If you’re a movie buff who likes fine wine, and travelling to or live in the San Francisco Bay Area, then you should plan on spending some time at the Francis Ford Coppola Winery, just off Highway 101 in Geyserville, near Santa Rosa, California. The director of The Godfather trilogy and Apocalypse Now, among many other films, Coppola has operated a vineyard in the Alexander Valley region of Sonoma for more than thirty years. The winery reopened in July 2010 following an extensive renovation, and with the renovations, Coppola Winery is as much an amusement park as a vineyard. The property has wine tasting room (of course), but also has two restaurants, a full bar, a swimming pool, teepees, a movie gallery, a performing arts Pavilion (from the set of The Godfather) and a park area with game tables and bocce courts. Aside from the tasting room, none of the other items are what you’d expect to find at a vineyard.
Coppola (the man, not the winery) says the winery is meant to be “a wine wonderland, a park of pleasure where people of all ages can enjoy all the best things in life – food, wine, music, dancing, games, swimming and performances of all types. A place to celebrate the love of life.” That’s a grandiose vision, fittingly epic, like one of the director’s movies. And like one of his detail rich epics, the vineyard breaks new ground in entertainment for the wine aficionado.
We made our visit on a California perfect day, drove through the gated entrance and easily found parking in the large lot. The vineyard’s main building towered over us, set on a rise above like a French chateau. We climbed the steps, taking in a view of the Alexander Valley as we did so, and looked for the tasting room. We were here to sample some wine, after all, and to take a look at what we understood would be a few movie artifacts. At the top of the steps we found a large pool, a series of tables below colorful umbrellas, and a circular bar. The impression given was that of a resort, certainly not that of a vineyard. We found the entrance to the building just ahead of us, and headed for the tasting room. Along the way we stopped to look at some of the art, related to the filmmaker’s career.
This 1948 Tucker Sedan was one of only 51 built, and used in the film Tucker: The Man and His Dream.
On entering the tasting room, immediately to our left we spotted a 1948 Tucker, which meant that our wine tasting would have to wait. The car was used in the film Tucker: The Man and His Dream, which Coppola directed in 1988. While the car was, because of its size, the centerpiece of a display of movie artifacts, it was perhaps one of the lesser pieces in the exhibit. Glass cases held five of the director’s Oscars, along with awards from the Cannes and Venice film festivals, along with the envelope housing the list of Oscar nominees and the winner. A handwritten note from Marlon Brando to Coppola, a copy of the script, Coppola’s notes on a yellow legal pad, Don Corleone’s desk, and various other items from the Godfather were on prominent display. Items from other films were also prominent, such as Robert Duvall’s uniform from Apocalypse Now, and elaborate costumes from Dracula. The mini-museum made is a film lover’s dream, and worth the trip by itself.
Coppola’s Oscars for The Godfather
But of course there was wine to sample, and we joined the large (and growing) crowd at the bar. We tried the Family Tasting ($10) which included the Diamond Collection Chardonnay, Diamond Collection Zinfandel, Diamond Collection Malbec, and Diamond Collection Red Blend. The zin was best, fruit forward and rich, but still peppery, but then we’re partial to zins.
After sampling the wines, we enjoyed a Margherita pizza (labeled as Luigino) and a delicious Capri salad on the plaza near the pool, and watched the poolside activity, enjoying a favorite sport of ours, people watching. The sun was hot, the atmosphere relaxing, and we enjoyed every bit of the remainder of the afternoon.
There’s much to see at Coppola Winery, and we highly recommend the trip for wine lovers and movie fans, or anyone looking for a something different in Sonoma County.