Gerret Copeland began to develop his wine palate as a teenager. “Our house was always filled with good food and good wine,” he remembers. “In our family, wine wasn't just part of our lifestyle, it was in our blood.” His parents, Pamela and Lammot du Pont Copeland, were great collectors of fine Burgundies, enjoying a bottle from their cellar every evening. They educated their children in the French tradition, diluting a half-glass of wine with water. As the proportion of water decreased, Gerret's appreciation increased… and by the time he started college, his dining excursions always included wine.
Later, during Gerret's travels to Burgundy, where his imagination and palate were captured by the region's Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, he began dreaming of owning his own winery. “One evening in the early 80s, a friend asked me what my pipedream investment would be. I don't remember what we were drinking on that occasion, but I do remember my immediate response – ‘To own a winery or a vineyard in Burgundy or California.' A year went by, and then my friend called to say that a limited partnership was being formed to purchase a winery in Carneros. My fantasy leapt into fast-forward.”
In 1981, Gerret and his wife Tatiana, along with a group of partners, purchased and began renovating the oldest winery in the Carneros region. They gave a nod to his family's old world heritage by naming it Château Bouchaine. A decade later, Gerret and Tatiana bought out the original partners to become sole proprietors of the winery. They renamed it Bouchaine Vineyards to acknowledge wines inspired not only by the elegant tradition of Burgundy but also the exuberance of Napa. “My role at Bouchaine is to make sure we make the best possible wines from the grapes in our vineyard. Because we are the sole owners, we can easily make whatever changes each harvest calls for, crafting wines that are unique, as opposed to mass-producing something that is standardized.”
Initially the Copelands managed Bouchaine long distance, and then looked for the right winemaker whose desires, vision, and wine palate were compatible with theirs. Gerret likes to say that Bacchus, the God of Wine, delivered Michael Richmond, founder of Acacia, to Bouchaine. Gerret adds, “And of course Michael's alter-ego had to come along with him” – which is how Greg (short for gregarious) Gauthier joined the new team at Bouchaine as national sales manager.
Prior to his involvement with Bouchaine, Gerret developed a successful New York Stock Exchange brokerage firm which he sold to Dean Witter. He resides in Wilmington, Delaware, where he is very involved with environmental causes. He helped establish The Brandywine Conservancy and its Environmental Management Center in Pennsylvania, which protects the Brandywine River Valley from pollution and over-development. For 10 years, as director of the Environmental Management Center, he assisted in preserving thousands of acres of open land in Pennsylvania and Delaware. He is also active with Longwood Gardens, The Mount Cuba Center and the Napa County Land Trust. Gerret currently serves as Chairman of the Delaware Art Museum, where construction of the “Gerret and Tatiana Copeland Wing” was completed in 2007.
Gerret Copeland's palate and his joie de vivre are complemented by his passion for beauty, his dedication to the environment, and his love of wine. For him, Bouchaine is the ultimate adventure. “I have always loved the softness, roundness and fleshiness of a great Pinot Noir. It is a wine of unique charms.”
Tatiana Copeland has a remarkable legacy: her Russian roots date back more than 1,000 years, and composer Sergei Rachmaninoff was her great uncle. She is, in fact, named after his daughter. Her grandmother was one of the first women in Russia to learn to drive – and the first woman to drive a car through Red Square. Tatiana, however, did not grow up in her homeland. Her family, like many nobles at the time of the Russian revolution, was forced to flee their homeland and lost their citizenship, their wealth, and their heritage.
Born in Dresden, Germany, Tatiana soon emigrated to Denmark and then to Argentina, where she spent most of her childhood. “Argentina is legendary for beef and wine,” she says, recalling family gatherings. “As far back as I can remember, we enjoyed wine with our meals. Language and art and music – things which continue to interest me tremendously – became a source of comfort. They were part of the ‘interior life' that I could take with me. Friends, on the other hand, I had to keep leaving behind.”
A true polyglot, Tatiana fluently speaks Russian, French, Spanish, German and English. She emphasizes, “My facility with languages was perhaps the beginning of my ‘global citizenship,' but my mother also imbued me with a sense of social responsibility and purpose.” Her parents were determined to give their daughter the biggest gift for her eighteenth birthday, the opportunity to have a secure future. The family emigrated to the US, settling in California. Tatiana enrolled at UCLA as a foreign student, and was voted the Outstanding Foreign Student her graduating year. She slightly surprised herself with how much she liked numbers, made Phi Beta Kappa, and graduated summa cum laude. One of only two women in her graduating class of 500, she was ranked #1. (The other young woman was #2.) She earned her M.B.A. at the University of California at Berkeley.
She went to work for Price Waterhouse at a time when women in business were very rare. Later, Tatiana's multi-cultural perspective, linguistic skills and strategic thinking made her a natural for posting to DuPont's European headquarters in Geneva. A year later, she was summoned back to DuPont in Delaware, where she met her future husband. They quickly discovered a shared appreciation of beauty, a love of fine wine and food, and a strong commitment to philanthropy. The two were married in 1979.
In 1981, the Copelands together with a group of partners purchased a neglected winery in the Carneros region of Napa Valley, and established Chateau Bouchaine. Ten years later, the couple became sole proprietors of the winery and renamed it Bouchaine Vineyards. Guided by a desire to create a distinctive style of wines, the Copelands and the new Bouchaine team revamped every aspect of both the winery and the vineyards. Tatiana directs the winery's marketing and finances, leaving the wines themselves in the hands of her husband and the winemaking team. Her pencil is at its sharpest when she is balancing beauty and the bottom-line at Bouchaine. “With my CPA background, where Bouchaine is concerned, my head is constantly battling my heart – and sometimes even my husband,” she laughs. “We need to be responsible and make beautiful wines. Like searching for the Holy Grail, it's a challenge, but I think we are succeeding.”
Today, Tatiana continues to exercise her business brain as head of her own financial firm in Wilmington, Delaware. She has made it her personal challenge to use her business know-how, leadership skills and community standing to help with the arts. She serves on the boards of The Grand Opera House (Wilmington's historic opera house) and the Delaware Symphony Orchestra. She also donated a sculpture garden to the Delaware Art Museum and underwrote the new student center at the Delaware College of Art & Design. Her efforts in helping to recreate the “Kalmar Nyckel” (a full-size replica of the ship which brought the first Swedish settlers to America in the 1600s) resulted in her effigy being immortalized with a life-size carving at the ship's bow. She also loves to watch out for the underdog – literally. After Hurricane Katrina, Tatiana rescued 150 dogs abandoned in New Orleans.
Looking out at Bouchaine's vineyards she shares these thoughts, “It's tempting to linger here, enjoying the countryside with a glass of our Estate Pinot Noir. We want our visitors to experience the same connection to the land and the wine at Bouchaine as we do.”
A native Texan, Michael Richmond graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1968 with a degree in special education. He arrived in Napa Valley in 1970, following an eighteen-month cross country bicycle tour. Michael immediately began a career in wine at Freemark Abbey, where he worked in virtually all aspects of operations and attended short courses in winemaking at UC Davis.
In 1979, with moral support from Freemark Abbey, Michael seized the opportunity to co-found Acacia Winery in the Carneros district of Napa Valley. “Though Carneros would not become an official appellation until 1981, a few wineries were gambling on the region's potential – including Acacia's new neighbor, Bouchaine Vineyards, which was also 're-founded' in 1981 by its new proprietors, Gerret and Tatiana Copeland,” said Michael. Acacia was one of the first California wineries to actually feature vineyard-designated wines. He adds, “We had all cast our lot with Pinot Noir, which at the time was a much-maligned wine variety in California. We dared to take on the doubting wine press.”
A couple of vintages later, Michael helped establish The Steamboat Pinot Noir Conference, which will celebrate its thirtieth anniversary this year. The private event (no press, no rankings, no sponsors) is still all about production and camaraderie among winemakers: “Pinot Noir, more than any other variety, has fostered a sense of community, with a climate of openness and goodwill. I credit the Conference with much of the thinking that fostered the growth of Pinot Noir as the viable variety it has become in America,” he said.
When Acacia was acquired by the Chalone Group in 1986, Michael spent several years as Chalone's vice president of sales. In 1993, he returned to winery life when Chalone assigned him to manage their struggling Carmenet Winery. “As part of ‘fixing' Carmenet, I created Dynamite Cabernet – evoking the historical significance of the volcanic vineyard sites blasted out of the rocky terraces, and infusing an element of levity to the brand.” Five years later, Michael returned to manage Acacia for a second stint. Then, at the Steamboat Conference in the summer of 2002, he heard that the owners of Bouchaine were looking for a general manager. “At that moment, I recall, a sense of destiny swept over me.” Not only did Michael get the job, but he also got the hills! “I remember standing out in the parking lot at Acacia, looking across at two steeply terraced hillsides, envious of the viticultural possibilities they implied amid the extensive rolling plains. It was only after I had joined Bouchaine that I discovered they had recently become part of the Bouchaine Estate.”
During Michael's first interview with Gerret and Tatiana Copeland, “I sensed a great resonance of shared vision and purpose. To that end, I introduced them to my alter-ego, Greg Gauthier, suggesting that if they hired me they were going to get Greg – who at the time knew nothing about it – to complement with sales genius what I could bring to wine production and general management. Shortly thereafter, our pact was made.”
Michael has served as vice president of the Carneros Wine Alliance. He has also chaired the community outreach committee of Napa Valley Vintners and served on the Napa Valley Chamber of Commerce executive board of directors.
Greg grew up in Chicago and entered college fascinated by how things worked, envisioning a career in engineering. In 1972, at the age of 19, he succumbed to the siren song of California. Four years later, he began his life in wine. Stints with Sebastiani, Sutter Home, Klein Family Vineyards, and Rodney Strong Wines found him based around the country, first in San Francisco and Los Angeles, then Dallas, Chicago and now in Napa. He has worked in every major market and promoted California wines in all 50 states. Along the way, he has cultivated personal relationships from coast to coast. His knowledge of the national wine distribution network borders on the encyclopedic.
Greg has frequently managed to be in the right spot at exactly the right time. He had a key role in successfully launching Sebastiani Vineyard's Country Varietals. He helped establish Sutter Home as a national brand. He redesigned the package for Sutter Home's innovative single-serving concept; miniature wine bottles sold in a 4-pack are now ubiquitous. Greg ultimately became Director of Sales and Marketing for Sutter Home's first foray into fine wine with their Monteviña Winery in Amador County. Several years later, inspired by his strong working relationship and personal friendship with Rodney Strong, Greg realized that his destiny and his dream still lay in California. He commuted from Chicago for several years to attend winemaking and viticulture classes at UC Davis. Finally, in 1999, Greg moved his family back to the wine country.
When Greg met Michael Richmond in 2000, Greg predicted to his wife that “one day Michael and I will be making wine together.” Greg began to delve ever deeper into the "science and soul of wine,” and Michael, himself a winemaker, introduced him to other members of what Greg calls “the artistic brotherhood of the vine.” When Greg joined the Chalone Wine Group, he and Michael developed such a well-balanced working relationship that when Michael was hired two years later as the general manager of Bouchaine, he promptly presented Greg to the owners as “the other half of the package.”
Greg comments, “Not only have Michael and I been able to continue working together, but we've gotten to rebuild Bouchaine, to shape a vision and create a sustainable business with the Copelands. Building an organization, like crafting a fine wine, is all about harmony: harmony between people on a day-to-day basis, of course, but also harmony of purpose. An important element of my contribution is to keep everyone's eyes and energies focused on the goal of creating the best wines possible from the vineyards.”
Greg has been part of Bouchaine's management team since joining the winery. He and Michael now share the responsibility for every aspect of winemaking and management. Greg remains the consummate Bouchaine ambassador, traveling and pouring far and wide. Guests who meet him at tastings, winemaker dinners, and other events, tend to repeat his anecdotes and try to recreate his spontaneous demonstrations, including ”how the glass affects the taste.” He loves to conduct safari tours of the Bouchaine vineyards from the back of the winery's pick-up truck, treating his visitors to a lively viticultural travelogue. He also hops on and off to point out specific aspects of Bouchaine's farming philosophy and to hand out various leaves, fruit clusters, and anything else he spots of interest.
Greg resides with his wife Lorrie and daughter Jacqueline in the town of Napa. Their son William has repatriated to the Chicago area to pursue his career writing role-playing games. In addition to his family, their dogs, and wine, music is Greg's other lifelong passion. “I'd rather play than listen. I'm thrilled that I can occasionally accompany our daughter, who sings professionally." Lorrie and Greg adopted their newest dog, Buchli (named for the winery location) at an SPCA-sponsored event at Bouchaine. “Buchli runs around in the vineyard hunting rabbits while I play my guitar in what I think is the most beautiful place on earth. I can't express it better than to say that I truly love the Bouchaine vineyards."
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