Two Older Vintages of Copain Syrah

I was able to get hold of a few older Copain wines from K and L the other day and I thought it would be interesting to see how they are holding up. The winemaker for Copain, Wells Guthrie, had something of a change of heart in the mid 2000s resulting in a subsequent change in the level of ripeness in his wines. I wanted to see how the wines were holding up, especially after my tasting with Fred Swan in which we tasted the 2002 Broken Leg and the 2002 Eaglepoint Ranch. I thought then that they were holding up well. Yes, they had a higher level of alcohol (around 14.5%) than his current wines but they weren’t overly ripe by any means. In fact, I thought they were rather fresh and structured for ten year old wines. The following wines were tasted over a period of a few days.

Copain Hawks Butte

2004 Copain Hawks Butte Syrah 14.3% ABV

On first opening this Syrah was completely closed down and for a second I thought it was corked because of the lack of aromatics. But the wine opened up and, although still not exactly super expressive on the nose, it’s got a rich mid-palate, not jammy but a little stewy, not exactly a fresh fruit profile. I did get some aromas of blackberry, dust, oak and milky vanilla.

This is not the balanced, elegant style of Syrah that Copain is known for nowadays or, after a decade of age, it’s not showing that way. It’s got very present oak and a glycerine richness that I wouldn’t expect from a Wells Guthrie wine of the present. There’s a tad bit of alcohol coming through on the finish also.

I can sense a balanced wine in there somewhere but it’s not quite there in the 2004 version of the wine. It makes me wonder if this is what Guthrie noticed when he tasted through his wines and had the epiphany to change his style to a more “old world” Syrah style. If it was, then I think he made the right choice because this wine just doesn’t have the structure and freshness that I would have expected and the oak is simply too present.

2001 Eaglepoint Ranch

2001 Eaglepoint Ranch Syrah 14.4% ABV

This wine is definitely more balanced than the Hawks Butte. It has a text book cool-climate kalamata olive character mixed with some nice floral and meaty aromas. Yes, there’s some blackberry, bright cherry and salty plum fruit there but it’s in the background and it’s the savory aromas that really take center stage. The mid-palate has some nice juicy acidity and the tannins are relative smooth in the background. This is a wine that begs for cheese or salty snacks. It’s my style of Syrah and again makes me wonder what happened to Eaglepoint vineyard and why there are very few vineyard designate Syrahs coming out of there.
It’s hard to make a generalization based on two bottles of wine from different vineyards but it’s easy to imagine that Guthrie saw that the mid 2000 versions of his Syrahs simply weren’t holding up well over time. Newer vintages of Guthrie’s Syrahs are coming in under 13% ABV so you can see that he made a substantial shift in style.  I also question how much new oak was used on the either the 2001 or the 2004 and how much that affected the structure of the wine over time for these two bottles.  I would guess the 2004 Syrah saw more new oak.  It could also be that the natural acidity of the Eaglepoint Ranch wine that gave it more structure and cool climate character.  As seems typical with wine, after tasting these vintages more questions were raised than answered.

These wines were sold back to K and L by a private party from a personal collection. It was a rare opportunity to taste the older vintage Syrahs and I’m glad I pulled the trigger when they popped up.

5 thoughts on “Two Older Vintages of Copain Syrah

  1. Thanks for trying these out–I have 2 bottles of ’04 Eaglepoint that I was in no hurry to drink, but might have to pop one this weekend to see what is going on. Hopefully, my bottles are more in line with the vineyard than the vintage in your assessment of the two here!

    • Ooh, let me know what you think, especially interested because it’s an ’04. I have a feeling ‘ 04 may have been Guthrie’s pinnacle of ripeness.

  2. Pingback: I don’t always drink Syrah but when I do… Here are the Five Best Syrahs I tasted in 2014 | sólosyrah

  3. A few days ago I bought and opened a bottle of the 2005 Copain Eaglepoint Ranch Syrah. Here is the note I posted on a wine forum:

    “Despite being just over a decade old, the wine is still a dark and opaque garnet, with colour right to the rim. Aromas bursts from the glass with dark fruits, both black and red, as well as sweet mintiness. It also suggests a hint of ripeness and alcohol. The palate however is quite different, it has a dry minerality coupled with leather, dark fruit, and ripe tannins, all the while with an element of ripe fruit and tannins. Quite impressive, a cross between new and old worlds. It is my first California Syrah with this much age and it is difficult to predict how it will develop. It appears to have the structure to age and the fruit to back it up. Definitely a food wine.”


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