During a recent trip to Sonoma, I made time for a thoroughly enjoyable visit to Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville. The Coppola Winery isn’t quite like any other; it’s got more in common with Disneyland than with the typical California winemaking operation. That probably shouldn’t come as a surprise, being the brainchild of film director Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, The Cotton Club, Tucker) and his wife, Eleanor.
Strolling through the massive gates and into the reception area of the winery, which is open to the public, it’s hard not to notice a large teepee, bocce courts and, of course, the ginormous swimming pool that would be the envy of many a Las Vegas resort hotel. It’s equipped with poolside cabines where guests can shower, towel off, change clothes or whatever other private activity might be warranted. A cabine rental, towels, four lounge chairs and four pool passes, plus a wine tasting for four adults and poolside cafe service, costs $135 per day. That rivals the price of admission to Disneyland, and the folks at Coppola Winery say that they built the teepee, the pool and so on with kids and families in mind. Children are notoriously bored at wine tastings and tours, so Coppola decided to give them a place to play. The Coppola Winery is a great spot, with many amenities for the whole family.
One of those amenities is the Movie Gallery, where visitors can get an up close gander at a huge collection of movie memorabilia, including the original Tucker automobile, a collection of Coppola’s Academy Awards, and even the Champagne glass Nastassja Kinski danced in for One From the Heart, which just happens to be one of my favorite films.
There’s also a terrific restaurant at the Coppola Winery called Rustic. It boasts an authentic Argentine parrilla (grill), and the menu is filled with some of Coppola’s favorite dishes, such as Moroccan bastilla, Florentine steak, Mrs. Scorsese’s lemon chicken, Armenian-style rack of lamb and braciole with meat ragÃ¹.
Tuesday, however, is the best night to dine at Rustic. Tuesday evenings feature a tavola, which means “to the table”—family style dining where, rather than ordering from a menu, servers donned in rustic Italian garb bring an endless array of delicious Italian dishes to your table. Diners just choose whatever they like. It’s a delicious, festive, family-friendly, all-you-can-eat dinner and a bargain, priced at a mere $35 for adults and $15 for kids. And, to their credit, Rustic has an excellent wine list that ranges far beyond just Coppola wines.
Well, what about those wines? Coppola Winery is anything but a boutique winery. It’s a large-scale operation producing huge quantities of wine, most of which is made for immediate consumption. For the most part, this isn’t wine to cellar.
That said, there were some nice surprises. At the lower end of price range are Coppola Bianco and Rosso ($9.99), which are the house wines at Rustic and perfectly good everyday wines for sipping without a lot of fuss. 2012 Director’s Cut Cabernet Sauvignon ($25.99) is rich and well-structured—a perfect example of how excellent the 2012 Sonoma wines are, thanks to near-perfect weather that year. I loved 2009 Archimedes ($60), a Bordeaux-style Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc blend. And, Coppola honors his wife, Eleanor, on their 50th year of marriage, with 2010 Eleanor ($50), a complex and robust blend of Rutherford and Dry Creek Valley Syrah and Zinfandel, along with a smidgeon of Alexander Valley Cabernet. It’s a marriage made in heaven.