Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Local Boy Makes Good

It happens every day that someone from small town America pulls it off and really does make it into the spotlight. What really makes it special is when that person is someone that you know personally, and maybe even hung out with in high school.

Neil Cooper is just one of those people. Coming from the grass seed fields around Stanfield, Oregon, Cooper is just one of those fun-loving guys that you’d expect to see fueling up at the Pilot Station any summer afternoon.

Now switch scenes with me, and imagine a simple but upscale wine tasting room and barrel storage facility on the gateway of Sunset Road on Red Mountain. Just outside of Benton City, Washington. The virtual cornerstone of the Washington wine industry, with grapes from the vineyards around the winery drawing some of the most prestigious recognition possible.

As of last Saturday, the 11th of September, Neil Cooper now has firm hold of that cornerstone property, and has launched his brand of Cooper Wine Company wines. Located in a completely renovated facility that was once Seth Ryan Winery, Cooper has definitely done it right.

With help from Charlie Hoppes and staff from Fidelitas, Neil was able to build the winery basically from scratch. He has spent the last few years buying barrels, tanks, and equipment, not to mention juice, to get his winery off the ground with resounding success.

So, enough about the facilities and the land. How about the wines? Well, I can tell you that I tasted through all of them, and will share with you a few of my favorites.

Cooper offers two whites. A Pinot Gris, and a Chardonnay. The 2008 Pinot Gris has a nose that offers up light floral accents of orange flowers and mineral. The flavors are a nice blend of floral and citrus, with a clean finish. Perfect for evenings on the porch.

The 2008 Chardonnay is beautifully advanced. Butter and citrus on the nose leads to wonderful caramel cream flavors from the perfect malolactic fermentation.

Neil’s focus is on Bordeaux wines so it only makes sense that his first wine L’inizio (the beginning) is a wonderful Bordeaux blend. The wine wakes up your nose with hints of black pepper and spice box, leading to flavors of oak, vanilla, dark stone fruit. The finish is silky smooth.

Cooper’s lineup of Cabernet Sauvignons is amazing. To taste through them is not only fun, but educational as well. He has 2007 vintages from Walla Walla, Red Mountain, and Columbia Valley. Each one having its own flavor characteristics and strengths.

Because my palate tends to lean towards jammy flavors with vanilla accents, I found myself at the Grand Opening really leaning toward the 2007 Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose starts off with dark berries and jam, with slight undertones of spice and mocha. The flavors are rich with berries and vanilla, with a long silky finish.

If you have the chance to break away to Red Mountain I know that Neil would love to see you. The winery is located at 35306 North Sunset Road in Benton City. Maybe you can catch up on old times and enjoy a bottle. If you can’t make it up to the winery I suggest you get onto his wine club at www.cooperwinecompany.com .



  1. We saw the grand opening sign, should have stopped…. We were there with friends from Seattle who have never been wine tasting in Eastern Washington, so we were their guides for a long weekend. We made our way to the Red Mountain AVA. First tasting was at Terra Blanca Winery, then lunch at Col Solare. Next we tasted wines from Tapleil Wines, and then to Hightower Cellars were they were crushing Merlot!!!!!! From Hightower we stopped at Hedges Family Estates were the wine maker Pete Hedges was on hand. Fidelitas was our next stop. Our last stop was at Kiona Vineyard Winery. We had Dinner at Tuscany Rustic Italian Bistro, it was good to see Susanne, Jessie and yes Malone again.

  2. Tried to stop by last week, arrived at 4:10pm, and there was a sign on the door that said "Be back at 3:45 -coop" with a guard dog at the same door. There was a truck trying to make a delivery five minutes later. We waited another ten, no sign of the owner or any of this supposed staff, who had no problem serving us at Fidelitas instead. In my mind, not the most professional way to run a winery, but we'll try again next week.


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