Francis Ford Coppola's renovated Sonoma winery is fit for kids and adults alike.
By Risa Wyatt
"A wine wonderland… a place to celebrate the love of life.” That’s how film director Francis Ford Coppola envisions his latest creation—a winery that’s fun for the entire family to visit. Yes, his newly renovated Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Sonoma County offers tastings, tours and festive events. But that’s not all. The property features movie memorabilia (including Coppola’s five Academy Awards), plus soon to open bocce courts, a performing arts pavilion, and swimming pools where guests can relax. Overlooking vistas of vineyards and oak-clad hills, the new Rustic restaurant serves Coppola’s favorite dishes, including specialties from an authentic Argentinean wood-fired parrilla grill.
Coppola’s passion for food, wine, and family inspired his 2006 purchase of the 81-acre Alexander Valley estate (formerly the Chateau Souverain winemaking facility). The property had a restaurant—a huge asset, since eateries generally are not permitted at wineries in Sonoma County. With a dining venue, Coppola’s philosophy of how wine entwines with family can play a starring role."To me, wine is an element that takes part in the family gathering," he explains. "Whenever people take a meal, wine or something like it is part of it, and it’s a blessing, a sacrament, a unifier."
For the renovation, Coppola enlisted longtime friend and Academy Award-winning production designer Dean Tavoularis, with whom he worked on "The Godfather" trilogy. "A show is a show, be it a resort, a film or an opera," Coppola states. "The elements are similar, and the audience or visitor or guest is paramount. You must give them a large vision, and back it up with countless details."
Speaking of details, since day one Coppola has involved himself in every element of the project, from selecting fixtures to taste-testing recipes at the restaurant. For the towers of the Norman-style chateau, Coppola had visualized copper roofing with a patina like that atop his 1907 Sentinel Building headquarters in San Francisco. When the new metal looked garish, he suggested applying horse urine—the go-to solution for Old World Europe copper work. This process essentially aged copper 100 years in a matter of days.
Swimming Pools: The pools are scheduled to open by November and will be complimentary to all guests through 2010, after which a day-use fee will take effect.
Seasonal Tours: The Italian Harvest Tour offers a behind-the-scenes experience of grape harvest at the winery. Activities might include testing the sugar levels of grapes (brix sampling) and punching down grapes in fermentation tanks as well as breakfast and lunch. [Offered Saturdays from September 11 to October 30, 2010; from $199 per person.]
Rustic Restaurant: On Sundays starting this fall, the restaurant will feature dining a tavola (pronounced a tah-vah-la)—an informal, family-style meal. Guests can have as little or as much as they like, and pay only for what is eaten and drunk. Inside sources confirm that there "will also be a theatrical component”—which might include costumed servers, entertainment, and a story line.
Francis Ford Coppola Winery 300 Via Archimedes Geyserville, CA 95441 Phone: (707) 857-1400 Toll Free: (877) 590-3329 www.franciscoppolawinery.com