WHAT: Francis Ford Coppola is one of the most celebrated movie makers of our time, gaining fame with movies such as The Godfather trilogy and Apocalypse Now. What many people don’t know is that he also is a renowned wine producer.
The wine comes along at a perfect time to prepare for Sunday’s Academy Awards show. I wanted to find a good wine with a movie connection. There are more of them than you might imagine because many Hollywood people like to dabble in the wine business.
Coppola has done more than dabble, turning out many great wines under several labels. His newest, the Director’s Cut brand, has come up with this stunning Zinfandel.
It has everything you want in a Zinfandel: lush blackberry fruit, peppery notes, balanced acidity and good complexity. It is a wine you would recognize as a great Zinfandel from the first sniff and sip.
The strong bouquet has notes of blackberry, raspberry, clove and pepper. On the palate you taste cherry, dark mixed berries, pepper and mocha. The finish is long and velvety.
The grapes all come from Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County, where the combination of perfect soil and perfect climate produces outstanding Zinfandel grapes with intense flavors. The grapes come from vines that are 40 to 80 years old, adding to the complexity of the wine.
Dry Creek is the second largest Zinfandel-growing area in the country. The region produces Zin in a variety of styles.
One of the things that makes this wine so lush is the addition of 20 percent Petite Sirah, which is added to enhance structure and complexity. Part of the magic is the blending done by Director of Winemaking Corey Beck, who chooses grapes from many different microclimates in Dry Creek.
Half of the fruit was crushed whole with the seeds and skins and fermented in open-top fermentors for maximum color extraction and flavor. The blended wine spent 12 months in French and American oak, 20 percent new and 80 percent one to two years old.
The Director’s Cut label gives a nod to Coppola’s movie career, featuring a strip of a label that winds around the bottle like a film strip. The label says it is a replica of a 19th century original used as a device called a Zoetrope, which produced the illusion of a “moving picture” from static pictures.
WINERY: After huge success with The Godfather movies, Coppola purchased the former home and vineyard of wine pioneer Gustave Niebaum in Napa Valley’s Rutherford in 1975. His father, wife and children helped to produce the first vintage in 1977 under the Niebaum-Coppola label. In 1995, he bought the former Inglenook Winery chateau.
In 2006, he renamed the winery Rubicon Estate, in honor of the property’s flagship wine. Five years later he purchased the Inglenook trademark and brought the Inglenook name back to the estate.
The family also bought the former Chateau Souverain winery in Geyserville, renaming it the Francis Ford Coppola Winery. It features a gorgeous tasting room, movie memorabilia, a restaurant and a large swimming pool for families who visit the winery. Coppola says he was inspired by Denmark’s Tivoli Gardens to create a place for families to enjoy all the best things in life together.
This property became the home for the popular Diamond Collection wines, 12 single varietals and two distinctive blends.
The other Coppola brands include Director’s, FC Reserve, Archimedes, Eleanor, Pitagora, Gia by Gia Coppola, Rosso & Bianco, Sofia, Votre Sante and Su Yuen.
I love this quote from Coppola about the connection between making wine and making movies:
“Winemaking and filmmaking are two great art forms that are very important to the development of California. They both start with raw ingredients – in the case of wine, the land and the grapes, and in the case of film, the script and the actors’ performances. The winemaker takes these raw materials and ferments and blends. He says yes to the batch, no to that one. The director does the same thing: a series of yeses and nos, from casting and costuming to edits and sound mixes. In both cases you have to start with top notch raw materials – whether it’s the land or a script.”
GOES WITH: My wife, Teri, and I had this wine with a quick mid-week meal of Sloppy Joe’s made with the packaged spice mix from the supermarket. It’s a tricky meal to pair with wine because you have ground beef and a slightly sweet tomato taste.
The Director’s Cut Zinfandel was a good choice. The lush fruit made for easy sipping as we started the meal. As the wine opened it got more complex, with layers of flavor emerging to match the ground beef and spices. The wine made a simple meal something much more elegant.
The Director’s Cut Zinfandel is such an easy drinking wine, it would work on many occasions. I would recommend it for sipping by itself or with light snacks before a meal, or with hearty fare such as grilled steaks or pork chops. This also would go well with wild game or Irish stew. While it is good with everyday food, it also would be good for a fine dining option with more elegant food.