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Copeland Creek Vineyards

Sonoma Coast AVA

"Our intent was never to be the biggest. What I am personally interested in is being the best."

Even though its first vines were planted over thirteen years ago, it is only recently that the smallish Copeland Creek Vineyards has emerged as a really top producer of quality Sonoma County wines.

The story behind Copeland Creek can be easily traced to two individuals with similar sounding names, Peter Pfendler and Don Baumhefner. The fact that one is Swiss and the other is German leads us neatly into the remainder of the story.

Peter Pfendler is the owner of Copeland Creek Vineyards and its sixteen acres of mixed varietals. His property is located near the top of historic Sonoma Mountain and also can be found in the adjacent Russian River Valley. Pfendler is of Swiss heritage and originally from Indiana, where his father was an agriculture professor at Purdue University.

After graduating from the Air Force Academy in the mid-1960s, Peter Pfendler served as an F-4 fighter pilot in Vietnam. When his Air Force commitment was completed, he decided to attend Harvard Law School and graduated in 1973. He never practiced law and instead moved to San Francisco.

After a year with a large capital equipment leasing company, Peter formed Polaris Leasing Company in San Francisco, a company involved in the lucrative commercial aircraft leasing business. While he officed in San Francisco, Pfendler bought a piece of property near the top of Sonoma Mountain near Petaluma for his residence.

In 1980, leasing giant General Electric made Pfendler an offer he couldn't refuse and purchased Polaris Leasing. Peter Pfendler was still a relatively young man who suddenly found himself retired.

"I had bought the land on Sonoma Mountain with no thought of ever growing grapes," Pfendler recently admitted. "At first, I mainly farmed the property and actually ran some cattle back there."

Enter the second part of the Copeland Creek equation, Don Baumhefner. As the first wine director of the renowned Santa Rosa restaurant John Ash & Company, Baumhefner had built his wine resume and reputation in the on-premise side of the wine industry. A chance meeting in 1983 with Peter Pfendler at a restaurant where Don's wife was chef produced an ongoing friendship that has lasted more than two decades.

After several friends' suggestions, Baumhefner was instrumental in getting Peter Pfendler to plant some some six acres of his Sonoma Mountain property. Pfendler thought the vineyards would look good on the property and also agreed that the project might be fun to do. After allowing for proper vine development, a decision was made to produce a wine from the 1997 vintage, with Baumhefner serving as winemaker during the process.

"When the wine was finally finished," Baumhefner recalled, "I was delighted because Peter really liked the wine. We only produced 150 or so cases, which we either drank or gave away to friends. More importantly, Peter decided the quality was good enough to attempt to make more."

For the next few years, the entity produced a number of wines, and in 2001, released its first commercial varietal. The wine was cleverly called Happy Lab and came complete with a picture on the label of Pfendler's favorite Labrador named Willie. An additional wine was produced under a different label and a third wine was made under the Copeland Creek Vineyards label.

"To be honest, it was all a little confusing," Baumhefner readily admitted. "A decision was soon made to bring a semblance of marketing continuity to the business and everyone involved agreed that Copeland Creek should be the surviving entity. After all, the Copeland Creek Vineyard pays homage to Copeland Creek that originates on the top of Sonoma Mountain and eventually empties into the Russian River. The creek itself borders our vineyard. It is the thread that connects all our entities."

Only 1600 cases of the initial 2001 release were made available to the general public and met with instant critical acclaim. Baumhefner also estimates that Copeland Creek will ultimately produce between 3,000 and 3,500 cases for the future. An additional six acres were recently planted bringing the total acreage under vine to a little over sixteen.

"Our intent was never to be the biggest," Baumhefner added. "What I am personally interested in is being the best. Our new plantings will definitely help us achieve that goal."

We are confident that Copeland Creek Vineyards is well on its way to producing some of the best wine in California, which is why we are so excited for our Platinum Wine Club members to try their phenomenal work. Enjoy!

Map of the area

Dear Platinum Wine Club Members

Picture of Dear Platinum Wine Club Members

Copeland Creek Pinot Noir supports the old adage, "great wines are made in the vineyard, not the winery." The location of our vineyard near Petaluma is one of the coolest vine growing sites in all of Sonoma County. Summer morning fog lingers longer and cooling ocean breezes reach us in the early afternoon before making it up to the Russian River. Consequently, this cooler microclimate allows us to harvest ripe, mature vineyards. The resulting lower level of alcohol produces a more balanced wine.

Clonal selection is the other key factor in determining the ultimate quality of our grapes. The Pinot Noir clones now available have elevated this varietal from its status as Cabernet's weak stepsister to its rightful place as the "Queen of wines." At Copeland Creek Vineyards, we have both California and French clones: the Joseph Swan clone (chosen from vines selected by Joe as being the very best in his vineyard) and the French clones 114, 115, 777 as well as their latest (and many say their greatest) 828 clone (and the promise of the 943 clone we planted this year) are testaments to their 25 years of clonal research.

As a winemaker, I would like to say that it is what I do in the winery that makes this wine what it is. But, it really is due to what I do not do. Minimalism defines my winemaking philosophy. Our traditional practices respect an inheritance of wisdom in knowing when and how to stand back and let the flavor of the grapes speak for itself - as opposed to allowing the personality of the winemaker to dominate. This is what enables our wine to fully reflect the glory of its unique terroir.

To your health,

Don Baumhefner

Winemaker, Copeland Creek Vineyards