A Visit to Inglenook and Francis Ford Coppola Winery

A Visit to Inglenook and Francis Ford Coppola Winery

It was back in April that I arranged to visit the Coppola estates of Inglenook and Francis Ford Coppola Winery. I’d expected to report on the trip somewhat earlier though, frankly, it has taken me all of the intervening time to process the experience, to think my way through it.

Ambassador Harold, Inglenook
Ambassador Harold, Inglenook
The narrative around the respective estates and wines is deep in its breadth and detail. I won’t spoil it for you by retelling important scenes here, the estate tours are incredibly entertaining and informative in that way. I will say, though, that visiting Inglenook and Francis Ford Coppola Winery, I, the visitor, the wine lover, am suddenly connected to complex, often emotional stories about life, love, family, food, wine and adventure that, at times, extend far beyond the Coppola clan.

Thanks to the hospitable personalities and impressive local / historical knowledge of ambassadors Harold (Inglenook) and Bob (Coppola Winery), I feel not simply a bystander to a good tale, but rather a cast member of sorts. One might be inclined to dismiss it as strategic marketing, if it weren’t for the fact that, at the end of the day, visitors, I think, walk away with something: something discovered, or perhaps re-discovered, something awakened. In my case, I carried home with me a feeling that exists somewhere between nostalgia and identity, an awareness that the experience of growing up Italian-American plays no small role in my connection to wine.

And what could be surprising about wine playing the leading role in a story about family, food, wine and adventure by a five-time Oscar winning director? Coppola, by the way, is not the topic here, however, I think there is no way to write about the wines without making the connection: the wines are as connected to Coppola as Italy’s wines are to their respective local traditions and histories. So, you must allow me this one point:

Wines from FC Reserve Line. Label artwork by film production designer Dean Tavoularis.
Wines from FC Reserve Line. Label artwork by film production designer Dean Tavoularis.
In an interview with trumpeter Miles Davis, Bill Boggs asked Miles, “Your father gave you a trumpet, your mother gave you a violin, for your thirteenth birthday. What if your mother had prevailed?” Miles replied, “It wouldn’t have made any difference.” Whether Coppola had been “given” a 35mm camera, typewriter, saxophone or vineyard, I don’t think it would have made any difference: all other things being equal, a profound expression of love, family, belonging, food, wine and adventure would have emerged in either case.

While Inglenook and the work which Coppola has done there – renovation of the historic estate on a scale that gives one the impression that history can be reassembled – can be best be appreciated by grown-ups, the Francis Ford Coppola Winery is, in a good way, an over the top analogy to the Sunday dinner experience in most Italian homes: families, young and old, coming together, sharing, communicating and an overwhelming sense that you are a part of something much bigger than you.

What’s not to be forgotten here is that the wines stand on their own: lovely stories, Coppola, and Hollywood aside, in the glass, the wines justify the narrative and not the other way around.

And that’s just good wine.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Inglenook (Napa):

Blancaneaux 2011 Created in ‘95 as a partner to the estate’s flagship Rubicon, an organically farmed blend (as far as I am aware, the estate’s other wines mentioned here are also organically farmed) of Marsanne, Raussanne and Viognier. Stone fruit, notes of honey, florals. Rich on the palate underscored with harmonic citrus. Long, complex, mineral finish.

Edizione Pennino 2010 Apparently, early on, consultants advised removal of the Zin vines, a suggestion which Coppolo promptly vetoed. Applause. Berry jam, warm spice, smoke, lush in the mouth, one can drink this one all day.

Cask Cabernet 2009 Sporting the first Inglenook label that did not include a picture of the Chateaux, this Cab is sourced from vineyards located toward the estate’s front property (whereas Rubicon is sourced from vineyard sections located toward the estate’s back property). Stunning red fruit aromatics over rich, raisin-y undertones inflected with mint and spice. Intense flavors of briar fruit, cherry, with sublime, supple tannins. Miles deep.

Rubicon 2009 The estate’s flagship wine, a proprietary Cab blend from vines certified to be heritage clone genetic material brought from France by Gustave Niebaum, Inglenook’s founder, in the 1800’s. Interestingly, Rubicon and Cask are sometimes sourced from the same parcels, albeit from different sections. Rubicon, for me, is a darker personality than the brighter Cask Cabernet, offering insanely good berry fruit, pipe tobacco, violets, notes of baker’s chocolate, possessing good muscle and massive depth. Long, firmly tannic finish. Love it.

Francis Ford Coppola Winery (Sonoma):

FC Reserve Pinot Noir 2011 The vintage I tasted is sourced from Kylah’s Vineyard, Russian River (winemaker Corey Beck grades and selects growers each vintage). The vineyard is known for intense, slowly ripened Pinot, the result of wide diurnal temperature variations. A well-structured, feminine Pinot Noir with a sophisticated personality. Intense, dark fruit impressions play counterpoint with brighter berry tones, flower petals, nicely balanced spice notes. Gorgeous, lady-like tannins. Captivating.

Director’s Cut Sauvignon Blanc 2010 Produced from Alexander Valley vineyard fruit (same latitude as the winery) this Sauvignon Blanc is fermented and finished in stainless steel. Exotic fruit, citrus, hints of orange creamsicle and brown spice. Persistent mineral finish with impressions of dried fruit.

Director’s Cut Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 This nicely structured, very drinkable Cab delivers a nose full of dark berry fruit, tobacco and wet earth. Luscious, dark cherry flavors on the palate, hints of raisin, licorice and spice. Fine, ripe tannins and a way smooth finish. An everyday Cab offering great value for money.

Diamond Collection Merlot 2010 Produced with fruit from Napa, Sonoma, and Monterey, the wine contains a lion’s share of Merlot (~ 80%) with some Petit Verdot and a splash of Syrah added. Harmonius, soft in the mouth, brambly berries, saddle leather, brown spice and a smooth tannic suite.

Related Post, A Visit with Corey Beck of Francis Ford Coppola Winery

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