Copain tasting at Craft

Hi all, occasional lurker, first time poster here. I had the good fortune to attend a winemaker’s dinner at Craft’s private dining room in NYC last night, organized by Wells Guthrie and his fearless sidekick Jennifer Derrick, with able assistance from Craft’s wine director Kristie Petrullo(?) and ex-Cru sommelier extraordinaire Robert Bohr, who I believe may also now distribute Wells’ wines (at least I remember him saying he’s now longer with Polaner). At least one fellow Berserker, Alan Chan, was in attendance, and it was great to meet him and his merry cohort including Alan, Wendy, and Eric(?). A fantastic time was had by all, and a big thank you to Wells, Jennifer and Copain for putting on such a great (and free!) show for us. I’ve been a list member for longer than I care to admit, and I can honestly say that nobody has better customer service in the business. Nuff said, on to the wines already…

We started off with a trio of ‘06 pinots (Wentzel, Monument Tree, and Kiser En Haut), which according to Robert had been opened about an hour and a half earlier, with no decanting. At this pointed we were seated with just bread and water, and these wines, with Wells’ new style, clearly could have benefited from some food (as was confirmed later when the Monument Tree and Kiser en Haut made a second appearance with dinner). But it was fascinating to watch them evolve even over the course of 45 minutes or so. This was followed by a flight of '07s (Wentzel, Monument Tree and Baker Ranch), which made for an interesting comparison. Overall, the style of the '06s was leaner, with more pronounced acidity and bright red berry flavors. The '07s were fuller and leaning more toward the black fruit spectrum, though clearly still in a lower alcohol/higher acidity style. I have to admit, I liked the '07s better for their immediate appeal, but I wonder whether the '06s were starting to close down, and whether they won’t be better 5-10 years from now. For sure, the '06 Kiser En Haut was for me the Copain wine of the night, and was just singing by the time we got our second glass with dinner. Food was, BTW, also outstanding. For those that are curious, here’s what we had:

First course: Seared diver scallops with fava beans
Main course: Roasted rack of pork, seared monkfish with ramp puree, potatoes au gratin, roasted wild mushrooms with thyme
Dessert: mixed cheese plate and miniature cinnamon donuts

Flight #1
2006 Copain Wentzel Pinot Noir
Vibrant ruby red color, strawberry and candied cherry nose. On the palate, seemed to have the lowest acidity of the three in the flight, and thus was the easiest drinking, but lacking the complexity of the other two. 88 pts now (with upside). My #3 of flight.

2006 Copain Monument Tree Pinot Noir
No detailed notes on this one from the first tasting, but this really rocked with the food. Ruby red,medium bodied, pomegranate and acai berry on the palate, bright acidity, clean and moderate finish. Very good. 89 pts first showing (#2 of flight), 91+ 2nd showing.

2006 Copain Kiser En Haut Pinot Noir
Tight as a drum at first, but with a seductive nose of rose petal, strawberry, and allspice. Really improved over an hour, developing complexity and nuance. Each sip was a new and different tasting experience. Spicebox, raspberry, floral notes on the palate. Tasty stuff. Sucks that this is the only '06 I don’t own." onclick=";return false;. 92 pts first showing (#1 of flight), even better later.

Flight #2
2007 Copain Wentzel Pinot Noir
My notes say “very similar to the '06”. Started off with a nice open nose but seemed to shut down quickly. Not giving much, but the acid structure/balance suggests a promising future. 89 pts now (#3 of flight)

2007 Copain Monument Tree Pinot Noir
Wells explained that this is one of the few (maybe the only?) pinot he did with some whole cluster, which I think in this vintage was 30-50%. By comparison, there were no stems in the '06 Monument Tree, or in any of the other ‘07s. He explained that this was still a work in progress because he likes the purity of fruit you get without the stems, but man-oh-man, this wine was rockin’ so keep experimenting Wells! A knockout nose with blackberry, herbs de provence, and forest floor. Still maintains that vibrant acidity on the palate, where it is medium-full bodied. Very Volnay. Killer juice. 93 pts. (#1 of flight)

2007 Copain Baker Ranch Pinot Noir
This was supposed to be the Kiser En Haut, but there were some “transport issues,” so this became a last-minute substitute, and a fine one at that. Would have been nice to try the '07 En Haut vs. the '06, since the '07 is the only Copain from that vintage I’ve cracked and it was outstanding, so I would have loved another data point. Oh well. The Baker Ranch was definitely the most accessible/user-friendly of these two flights and was drinking very well. No other detailed notes, but I finished this first, so it couldn’t have sucked. 90 pts. (#2 of flight).

We then retired to the lounge/bar area for some passed appetizers (razor clams were to die for) and a mixed bag of French stuff. I can’t remember the vineyard on the Roulot, so maybe someone else can fill this in. There was a champagne that I did not try, but can you blame me…there was Chave!!!

1994 Chave Hermitage Blance
I think this was my first Chave, so it was cool to see what all the hype was about. Some thought this might have been a bit over the hill, but I enjoyed it. Color was a bright pale straw yellow, with the Marsanne dominating on the nose. Medium bodied, with some grass, wildflower, lemon peel, honey on the palate. Good but not mind-blowing stuff. Probably a good thing, 'cause I can’t afford to get into Chave. 91 pts.

2002 Guy Roulot Meursault “Luchets”?
I had two samples of this, one of which rocked, and the other of which was pre-moxed (shocking). The good one was outstanding, surprisingly Chablis-like as there was no noticeable oak, vibrant acidity, and a prominant mineral streak. I don’t drink a lot of Meursault, but this was a benchmark to me. Man I was pissed when I went back for a second glass (yes, passing on the Chave) to find it oxidized. Probably for the better, more pinots to come!

Flight #3 (with dinner)

2006 Copain Monument Tree Pinot Noir
Second glass of this wine, and mentioned before, and really hitting its stride now. 91+ pts (#2 of flight).

2006 Copain Kiser En Haut Pinot Noir
As alluded to above, this was just sick with the food. Actually, even before the food, I could tell the added airtime really benefited this wine. I can see why some Burg-heads would love this…I did! Elegant, refined, balanced, light on its feet and amazingly complex with a long, long finish. Terrific stuff. 94 pts (#1 of flight)

2002 Rousseau Clos St. Jacques Premier Cru
Now this was a treat. Mr. Bohr organized a New World v. Old World tasting featuring Copain and some or Burgundy’s heavy hitters a year or so ago, and this was Round 2 if you will. Wells, ever modest that he is, said he just wanted to showcase some of the wines he feels are his benchmarks in Burgundy…essentially, his heroes/role models. In any case, this was a very nice wine, and my first CSJ, so take my opinion with a grain of salt. Subdued nose, very elegant strawberry/red fruit, fine lingering finish. A pretty wine, but lacking that extra dimension IMHO. 91 pts (#3 of flight).

2002 Liger-Belair Vosne Romanee "Aux Reignots"
A stone’s throw from La Romanee, this may be the closest I ever get to tasting this luscious nectar. Unfortunately, this bottle was flawed, likely by brett and maybe also VA. Initially, the nose was all varnish and paint thinner, which blew off to some extent, but all I got was band-aid, barnyard, and smokey-matchstick flavors. Clipped finish. Sucks because I think other bottles were fine based on smell alone. NR (flawed).

Flight #4 (syrahs)

2004 Thierry Allemand Cornas “Reymand”?
I always thought that Wells’ wine were good reflections of a Northern Rhone style, but I guess I need to recalibrate my scale. THIS is Northern Rhone in all its savage beauty. Crazy wild nose of saddle leather, herbs de provence, black olives, smoke. You can smell the 100% whole cluster. Really, I could have sniffed this all night. Still a bit lean on the palate, but filled out with air and time. Ridiculously long finish that I could still taste earlier this morning. An epiphany. Must find some. 95 pts. WOTN.

2007 Copain Hawks Butte Syrah
This has always been my favorite vineyard in Wells’ arsenal, and Wells seems to think this is his finest yet. Inky purple, tooth-staining stuff, but clocking in at only 13.4% IIRC. Muted nose, opened somewhat with air (mine didn’t last long enough to reach full potential), reflecting lead pencil, blackberries, and minerals. Really good, but not a fair fight against the Allemand. 91 pts for now.


funny scott - i, too, sometimes convince myself of copain being n. rhone-esque, but next to a stunner like the allemand, i’d image a quite change of heart.

i’m glad to hear the allemand is drinking well. i had a few shortly after release and they were incredible. i can’t wait to see these in a few more years time.

welcome Scott; tasted with Wells at Copain recently, loved the Monument Tree Pinot…great stuff. ki

pissed I missed it copain must be the largest selection in my cellar.

Glad it was so good, how do I get informed in the future of such events?

Scott, great to meet you too. I’m glad you posted, I had meant to trade info with you but missed you at the end of the night. Great notes, I think you managed more detail than I did. I’m planning to get my notes up later tonight; we have much agreement and some interesting differences too. Cheers and welcome!

Thanks for the notes, sounds like a great tasting. I have not picked up any of the '07 Monument Tree, but now I’m really tempted.

All these Copain notes recently are making me thirsty [berserker.gif]

wow, I’m glad I was busy last night or I’d be bummed that I didn’t know about the tasting.

Thanks for the update on the 2004 Reynard, good to hear.

god, more Copain notes being consumed and tasted around and compared to french. Dig it. Scott, I appreciate you adding to the list of them.

In our recent dinner, I seemed to prefer the 2006 pinots to the 2007 pinots, at least at this stage. I even remember sitting next to Arnie Caplan and he preferring the 2007 Monument Tree, for example, with me liking the 2006. Our notes from our recent dinner with Wells here in the OC is linked below for reference. These are more in tune with what you offered in your post above, as opposed to the 2009s that I posted on yesterday." onclick=";return false;

Keep 'em coming!

Allemand has three additional years of age? Not sure this was a straight up comparison.

Thanks for the warm welcome everyone. It’s good to be here!

Alan, sorry I missed you at closing time. Was trying to get a chance to grab you but my friend was ready to take off and I was way overdue at home. Anyway, I’m sure we’ll cross paths again soon, and I’ll be sure to be packing Anthill!

Mike, Yes, not a fair fight, and I imagine the Hawks Butte will be a much better wine in 3 years. FWIW, I’m drinking my '02s and '03s now, and even then, sparingly.

Drew, I heard about this by email directly from Jennifer at Copain last week. I shot her an email back to keep me in the loop as the schedule was tightened up and she did as promised. It was originally scheduled for Thursday but they pushed it up to Monday. I’d contact her and let her know you’d like to be informed about upcoming events. I think this is part of the “new Copain” as announced in their recent newsletter/mission statement, with them making a big effort to host more dinners/tasting events for loyal list members. Not that they need to. I’d buy this stuff till I’m broke…or the wife threatens divorce.

FMIII, I saw and really appreciated your notes on the '09 barrels (posted a reply there earlier this AM). Your notes and perspectives on Copain are spot on and completely mirror my thoughts. Man sometimes I wish I lived in California because I haven’t tasted at Copain since 2004, when they were still holed up in a warehouse in Santa Rosa!


Oh, and I forgot to clarify my statement about the '06s vs. '07s. What I meant to say was “across the board, the '07s were a better group,” but the WOTN for me was the '06 Kiser En Haut, followed by the '07 Monument Tree and the the '06 Monument Tree (2nd showing). Actually, two of my three favorites were '06s. Hmmmm. But the '07 showed much better right out of the gate with the '06s requiring more time to come around. I bet the results would have been different if the bottles had been opened that morning instead of at 5pm.

Here are my notes from the same event, below. First, a brief prelude:

Several weeks ago I posted on eBob about my concern about being able to meet the 12 bottles purchased per year requirement to stay on Copain’s list. Now it’s time to post about the flip side of that coin - the wines themselves.

In recent weeks I have been tasting pinot purchases to evaluate which mailing lists to stay on. Rivers-Marie and Rhys are a few of the other producers whose pinots I’ve been having lately. After recently tasting the 07 Copain Tous Ensemble pinot, I’ve decided that I can’t give up my spot on the Copain list because I like the wines too much - they strike a unique balance point for CA pinots that I like perhaps more than any other producer. So, I have started exposing some of my friends to the wines in order to put together a case to split. Happily, shortly after that, I also got an invite from Copain sent to mailing list members about a Copain tasting event in New York. On to the notes, which I apologize are a bit uneven and sparse in places, because I was concentrating on conversations, etc.

COPAIN DINNER AT CRAFT NYC - New York (4/26/2010)

This was an event held by Copain Wines for mailing list members, with winemaker Wells Guthrie in attendance.
2006 Copain pinots

  • 2006 Copain Pinot Noir Wentzel Vineyard - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Smoke on nose. Nice silky, almost watery mouthfeel. 90-91 (90 pts.)
  • 2006 Copain Pinot Noir Monument Tree - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Prettiest nose of the 3 Copain pinots in this flight, at least right now. Sweet fruit, some vanilla, smoke, caramel. A little denser in mouthfeel than the others (Wentzel, Kiser en Haut).
  • 2006 Copain Pinot Noir “En Haut” Kiser - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Nose shows some olive, licorice. Also silky watery feel (meant in a good way) like the Wentzel.

2007 Copain pinots
Kiser en Haut was intended to be part of this flight too, but the 07s did not arrive in time so Baker Ranch was substituted in.

  • 2007 Copain Pinot Noir Wentzel Vineyard - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    A little Burgundian earth/ mud/ funk on nose. Something pretty and a little high toned, with sweet fruit too. A bit of toasted rice cracker as well. Very pretty on the palate, with juicy acidity. 92+. Pretty use of oak here. (92 pts.)
  • 2007 Copain Pinot Noir Monument Tree - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Some density here. Slight bitterness to the tannin, possibly from the stems. A little flinty funk on the nose here.
  • 2007 Copain Pinot Noir Baker Ranch - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Lighter, open, fruity nose than the other Copain pinots. Similarly light on palate. Tasty sweet light fruit. 90-91. A bit of caramel develops in time on nose. (90 pts.)

Hors d’oeuvres reception
There was a champagne served first to kick this off, but I seemed to have forgotten the producer. Does anyone remember?

  • 2002 Domaine Guy Roulot Meursault Les Vireuils - France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Meursault
    Wasn’t able to keep detailed notes but this was very good white burg, 91-92+, balanced, restrained, consistent with Roulot bourgognes I’ve had before in terms of style. (92 pts.)
  • 1994 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage Blanc - France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Hermitage
    A bit stony, restrained - so much so that I think this was somewhat corked. Not having had Chave Hermitage blanc before, I didn’t question it at the time and go back for a different sample. Didn’t get much of anything from this. Judgment reserved. NR (flawed)

Copain meets Burgundy
Wells talked about how his wines wouldn’t be mistaken for burgundy, but he did want to capture some of what he likes about red burgundies: notably palate weight, and going for a savory aspect. I think the part that makes the Copains among my favorite CA pinots is their acidity, which in my opinion strikes a balance more comparable to burgundies than almost any other CA pinots.

  • 2006 Copain Pinot Noir Monument Tree - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Some dirt and funk coming out on the nose now, the second time around. Olive/ licorice as well. Nice; upgrading to 91-93; showing very well. Sweet fruit, good juicy acidity. Pretty red berries, very pleasing. (92 pts.)
  • 2002 Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Clos St. Jacques - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru
    Faint Asian spice, slatey funk, tiny hint of Brett/band aid on the nose, as well as a bit of mothball. Savory on the palate, bits of olive and soy. Complex, with spice. Terrific acidity. Final take on this is, again: so complex. 92-94. (93 pts.)
  • 2006 Copain Pinot Noir “En Haut” Kiser - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Deeper nose, ever so slightly figgy. Bit of black olive. Excellent acidity. Great balance with the fruit. 92-93 (92 pts.)
  • 2002 Domaine du Vicomte Liger-Belair Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Aux Reignots - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru
    Flinty with a bit of charcoal on the nose. Similar on palate with a lively juicy acidity. Very burgundy - balanced, a bit savory and stony on the palate. Nice wine but shows the least well of this flight, which WG agreed with. (91 pts.)


  • 2004 Thierry Allemand Cornas Reynard - France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Cornas
    Amazing, crazy nose of leather, lavender, many other things. Similar on the palate, with medicinal cherry, olive, leather, provencal herbs. Terrific wine, but honestly, may have more going on here than I want in one wine.
  • 2007 Copain Syrah Hawks Butte Vineyard - USA, California, North Coast, Yorkville Highlands
    Shows oak, underbrush, and a savory edge on the nose. Palate shows vanilla oak, sweetness to fruit. A bit of licorice and olive too on the nose, with more air time. Good, and very CA, but comes off as a bit simple next to the Allemand.

It was very gutsy of Wells to let his wines be tasted in the company of greats like Chave, Roulot, Rousseau, Allemand, etc. The Copain wines definitely showed as New World but held their own. Obviously, the lineup was outstanding and it was generous of Copain to reward their fans with a terrific night of great wines and food. It was also nice to see Wells again, a year after he was kind enough to do a video interview with me for my blog; he was gracious and humble as ever yet unwavering in his vision for the wines he’s making.
Posted from CellarTracker

Hey Alan,

Thanks for sharing your notes. As you alluded to, many convergences and a few differences of opinion. And thanks for correcting me on the Roulot vineyard.

Guess you liked the Wentzels more than I did. They seemed to me to have the least verve and lacked as much of that “nervous energy” Wells tries to capture, at least compared to the others in the flights. I’m sure they might show differently if I had the time to contemplate more than a 2 oz pour. I wonder whether we got different samples of the Liger-Belair…a few others at our table noticed the same heavy varnish on the nose initially, and this was as bretty a wine as I’ve ever encountered. I went back to the row of empty bottles afterward and found that one of the three was particularly stinky. I sniffed some from Wells’ glass and his seemed OK as well. But without a doubt, for the same $, I’ll take 6 Kiser En Hauts vs. 2 CSJ or 1 Liger-Belair any day.


Scott, we must’ve gotten different bottles of the Liger Belair - I got a heavy stoniness to it and good acidity but nothing like nail polish on the nose. I liked the 07 Wentzel quite a lot but I don’t remember much about the 06 now, but it might’ve been my least favorite of the Copains. The Copains did show very well against the pricier burgs, I agree; because of the more generous fruit I might even say that most non-die-hard burghounds would pick the Copains.

By the way, are you on CT/ what’s your handle?

I guess I need to try the Allemand and find one, put it next to the 2007 Hawks Butte. I think the HB is a tremendous bottle of wine, one the best I have tasted this year so that Allemand must be off the hook, or, or, maybe it’s preference of palate. flirtysmile

Hi Frank,

I noticed from your signature that you’re a fan of the '07 HB. Believe me, I’m a big fan of this vineyard, right up there with JB, Eaglepoint (can’t beat this for the coin) and the erstwhile Broken Leg. I think the nose on the Allemand was so exotic that the Copain never stood a chance. Of course, I would have liked more than 20 minutes and 2 oz. to contemplate it, but oh well. I’m happy to own some so I can spend a more relaxed evening with a bottle sometime.


Alan, nope not posting on CT. I think I might have registered at one point, but I admit I’m intimidated at the prospect of entering my inventory, most of which is not in my Manhattan apt. I’m sure I’ll do it someday… It’s easy right?

Scott, imho CT is well worth the initial effort. It helps you to track what you’ve got, virtually browse what you need to/want to drink in the near term, and keep your notes. I love that I can easily look up all the rieslings I’ve tasted, what I’ve rated wines I’ve had from one producer, what percentage of my cellar each varietal comprises, how much I’ve spent this quarter or this year compared to priors, etc. The possibilities are endless. At the same time, every note I’m contributing is adding value to the site and the community as well. It’s a pretty cool proposition all around.

Sounds good except for the bit about tracking spending. No good can come from that. But I do use it extensively as a source of TNs on wines I’m interested in purchasing, so maybe I should give back a little.

BTW, just remembered where else I’d heard your name before we met earlier this week…came across the amateurwino site a while ago while looking for information on Bedrock. Still haven’t tried their juice but I dig your blog man!