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Joseph Wagner, the founder and winemaker of Meiomi and Elouan Pinot Noir labels and a member of the Caymus Vineyards family, formed this new company in 2014. Based in St. Helena, Copper Cane has quickly launched multiple labels that include Eluan Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, Beran, a line of Sonoma and Napa Zinfandels, Boën Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, Carne Humana, a red blend from the Napa Valley, Steorra Sonoma sparkling wine and as yet unamed Napa Cabernet in development. Wagner's goal is to produce at least 300,000 cases annually.
Meiomi was intended to be a lower-priced Pinot Noir alternative to Belle Gloss. Wagner sourced from vineyards in Sonoma, Monterey and Santa Barbara and the wine was an instant success. The first vintage in 2009 sold 55,000 cases. Selling for about $20, Meiomi Pinot Noir sales reached 390,000 cases by 2013. Wagner admired the wines of Kosta Browne and produced Meiomi in a similar richly fruited California style. the wine was vinified at a Napa custom-crush facility called the Ranch.
Wagner tried a method called cryo-maceration, freezing the grapes shortly after harvest. During traditional red wine fermentation, heat and alcohol draw out the complex compounds found in grape skins. Cryo-maceration's cold breaks down the grape skin's cellular membranes, allowing the winemaker to draw out the same compounds more gently. The result is softer, rounder wines with deeper color.
In July 2015, Wagner sold the 840,000-case-a-year Meiomi brand to Constellation Brands for $315 million, a deal that did not include a winery or vineyards. The Meiomi team stayed on as consultants. A year before the Meiomi deal, he launched his own company outside of the Wagner Family of Wines called Copper Cane Wines & Provisions. In April 2016, he moved Belle Glos, a Pinot Noir label started by Chuck Wagner in 2001 and turned over to Joseph Wagner in 2002 to Copper Cane, ending his work with his family. At Belle Glos, Wagner worked with winemaker John Bolta.
Copper Cane has purchased 280 acres in Santa Barbara county, 22 acres in Carneros and several parcels in Calistoga. In all, Wagner owns 458 acres of wines as of 2016.
In Sebastopol, Wagner is trying to develop Dairyman, a cluster of small buildings that once housed a dairy and is surrounded by 40 acres of Pinot Noir that Wagner cultivates. He has proposed building a winery, distillery and visitors center here but local opposition has been strong. Wagner is also looking to build a winery on the property that was once Mare Island Naval Base where the Napa River meets San Pablo Bay in the city of Vallejo.
See also Meiomi.