Saturday, December 11, 2010

Copain goes white

When Wells Guthrie founded his own label Copain in 1999, his main focus was Pinot Noir and Syrah. He built the foundation of his philosophy from what he learned in France, where he travelled and worked before he started Copain. In Burgundy he was particularly impressed by the wines of Chambolle-Musigny (he often refers to domains such as Dujac, Roumier, Mugnier and Groffier), and in the Rhône Valley he found the inspiration in the wines from Thierry Allemand and August Clape in Cornas, and Jamet of Côte-Rôtie.
Although Wells had turned into a true Francophile, his first vintages wasn’t that French in style. Sometimes alcohol levels jumped up to 15 percent, but most of the time his wines were elegant compared to other Californian wines.
With 2006 vintage, Wells have taken a new direction, with earlier harvest, lower pH and sugars, which have resulted in much more profound wines with lower alcohol (around 13 percent for his pinots, slightly higher for his syrahs), higher natural acidity, greater finesse, and above all that, more intensity and elegant flavor profiles. His 2009 vintage, of which most of his reds are not yet released, is his best vintage ever.
And in 2009, he added, for the first time, a white wine.

2009 Chardonnay Brosseau Vineyard / 93 p
Since Chalone achieved it AVA status back in 1982, it has been referred to as a single winery appellation, with the well known Chalone Vineyard as the only winery. But there are actually a few other vineyards, five to be precise, and Brosseau Vineyard is one of them. This is a cool appellation at 450-500 meters above see level in the Gavilian Mountains, overlooking the Salinas Valley in Monterey County. With daytime temperatures of 17-22 degrees Celsius, this is a very cool appellation, and wines from here turns out to be very elegant with high natural acidity and, if red, a firm structure.
In 2009 Wells purchased some Chardonnay from 30 year old vines here to make his first white. He fermented the juice in neutral French oak barrels, five to six years old, so there is no oak flavor at all here – which is great. The oak just add some texture to the wine. Another smart move was to never do any bâtonnage, and even though the wine went through full malolactic fermentation, the acidity is lively and fresh (pH is 3.12), which in combination with lovely notes of minerals, adds focus and complexity in the perfectly dry and long finish. In many ways, there are a lot of burgundian styled qualities in this superfine inaugural vintage of this chardonnay. Although this wine may keep very well, it’s at it best quite young. It’s a good idea to decant it half an hour. Serve it at 12-13 degrees Celsius.
Drink it 2010-2017.


  1. Michael - Happy to see this post re Copain's Chard on your site, and I've enjoyed reading your blog. A few quick notes. First, Wells has done a few different whites prior to his 2009 Chardonnay, including a Viognier and some other Rhone varietal whites. I believe, however, that 2009 was his first Chard. Second, Clape and Allemand are in Cornas.

  2. Hi,

    Thanks for the feedback, and comments on the whites I didn't know about (although I visited Copain twice).
    And of course I know that Clape and Allemande are in Cornas - it was just a stupid mistake of mine (too fast, too wrong).