Another WAwineman classic, originally posted Jan. 31, 2010.
One aspect of my appreciation for those who live in the Columbia Valley AVA is their farm-friendly personalities. While these folks would make for poor poker players, they all come across as true and honest, to the extent that their expressions to a question say more than the words they are about to reply with. These are the type of individuals who know what real physical work is, via working the land, and understand that it really does involve a village-mentality approach to teamwork to accomplish individual goals. My kind of people. Let me introduce to you, Mr. Neil Cooper. His friends call him ‘Coop’. Born 39+ years ago in Hermiston, OR (pop. 15k and best known for the Umatilla Army Depot that Coop likely snuck into as a kid), he only knew farming as a way of life. Never worked at Nordstrom or the Aunty Anne’s pretzel shop. Coop went to college at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo (best known as the 1st municipality in the world to ban smoking in public buildings, including bars and restaurants) and participated with the waterski team. Those practices at Lake Nacimiento (and Lopez Lake) drew him to Paso Robles, and further up Hwy. 101 to Napa where he ended up “spending more money on wine than food.” Starting to understand his sense of humor? He returned home to start up Basin Direct in 1998, a grass seed company, that grew to international operations within 10 years. He helped develop the prolific bluegrass varietal called “Full Moon”, which he later sold the rights to. An astute businessman, he foresaw the troubled waters ahead in his industry after his dealings with “big business”, including a rather tense meeting with a Benelux conglomerate.
As destiny would have it, Seth Ryan Winery lost its heart and soul with the passing of Ron Brodzinski in late October, 2006. Coop did his research and closed the deal to acquire the valuable property on Red Mountain in September, 2009. He has developed 8 of the 45 acres into restored vineyards and recently pulled his first harvest at the end of September. His first section of vineyard will be named “Monte Rosso”, or Italian for Red Mountain. Fyi, he’s of English descent. He plans to reform the remaining acreage in the next 10 years and name that section “Mac-Jak” after his two adorable, just simply beautiful, children. Coop, have that backhoe running when suitors come by to check on your daughter! Coop chose Red Mountain land for its exclusive territory. Red Mountain AVA, at 4040 acres, is the smallest AVA in Washington, and one of the smallest (and most highly-regarded) in all of America. The area is “big, bold, and hot.” He is a member of the board of the Red Mountain Appellation Alliance, which includes all vineyard, winery and landowners within the appellation.
If you still haven’t figured out Coop’s savvy, consider his wine mentor in Charlie Hoppes. Charlie was the 2003 Winemaker of the Year for Seattle Homes and Lifestyles magazine. This, at a time when only the truly hardcore vineyard-istes dominated the landscape. Charlie owns Fidelitas Winery and his wines are given “cult” status among the local winos (like moi). Disclosure: I own two floor-busting bottles of his 2005 Champoux cabernets, which I am dying to open once Jess gives me the ok. Coop volunteers his time at Fidelitas and helps manage the winery’s vineyards. No surprise that Coop’s first vintage was bottled at Fidelitas. Coop’s marketing team includes Loren Hoppes and Joe Farmer. Loren is the Business Director for Football Operations at Nike and assisted in acquiring the label art of the orange-fence with the peeling white-“C”, which cost $10 for the JPEG. Let’s hope that Coop’s remodel of his barn will faithfully reproduce the image for authenticity’s sake! Joe is the graphic designer from Vashon Island (Twitter @plowfella) that finalized the rest of the label. Joe wanted “frontier” lettering to match the art but Coop wisely insisted on modern lettering to appeal to the new generation of wine drinkers as well as represent his age-defying looks. The label design started out simple like a Corliss label then moved to Col Solare’s Shining Hill label before settling on the eye-catching burnt-orange and ivory colors. Beautiful label, guys! Coop utilized his network to get into some wonderful vineyards for his first bottling vintage and he picked a great year in 2007 to begin vinification. First releases include: a red wine, two cabs (Columbia Valley and a Walla Walla version), and a 2008 pinot gris from Goose Ridge Vineyard.
Coop will have two wine clubs: a Founders Club, limited to 50 (22 already signed up) that will enjoy 20% off purchases and have their name on a post in the vineyard! Hip! And, a Coop Club that will entitle a 15% discount, 3-bottle shipments three times/year, and exclusive tastings and winemaker dinners.
Cooper Wines are made to reflect a lifestyle, “a way to share…the ideals of hard work, dedication to perfection, and our continuous determination to always create a product or experience that is gratifying.” Amen.
Coop has a 12 year-old daughter and 8 year-old son and an equally stunningly handsome chocolate…I’m guessing, lab named “db”. And, a knockout-looking girlfriend from Lind, WA in Suzanne. Forget Vancouver, BC, the honeys are from Lind.
Coop hesitatingly answered the following questions from my favorite part of the interview (he read my previous reviews):
Q: What has been more difficult: making wines or managing the vineyard?
Q: Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast or Wine Advocate?
Q: Bugs Bunny, Smurfs, Thomas the Train?
A: Smurfs. (Suz and I were in shock.)
Q: “If I didn’t make wine, my favorite Washington State wine from this year’s RELEASE is…
A: Fidelitas 2007 Boushey Vineyard Red Wine. From Oregon, Cana’s Feast 2005 ‘Bricco’ sangiovese.
What else you should know about Coop: member number 67 at Fidelitas Winery; 1st memorable wine was a 1991 riesling from a Pasco winery (won’t be named here) at $22/case; at an expensive California wine industry meeting, he met Peter Mondavi who after finding out where Coop was, asked “Can you afford to be here?”; at a Kansas City restaurant, he met a prominent celebrity who also owns a winery in Calistoga, CA and had an engaging conversation (won’t be summarized here but you can find out who on his Facebook “Cooperwine” site; and why a pinot gris…because he likes it (think…he’s from Oregon). He resides in a scenic area of Richland, off exit 5A/B from I-182. And, “L’inizio” is Italian for “the beginning.”
Futures: 150 cases of a white wine (not allowed to divulge); prominent involvement for “db” (again, not allowed to divulge); and an 09 vintage that is 1/3 Estate, 1/3 Red Mountain, and 1/3 Columbia Valley.
Time to wine.
Food pairing. I emptied a section of my fridge for this. Savory-coated baked chicken, veggies in black bean gravy, steamed cabbage and bok choy, and meatloaf. No, I can’t just whip out a porterhouse or filet mignon like other reviewers can, even though I think a thick slab of Prosser beef or Ellensburg lamb chops would be ideal.
Color: firm purple-black. Nose: expensive oak, blackberry pie, dark plum, purple flowers, wild blueberries, brambleberry, black blossoms, grandma’s spice cupboard. Mouthfeel: tingling and full. Tail trail: 8 seconds. Flavors: see Nose as flavors are true. 54.54% cab sau, 30.30% merlot, 9.09% malbec, 6.06% petit verdot. Alcohol: 14.9%. Vineyards: Boushey, Conner Lee, Red Mountain, Weinbau, Northridge, Stillwater Creek. Balance: black fruit and new French oak. Power: muscular like a “D2”. Depth: enough to bury a coffin. Finesse: smooth, thought-provoking, time-stopping. Music pairing: Robert Cray’s “Smoking Gun” from Strong Persuader album, the song that led to his national fame. Caution: this wine will stop a conversation or thought in midstream. Tannins: sweet, quiet, gripping. Comp’d but should retail around $35-45. 196 cases. Value: $50. This is WAwineman…uncorked, uneducated but not uncouth.
Special thanks to Tim and Lisa (and Isabella and Zach) at Village Wines as we kept them overtime.
24hr post: paired this with a tri-tip steak. Spot-on call. This wine demands the blood of a cow. Excellent!