WHAT: I often find that when I drink wine, the whole experience is more pleasant when I am with people I like. You can be objective and identify flavors in the wine and all that, but there is something about drinking with a group of friends that makes everything better.
So when I review wines with friends, I try to be a little tougher, or to try the wine a second time to make sure the experience doesn’t influence my opinion of the wine.
That was the case when I tried the Coppola Director’s Cut Zinfandel. I drank it with a group of great friends on a trip to the mountains, and the wine was terrific. It was one of those magical evenings when everything seemed special, so I tried the wine again later and it was just as good.
It is a beautiful, deep garnet in the glass, with powerful aromas of blackberries, cherries, cloves and black pepper. The first sip reveals raspberries and black currants, which are later joined by vanilla, spices and anise. It is a rich, lush full-bodied wine, with a velvety mouthfeel.
The fruit all comes from 40- to 80-year-old vines in the Dry Creek Valley, a great region for zinfandel. Some petite sirah is added for structure.
Half the fruit was crushed whole and the seeds and skin were fermented in open-top fermentors for maximum color and flavor. After blending, the wine spent 12 months in French and American oak, 20 percent new and 80 percent 1 to 2 years old. The oak adds to the wine’s spice qualities.
The vintage marked the second straight year of near-perfect weather, so the harvest was even better than usual.
The name and label acknowledge Francis Ford Coppola’s incredible movie career. In film making, the director’s cut is the version that best reflects the director’s vision. Coppola’s Director’s Cut line of wine allows director of winemaking Corey Beck to create his own vision of a quintessential Sonoma wine.
The wines are designated by appellation among Sonoma’s diverse and distinctive microclimates. Each wine in the series reflects the microclimate where the grapes are grown.
The wraparound label is designed after a Zoetrope strip, one of the earliest moving picture devices. Each Director’s Cut label is a replica of a strip from Coppola’s personal Zoetrope collection.
WINERY: One of the favorite jokes in the wine industry is you make a small fortune in the wine business by starting with a large fortune. It is a difficult business, and many who get rich in other arenas can’t compete in the wine industry.
Coppola is one of the exceptions. His wines are as good as his movies.
After his huge success with The Godfather movies, Coppola got into the wine business when he bought the former home and vineyard of wine pioneer Gustave Niebaum in Napa Valley’s Rutherford in 1975. The whole family pitched in for the first vintage in 1977 under the Niebaum-Coppola label.
He expanded in 1995 by buying the former Inglenook Winery chateau.
In 2006, the Coppolas bought the former Chateau Souverain winery in Geyserville and the company later became the Francis Ford Coppola Winery.
Over the next four years, Coppola worked with Beck to revitalize and expand the operation. New tasting rooms opened in 2010, with two restaurants, a swimming pool, a movie gallery, a performing arts pavilion and a park area with game tables and bocce courts.
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.
Visitors to the property can choose from several tasting options, a tour of the bottling plant, a hike through the vineyards or a behind-the-scenes tour during harvest.
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 Cut, Director’s, FC Reserve, Archimedes, Eleanor, Pitagora, Gia by Gia Coppola, Rosso & Bianco, Sofia, Votre Sante and Su Yuen.
In describing how his winery turned out, Coppola said, “So when we began to develop the idea for this winery, we thought it should be like a resort, basically a wine wonderland, a park of pleasure where people of all ages can enjoy the best things in life – food, wine, music, dancing, games, swimming and performances of all types. A place to celebrate the love of life.”
GOES WITH: We had this beautiful wine when we spent some time in the North Carolina mountains with friends. One of the couples – John and Edith from Savannah, Ga. – periodically invite the other three couples to their mountain home in Maggie Valley, N.C..
We also meet at Edisto Beach, S.C., and other fun places. We hike, read, work jigsaw puzzles, play cards, tell stories, rest and eat.
One night in the mountains the four men joined forces and made chili that was perfect for the cool weather. We didn’t use a recipe, so it was one of those dishes than can never be recreated, but it involved a lot of ground beef, onions, tomatoes, spices and kidney beans. We added a fruit salad for the healthy touch.
It was a great match for this lush, robust wine. The fruit tamed the spices in the chili, and the whole meal just blended perfectly. As we ate, we watched the sun slide below the mountain peaks across the valley and felt very fortunate.
This wine would go well with all kinds of meals, from simple food such as pizza and burgers, to elegant meals such as a duck ragout, leg of lamb or a rich stew.