthol, red cherry, an inky stain down the glass and mineral.

2008 Garys’ Syrah–as has been the case with Garys’ in the past, and reinforcing the style comment I just made about the Copain direction overall, once again Garys’ here is ALL neutral wood and 100% whole cluster. Very dark, with licorice, espresso, and just a purity that makes my arm hair stand.

2008 James Berry Syrah–chalk, blueberry (eartheir side of it), mixed in with some red fruit, slate and again, excellent purity.

2008 Brosseau Syrah–was being kept in the very large barrel, and again, neutral with 50% whole cluster. This one is more pinot-like in flavor: red raspberry, blueberry, chalk, high tones and some tartness. If you think my pinot reference is crazy, buy some on release and prove me wrong. Wonderful stuff and always one of Rob’s favorites but he can speak for himself.

2008 Halcon Syrah–a new property from AV, and if Paul Gordon is perusing this post, I hope he adds some color, as he owns this vineyard, I believe. Again, I use the word pure, and by god, it is. Blue-driven flavors with some add of black, along with edges of acidity, dark espresso…my notes say “liquid chalK”. I never have concluded this TN perception before but this is how the wine resonated for me. Focused and dialed in. Bitchen.

Now, for the bottles. We tasted through a bunch of the 2007 pinot noirs and also 2007 syrahs. They are noted below, along with a couple photos to keeps it real.

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2007 Copain Pinot Noir Baker Ranch - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley (6/7/2009)
Touch of spice, cherry, strawberry, raspberry with a hint of hard candy on the edge. Pebble, as well. 13.5% alcohol.

2007 Copain Pinot Noir Clos Pepe Vineyard - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Rita Hills - Sta. Rita Hills (6/7/2009)
14.2% alcohol. Juicy, bigger in texture than the Copain Anderson Valley pinots we tasted along side. Creamy side, with minerals and a tight finish. This is larger framed for what Wells now does but it works for me and shows another style CP fruit.

2007 Copain Pinot Noir Hacienda Secoya - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley (6/7/2009)
13.5 % alcohol. Round and spicy, moreso than the 2007 Baker Ranch bottling. Fleshy, with sweet red apple, minerals and rasberry. Delicious.

2007 Copain Pinot Noir Monument Tree - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley (6/7/2009)
50% whole cluster, 13.8% alcohol. Big minerality here, with a sweet and pure raspberry, light strawberry, candied red apple.

2007 Copain Syrah Baker Ranch - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley (6/7/2009)
13.5% alcohol. A laser beam of white and black pepper aromatic. Silky palate, hint of chocolate, black raspberry and cherry. The finish is soft and easy.

2007 Copain Syrah Garys’ Vineyard - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands (6/7/2009)
Like with the Thompson, this wine is so frigging pure it hurts. Hint of pepper, beef jerky, and polished with a chalky edge and a bittersweet char finish. As with past Copain Garys’, 100% whole cluster and made in neutral oak. As pure as it gets, bitchen.

2007 Copain Syrah Harrison Clarke - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley (6/7/2009)
13.7% alcohol. Smells of blue flowes, with beefy and sensual black fruit but there is no sweetness, no ripe notes here–just pure dark fruit with chalk and neon color. Blueberry extract, too. I continue to dig the H-C fruit and how Wells does it.

2007 Copain Syrah Hawks Butte Vineyard - USA, California, North Coast, Yorkville Highlands (6/7/2009)
13.4% alcohol. Like with the Thompson and Garys’, another pure syrah. Hint of pepper, dark color, silky and a liquid minerality. This wine needs time, space to grow into itself as it is so young. Delicious and excellent.

2007 Copain Syrah Thompson Vineyard - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County (6/7/2009)
14.5% alcohol. Yes, a big wine with rich and dark fruit but like with the Harrision-Clarke bottling, there is no sweetness here, just pure fruit. My notes have the word “bucket” underlined, to express a bucket of blue and black fruit. Also has an earthy push. Pure and tarry with a dark bittersweet chocolate. With all the lineage to Copain Thompson and my past comments about it, this for me is the best Thompson yet and the 4 bottles I bought last month on faith, the faith paid off.
Posted from CellarTracker

Then, if it wasn’t enough, Wells decides to pull some bottles from his personal cellar as we enjoy a lunch with him. My god, that panini was perhaps the best one I have ever enjoyed. For those of you who live in the Heldsburg area, go to the Green Grocer. Off the hook.

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But, to the extra wines…(and by god, I drank Chapoutier, so there , and liked it)…

1995 M. Chapoutier Ermitage Blanc L’Orée - France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Hermitage (6/7/2009)
Enjoyed via the courtesy of Wells Guthrie. During lunch, Wells grabbed this bottle from the cellar to help us understand where he sees white wine, where his style and passion evolve from. 100% Marsanne, crushed rocks, minerals and a lemon chiffon nose. The color is yellow gold. As much as the nose portends richness, and even with the glycerine lemon-oil notes and marmalade, the wine is not sweet or cloying. Very nice and a first for me in this kind of wine.

1999 Thierry Allemand Cornas Chaillot - France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Cornas (6/7/2009)
Cherry and char, with pure red cherry flavors. We didn’t give this much time to breathe but where the treat came for me on drinking this was watching Wells Guthrie light up with how much he spoke of this wine, what it means to him and his own search for style.

2006 Domaine Denis Bachelet Côte de Nuits Villages - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Côte de Nuits Villages (6/7/2009)
12.5% alcohol. Lots of flavor, with pebble, black cherry and asian spice on the nose. Pretty nice and Wells tells me this won’t break the wallet for burgundy.
Posted from CellarTracker

Since we needed to be at Wind Gap to see Pax around 2PM, we were already late and man, what a time we were having but we had to bail so we got Jennifer to snap a photo of the gang and Wells. To Wells, bravo! The wines are smoking good, pure and the best from Copain I have had to date, from any vintage…stay the course, brother.

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So, we close the trip, getting lost on the way to Forestville. We get there late but Pax is hanging out, ready to go. It’s been a while since I have seen Pax and it was good to see him, despite his busted wing. I still recall with great fondness a visit to Pax back in 2005 when we barrel tasted stuff with him. I remember the Walker Vine Hill barrel, will never forget how good it tasted. I still love Walker Vine Hill, as much as I love Castelli-Knight (which you will see below).

The new Pax project is called Wind Gap and is based in what I’d call an old barn, off the beaten path in Forestville. Pax sunk some capital into the place and has made it his own. Down to earth, rustic and totally functional and cool. Pax had the new releases in bottle lined up for us, along with some samples from barrel. I admit, I signed up for the Wind Gap list early on, as the approach intrigued me but when the mailer first hit several months ago, I was under water $$-wise. However, Rob got us hooked up with Pax and I was eager to taste what Pax had taken his new vision to. In sum, I like it and I put my money to the task and bought nearly a case. Those wines are all listed below, along with the samples and a few photos.

One thing about Pax, and like Wells, the passion and commitment to the wines is evident. Pax is not shy about the move to a simple green glass bottle, one manufactured right here in CA, a smaller bottle no less, standard cork tops and keeping it pure. The wines show that, as does his tone and expression. I dig it, I get it, and I like it.

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2006 Wind Gap Wines Grenache Booker Vineyard - USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (6/7/2009)
15.5% alcohol with neutral oak. Of all the Wind Gap wines we tasted, this was the biggest. Thick in texture, pure strawberry and boysenberry fruit. Some game, too. Glycerine.

2006 Wind Gap Wines Syrah - USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (6/7/2009)
13.1 alcohol, with 100% whole cluster and neutral oak. Lots of pepper and a savory nose. Chris called the wine “sauvage” and gamy. Juicy, dark red cherry and a blackberry core. The finish shows a tapenade quality, sweet dark cherry and a soy element. Distinctive and will stand out as unique. And yes, I liked it.

2007 Wind Gap Wines Chardonnay - USA, California, Sonoma County (6/7/2009)
13.7% alcohol. Zesty center with a pineapple and tropical note, also showing a meyer lemon core. If my notes are accurate, I do not believe there is any new wood on this wine. And, a mix of Gap’s Crown and Obsidian vineayrd fruit.

2007 Wind Gap Wines Chardonnay Brosseau Vineyard - USA, California, Central Coast, Chalone (6/7/2009)
12.2% alcohol. Key lime pie, lemon and spearmint…I can still taste the wine as I write the note. Loads of texture, liquid minerality, slate and a tangerine finish. A rich core of fruit but this is all about lots of flavor. Delicious.

2007 Wind Gap Wines Pinot Gris - USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (6/7/2009)
12.3% alcohol. Golden peach in color, with orange blossom notes on the bouquet. A plush palate full of cantaloupe, honeydew melon, kiwi and a bright acidic finish. Despite some of the perceived weight, the acidity keeps the wine lively.
Posted from CellarTracker

As we drank the bottled wines, and I got a sense of things, we tasted some samples, some of which Pax pulled on the fly as we all started to groove the new stuff. Awesome…

2007 James Berry GSM Blend (60, 23,17)–100% whole cluster, 14.9% (admittedly high for Wind Gap, according to Pax, so we will need to beat on Justin some )…all co-fermented, boysen and blue fruit with a jammy edge, silky, but also chalky with a tight finish.

2008 Woodruff Pinot Noir–from Santa Cruz…I didn’t mispeak, Santa Cruz. 12.1% alcohol…again, I didn’t mispeak. Plush, with watermelon, clay, medium color, strawberry and big flavor. Where are the Rhys fans? Delicious.

2008 Castelli-Knight Syrah–Crushed rocks, pepper, bright nose, pure and dark with black raspberry, blackberry and chalk. Dope and all the reasons why I think so much of Castelli-Knight in Pax’s hands. Log me for 3 bottles now.

We had one other sample that was a grenache based wine from Booker, Castelli-Knight and James Berry but I f’d up the note so I will leave it at that.

Before we said goodbye to Pax and slugged our asses back to the airport, a few pictures with Pax and the crew. Pax, keep it up…I love it.

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Overall, I am sold. As I said, I bought just under a case, which probably contributed to Chris missing his flight from Suckramento, with Rob and I just barely making ours, but we all took the same flight home.

Chris and Robo, you guys made it a great trip…AGAIN!

Outstanding report, Frank. These producers are right in my sweet spot, and your notes make my mouth water.


Copain is already on my list to see in October. [notworthy.gif]

Excellent notes as always Frank, thank you!

Thanks for another outstanding report Frank, look forward to it every year. I’m very happy to have a nice amount of Copain in the cellar.

Thank you for a stellar report Frank, I was wondering how that 07 Thompson note appeared in CT!

Forgive me, but I’m in the dark about 2008. What happened, you mention smoke and frost, were there prevelant fires and winters frosts?

Not Frank, but yes, there were bad spring frosts in many parts of California, plus smoke from summer wildfires - worst in Mendocino and parts of Sonoma Coast. Anderson Valley in particular got hammered by both the frost and smoke. 2008 was a tough vintage for a lot of California wineries, but even more so for those that source a lot of fruit from Anderson Valley and other parts of Mendocino as Copain does.