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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Coppola Winery

A trip report on visiting the Francis Ford Coppola Winery in northern Sonoma County.

View towards Alexander Valley
There's been a lot of work and hiring going on there over the past year or so.  There's also been a bit of press on all he's doing with the old Souverain Winery property.  I don't believe everyone is completely enthused with the changes.

Coppola first started with the old Inglenook property in Napa Valley.   He used his movie memorabilia and his name to help sell.   I believe it worked too well in Napa as busloads of people came to check out his movie stuff and not the wine so much.

This new site is a lot farther away from the stop-and-go traffic jam tasting of Napa Valley.   The Coppola name is still everywhere.   The winery has a sit down restaurant, a full bar, a display of some movie items, a gift shop, a gazebo and seating area for listening to music and a swimming pool.  Restaurants are rare as most zoning doesn't allow this. Domaine Chandon in Napa is the only other one I can think of.   But a restaurant has been attached to this winery property for decades so I guess it was grandfathered in.   Even fewer wineries have a full bar.   And even fewer have a public swimming pool (none, I'm guessing).

Pool area.  Not too busy in January.
I believe some of the locals saw what he was doing as getting too far away from the agriculture of growing wine grapes to more of the Disneyland wineries you often see in Napa.

My first impression is that it's well done and not gaudy or too overdone.   OK, maybe just a little touristy.

The bar and restaurant were very busy, there were quite a few people looking at the movie memorabilia, and almost no one wine tasting.  I wonder if this is what he wanted?

On first entering there is a receptionist to point you towards the wine tasting or restaurant or sell you a day pass to the pool.  I saw no one swimming on this January day, but there was a lifeguard on duty.   The restaurant menu looked pretty good and we'll get back to try that sometime.

We did taste several wines and the impression was "Italian style" in that they seemed rustic and a bit acidic compared to your typical California wines.   A good accompaniment to a big plate of garlicky, tomatoey ravioli -- or most things on his restaurant's menu.  You can sample a couple of their table wines for free, or there's a $5 and $10 tasting menu.  They make about 40 wines total and I even saw one on the back bar called "Apocalypse Now" that I didn't try because I was afraid it may smell like Napalm in the morning...

The winery is set up to try to keep you there all day (a few other large wineries are now trying to do this, too).  You can start with lunch (about $15 per entree), get a day pass to the pool (about $10), pay extra if you want a private changing/shower room, get drinks and snacks poolside (two margaritas $18 plus tip), do some wine tasting ($5-$10),  take a winery tour ($20), stick around for an evening concert.   It should be easy enough for two people to drop over a hundred bucks.   Maybe that's what he wanted!

A cool spot to visit.   I might even check into the wine club.  They've gotta have great summer parties.