WHAT: I know people who are so hung up on cabernet sauvignon from Napa Valley they forget about the other California regions. That’s too bad, because while Napa cabs usually are great, Sonoma County produces some wonderful wines as well.
The Coppola Director’s cab is a good example of that. It is a rich, full-bodied wine that doesn’t overwhelm you with tannins. There is a touch of oak and good structure, but the flavors of blackberry, cassis, anise, spices and cocoa come through loud and clear. The texture is smooth and silky, with a long, powerful finish. It is a dark, complex wine that pairs well with hearty dishes, but is smooth enough to drink by itself.
When Coppola opened its wine and food destination tasting rooms in 2010, the winemaking team was asked to use their artistic interpretation to create wines to reflect Sonoma County. Two labels emerged: Director’s and Director’s Cut.
Director’s encompasses classic varietals: cabernet sauvignon, merlot, zinfandel, pinot noir and chardonnay. Sonoma County has a wide variety of soil and climate combinations, so you get many different styles of each grape.
The Director’s series of wines blend fruit from several different vineyards to create complex, elegant wines full of ripe fruit flavors. This cab contains different clones of cabernet sauvignon grown in vineyards with diverse soil compositions, elevations and climates.
The wines are designed for immediate enjoyment, but they also improve with age. I held on to this wine for a few months to see what some age would do to it, and the wine only got better. The 2014 and the 2013 vintages are available now, and both are outstanding.
The complexity grows by adding in other grape varieties. The blend is 90 percent cabernet sauvignon, 6 percent merlot, 2 percent petit verdot, 1 percent cabernet franc and 1 percent malbec.
The wine is aged on 55 percent French oak and 45 percent American oak, 25 percent new barrels. The oak brings out some vanilla flavors, but doesn’t bog down the wine with heavy oak tastes.
“What’s amazing about Sonoma County is that it’s one of only a few appellations in the world that offers a diverse range of microclimates that accommodate both cool climate varietals such as chardonnay and pinot noir, as well as warm weather varietals like cabernet and merlot,” said Corey Beck, director of winemaking.
WINERY: Famed Filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola has been making wine for nearly 40 years and the roots of his winery go even deeper.
Coppola had a huge success with his Godfather movies and turned his creativity to wine, where he has been every bit as successful. He bought 1,560 acres of the Inglenook estate, including the home of wine pioneer Gustave Niebaum in Napa’s Rutherford region. Two years later, his father, wife and children helped produce the first vintage under the Niebaum-Coppola label.
The business kept growing, and in 1995 he bought the former Inglenook Winery chateau, reuniting the vineyard and the 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 and its wines.
The same year the family also bought the former Chateau Souverain winery in Geyserville, renaming it the Francis Ford Coppola Winery. Over the years, the number of wines produced grew from 12 to 45.
The Geyserville property became the home for the 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.
The family also has a new Virginia Dare winery in Geyserville, where they make pinot noir, chardonnay, a chenin blanc/viognier blend, a viognier/roussanne blend, a blend of syrah, petit verdot, cabernet sauvignon and petite sirah, and a blend of syrah, malbec, cabernet franc and viognier.
The Coppola winery features a gorgeous tasting room, movie memorabilia, a restaurant, a movie gallery a performing arts pavilion, a park area with game tables and bocce courts 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.
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.
GOES WITH: I like to cook, but sometimes even when you are retired you run out of time. So we eat carry-out or even frozen foods. That was the case one night when I served Stauffer’s Salisbury steaks.
The wine made this a much better meal, with all the rich, dark flavors bringing out the flavors in the Salisbury steaks. I did make mashed potatoes to take advantage of the gravy packed with the steaks.
Pair it up with hearty dishes like beef tenderloin, turkey pot pie, barbecued turkey legs, beef stew, mac and cheese or au gratin potatoes.