Movie director Francis Ford Coppola of the famed Godfather movies is big on wine. So big on wine that in fact he owns two wineries. At his majestic and historic Rubicon Estate Winery in the Napa Valley he concentrates on making the finest wines possible from his estate vineyards in the Napa Valley. Near the town of Geyserville, about five miles north of Healdsburg, Francis Ford Coppola is nearing the completion of numerous renovations to the famous and former Chateau Souverain that he purchased in 2008. At this venue he makes and bottles thousands of cases of wine made from grapes sourced from throughout California. These are really good wines but more intended for the average wine consumer.
Since his purchase, this winery has gone through a couple of names but now he has settled on the Francis Ford Coppola Winery. The famous director has left no stone unturned in his quest to make this winery into one of the most popular tourists attractions in this neck of the woods of Sonoma County. Yes, once it is done people will flock here as they did on the recent Labor Day weekend when at least 1000 visitors were served in the restaurant and in the tasting room.
The winery is a beautiful chateau and since its construction in 1973 has been a dramatic focal point for folks driving along Highway 101 north of Healdsburg. It is simply a beautiful and dramatic structure. The newly-opened Rustic restaurant in the Chateau has spectacular views of the Alexander Valley and the Mayacamus Mountain Range to the east. Just to sit and sip a glass of wine in this venue is so relaxing and soothing, it almost really does not matter how good the food tastes. The restaurant also has inside dining and features an amazing Argentine Grill called a parrilla. When Francis Ford Coppola was dining in Buenos Aires he discovered the sumptuous tastes that come from this wood-burning grill. “I want one,” he cried, and now he has it so all can view it at the Rustic restaurant.
We took a tour of the winery that lasts about 30 minutes followed by a wine tasting. It’s a decent tour but not enough about the wine-making process. We mostly heard stories about how Francis Ford Coppola decided on making certain wines and about the construction projects that are going on. For us, a walk in the barrel room and a short walk through a vineyard are a “must” for a good tour. The bottling line is fun but should not be the high point of the tour. It really needs more pizzazz.
Many community members in the area balked when they learned of all the different activities that Coppola had planned for the winery. Indeed, the local government nixed his hotel idea but the public swimming pool complete with cabanas, Bocce courts, and an area for staging entertainment events forges ahead. When it is said and done, I am sure that it will have a positive effect on all the nearby restaurants, lodging establishments, and other wineries. There will definitely be a lot of visitors who will want to visit this winery and view all the Hollywood memorabilia from the Coppola movie years. It is definitely Hollywood at its best and a must visit if you are in the area.