As a member of the du Pont family, Gerret Copeland was introduced to wine tasting early on, from the art of the pour to the proper swirl, sniff, sip, swish and spit. It became his lifelong passion.
In the 1980s, that passion ripened into a business when Copeland set his sights on Northern California’s Napa Valley, a renowned winemaking region. Here, Copeland could be the sole proprietor of a winery, whereas in France, American citizens can own no more than 49 percent of a vineyard because of their national treasure status.
He became part owner of the Bouchaine Vineyards, a beautiful boutique winery surrounded by 30 acres of pristine nature; a decade later, he and his wife Tatiana became the sole owners.
Nestled north of San Pablo Bay on the southern tip of Napa—about an hour’s drive from San Francisco—Bouchaine is the oldest continuously operating winery in the Los Carneros American Viticultural Region, which encompasses parts of Sonoma and Napa counties. Dedicated to leaving a gentle imprint, it was Napa Valley’s first Fish Friendly Certified Vineyard and holds a Napa Green Certification.
Dense fog and breezes from the bay make for a cooler climate that’s conducive to making wines like chardonnay and pinot noir.
Gerret is the chairman, working closely with the winemaker, while Tatiana handles marketing and financials as the president.
When the Copelands purchased the property, they wanted to offer visitors two experiences: one in the old tasting room, along with something more modern. The couple set out to revitalize the winery, adding 70 acres to its 30-acre vineyard and introducing a new center building with tasting rooms and a state-of-the-art kitchen. A personal art collection adorns the space—which Tatiana calls a “glowing jewel” for its chic U-shaped design devoid of 90-degree angles— with expansive windows offering breathtaking views of the rows of vines and rolling hills. A recreation space complete with fire pits and communal seating creates a cozy ambiance amid the picturesque setting.
Opened in December 2019, it has drawn wine aficionados and neophytes alike.
Bouchaine specializes in pinot noir, a standout from the typical cabernet seen across the valley. Many Americans prefer younger wines, and a smooth-tasting pinot can be enjoyed sooner.
“Pinot noir is softer than Cabernet” Tatiana says. “I think it is a wonderful complement to dinner because it’s easier to drink.” Pinot Meunier, chardonnay and riesling are among Bouchaine’s other popular varietals.
The new space was built to bring patrons more than the typical wine-tasting experience.
“There’s been an enormous change in how people taste wines,” Tatiana says, noting new demands for a rich experience that includes not only wines but ambiance, food and beyond, especially among younger generations.
Accordingly, chefs—among them Delaware’s Dan Butler of Piccolina Toscana and Tom Hannum of Buckley’s Tavern—travel from across the U.S. to prepare monthly dinners.
The vineyard’s virtual wine-tasting tours have grown in popularity because of COVID-19. For purchase through the website, tours include wine kits consisting of necessity wines, tasting notes and vintage summaries that are shipped to a patron’s home prior to a scheduled tasting, where they are virtually greeted by a private host. In the background, a panorama of the vineyard enhances the experience.
Bouchaine began virtual tastings prior to the pandemic to offer a little “California sunshine” from anywhere, explains Brian Allard, the direct to consumer director, but demand increased as travel shut down.
What began as a fun activity for dinner parties or celebrations has become a way for people to still gather together virtually during the quarantine, he adds. There’s an old-fashioned kind of intimacy that wouldn’t seem possible through a computer screen, but “it’s been very touching at times,” Allard says. “We’ve had old friends and family members get together and cry. It’s been really kind of fun and wonderful.”
It’s also a way for Bouchaine to continue educating the public about wines and winemaking.
“With regular wine tastings, people already know about us. They’re making the pilgrimage. With virtual wine tastings, most of the customers don’t know anything about us beforehand. They’ve heard about an experience they want to do and we happen to be the conduit, and then they discover us that way,” he explains.
Bouchaine is entertaining ideas on how to bring customers back into the tasting room. Whether in the near future or next year, visitors will have the opportunity to see the new building and the reimagined original tasting room, along with the beautiful grounds and garden.
Visitors from Delaware always receive a warm welcome, Tatiana says, with staff pulling out all the stops. For the Copelands, she says, it’s always a joy to see and hear how customers are enjoying the wines and the experience Bouchaine offers.
1075 Buchli Station Road, Napa, California; 800-654-WINE for reservations; 707-252-9065 for the winery; bouchaine.com
Published as “Notes from Napa” in the August 2020 issue of Delaware Today magazine.