The New Francis Ford Coppola Winery
The WinoTripping Review
I was one of the first to take a dim view of what Francis Ford Coppola was doing up in Sonoma with his new "wine wonderland" . The new Francis Ford Coppola Winery, a separate venture from his Rubicon Estate in Napa, is a park/public pool/museum/resaurant/wine tasting room. I was already weary of having to pay $25 at the gate at Rubicon, previously one of my favorite spots in Napa to bring first-timers for it's sheer beauty - vast grounds, elegant chateau, and, of course, some awesome movie memorabilia... not to mention the Tucker automobile. But that was way back in the day when it was free to enter!
Many, including myself, pointed to Coppola's Rubicon (previously Niebaum-Coppola), as one of those responsible for the how and why Napa has become an overrun, over-priced, commercial Disney-style nightmare. This caused many to seek wine tasting eslewhere in the much-less overrun Northern and Central California wine producing areas such as Sonoma, Sierra Foothills, or Paso Robles. So when Coppola announced his big plans for big, new Sonoma winery...I thought, Don't screw up Sonoma too!
I tried to be fair and reserve my final judgement until I had the opportunity to visit the new estate and see for myself what was going on up there. Now...finally, I had the chance. With the help from the PR department, (who I'm sure didn't enjoy my previous posts about the Coppola properties), I was given a full tour and tasting.
As you can see from this photo taken from the parking lot, the place looks great. Check out the pointy triangle peak that was added to the original structure that Coppola bought. That modern-looking addition immediately started rumors among the neighbors that Coppola would shoot laser beams from them like the Luxor in Vegas. "Nope, " said Neal Coats, my tour guide and host, "you won't be able to see Coppola Winery from space." Whew! Maybe Coppola wouldn't turn the neighborhood into the Vegas Strip after all?
If fact, Dean later told me that Coppola hired his buddy and Godfather set designer Dean Tavoularis to create the look and feel of the winery. It's no surprise that it looks like the Godfather's mansion, with all of the old world class you might expect from an old-school mafia boss. Tavoularis' artful work can be seen throughout the joint, including his paintings that are featured on many of the wine's labels.
I arrived early and the crew was still making last-minute adjustments and gathering around supervisors for the day's assignments and pep talks. I was greeted right away and told that the tour would start in a few minutes but that I was free to go upstairs. "There's lots to see up there", she said.