Dupuis: Wells Guthrie Strikes Again
Wells Guthrie, who has reached acclaim in the No-Cal food-and-wine world, has now produced some of California’s most terroir driven and food-centric wines.
Through his original winery, Copain, he helped to create and cement Mendocino’s Anderson Valley and Yorkville Highlands as a place for elegant, world class Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah. After two decades of success, Wells decided to sell Copain.
Wells stayed on as winemaker but this was not destined to last for long. Wells has a strong and focused vision of what the wine he makes should be and how his grapes ought to be farmed.
That vision began to rub up against the needs of a multinational corporate owner and so when the opportunity came, to purchase a 40 acre redwood covered property high above the Anderson Valley, Wells jumped at the chance. He made the decision to leave and start all over again.
Dupuis is the result of that decision.
Unlike at Copain with its fancy tasting room and large staff, Dupuis is a two man operation with most days just Wells and his sole employee in the vineyard and the winery with occasional help from his wife and family.
In many ways, this a return to his roots--having learned his craft from some of Europe's most dedicated and celebrated vignerons.
It began in the Northern Rhone Valley where he worked for two years at Chapoutier, then following stints in Burgundy with Frederic Mugnier and Domaine Dujac.
It was in Burgundy that he picked up the nickname "Puis", meaning "well" or "wells'' in Old French. Upon returning to California, he worked under Ehren Jordan and Helen Turley. In 1999 he founded Copain and spent the next two decades at its helm.
The property that he purchased sits above the town of Boonville. He carved a small winery from a dilapidated barn and planted seven acres of Pinot Noir. Dupuis means “of Wells” appropriately named since this property and winery are the full realization of his vision:
A small winery located next to his home and short distance from the vines in the wild and remote Anderson Valley. All guests are treated as old friends and sit down to a meal with the Guthrie clan.
The Anderson Valley has long provided Wells the ingredients he needs to make the type of wine that made him famous. Mountain top and hillside vineyard, with diverse well drained soil. While not a true transverse valley, the northwest/southeast orientation has the same effect. Cold air and fog from the Pacific come through in the evening dramatically cooling down the warm summer days.The local Redwoods are a sign that this is goold place for Pinot Noir, whose vines love the cold soil as much as those coniferous giants.
All of this allows Dupuis to produce wine that has deep and concentrated flavors but that always remains light on their feet. Minerality is always present and the Anderson Valley's cool climate rocky terroir is front and center. These share a strong similarity to the early Copain wines before the ramp up in production, but more focused and precise
The plan is to keep things small at Dupuis. Aside from the estate fruit, they produce wines from some of the vineyards Wells made famous at Copain. His long relationships with those vineyards owners allow him to choose only the best plots, something that is very evident in the quality of the wines.
There's something really satisfying seeing a winemaker like Wells come full circle. As an original member of “In Pursuit of Balance”, Wells helped to expand the perception of California wines.
The lighter alcohol, more delicate and food friendly wines he makes and champions are now considered among the best our state makes. At Dupuis, Wells is proving once and again that he is a master craftsman and farmer dedicated to the most elegant expression of the Mendocino Coast.
The deep well drained alluvial soils with rounded galet stones, produces a wine with orchard fruits and lemon curd flavors balanced by a vein of mineralty and bright acidity. They are foot tread to extract phenolics from the skins followed by fermentation and aging in neutral french oak barrels.
Depuis’ tiny lot of estate fruit produced a wine with lifted floral and dried pine needle notes to the dark red fruit aromas. Expansive on the palate with a minerally edge to the red fruit flavors that finishes with bright acidity and talc like tannins.
The light sandy well drained soils consistently produce a high toned aromatic wine with savory earthy notes to the beet root, rhubarb, and crush red fruit flavors.
The Benedict pinot showcases the complexity this region produces with balance, purity. Persistent flavors of dark red fruits and earthy undertones of beetroot and wet earth. The silky texture is balanced by bright acidity and fine grained tannins.
Baker Ranch consistently produces a syrah with Northern Rhone-like palate weight, aromatics and flavors. This organically farmed syrah is fermented 100% whole cluster, utilizing native yeast and aged in neutral oak barrels. The light sandstone soils are truly reflected with floral spicy aromatics and crunchy peppery red and dark fruit flavors.