Francis Ford Coppola perhaps will always be best known for bringing the story of “The Godfather” to life on the silver screen.
But winemaking has been a Coppola family tradition for several generations.
Agostino Coppola, Francis Coppola’s grandfather, used to make wine in the basement of his New York apartment building, using concrete vats that he constructed himself.
The wines that Coppola makes today aren’t the same as those Agostino made, but they are produced in the same spirit–for sharing with friends and family.
More than 35 years ago, when Francis and Eleanor Coppola and their kids were living in San Francisco, the family began looking for a small cottage in Napa Valley that they could use as a weekend retreat–and a place where they could make a little homemade wine.
The “family cottage” they found turned out to be the great Niebaum Mansion in Rutherford, on the famed Inglenook Estate. Suddenly, the prospect of restoring that legendary property sounded far more exciting than making a little bit of wine in the basement.
Once they had completed the estate’s restoration, which turned out to be a 30-year endeavor, the Coppolas decided to build a new winery in Sonoma County so that, at long last, they could create a home for their ever-popular Diamond Collection and Rosso & Bianco wine brands.
They also wanted to create a place for families to come and enjoy all the best things in life together, and when designing the winery in Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley, Francis remembered a scene he had watched many times at his Napa Valley winery.
For years, children have played around the fountain at Rubicon Estate, pleading with their parents to allow them to jump in. Francis always sympathized with the children, so he thought, “Gee, the kids will want to go swimming, so let’s have swimming pools.”
Situated in the center of the park area at the winery, two pools totaling 3,600 square feet are connected by a “swim-through” where small jets create a water bridge to swim under. Surrounded by chaise lounge chairs, the pools are a welcome addition for children and adults on warm days in Alexander Valley.
Just steps from the pool and sunbathing terrace, 28 European-style personal changing rooms called cabines are available to rent for the day. The cabines (pronounced ka-beens) offer a comfortable and secure space for families to change clothes and store personal items when it’s time to take a dip in the pool.
Cabines are equipped with a private shower, and rental includes pool use and towels. During the swimming season, cabines are available for daily rental, and there is a choice of assorted “family” flags to hoist above the cabine, to identify it as reserved. Upon departure, families may purchase the flag as a souvenir and use it during return visits to the winery.
Another unique attraction is the Movie Gallery, displaying a vast collection of authentic movie memorabilia. Coppola’s filmmaking career spans five decades, which means there are some pretty amazing items to explore, including several Academy Awards, Don Corleone’s desk from “The Godfather,” and the original automobile from “Tucker: The Man and His Dream,” rotating impressively on a showroom turntable.
Much of the memorabilia is integrated throughout the property so guests can enjoy it all while they taste wine, peruse the retail merchandise or make their way to another on-site attraction: RUSTIC restaurant.
Adorning the walls of RUSTIC is a unique assortment of vintage olive oil cans from The Tiziana Riva Guatelli Collection. Tiziana is a dear friend of the Coppolas, who were delighted to showcase the unique collection of Italian design that includes more than 4,000 original lithographed oilcans.
Drawing on a life that has taken him around the world, Coppola shares his personal pantheon of recipes at RUSTIC. Set in a Sonoma County-casual atmosphere, the restaurant’s menu embraces international as well as traditional Italian dishes, with an emphasis on family-style cooking that features fresh, seasonal ingredients sourced from the property’s organic herb and produce garden. Authentic, Neapolitan-style pizzas also are a specialty.
A focal point of the dining room at RUSTIC is the parrilla (pronounced pah-REE-jah), an authentic Argentine grill. Manned by the restaurant’s dedicated asador, or grill-master, it provides a true South American experience of delicious, wood-grilled meats.
In addition to dining room seating, RUSTIC offers service on an outdoor terrace overlooking the picturesque Alexander Valley. A bar adjacent to the restaurant also serves a full complement of cocktails and an extensive wine and beer list.
Located near the swimming pool on the property’s north side is the Coppola Pavilion. Inspired by the bandshell that appeared in “The Godfather: Part II,” and featuring the original mural displayed in the 1974 film, the Pavilion is the platform for all kinds of entertainment at the winery, from daytime performances (which can be viewed poolside) to romantic evening shows highlighted by music and dancing.
It also hosts such events as a stargazing evening with astronomers, Sonoma County historical symposiums, and grape growing seminars with Alexander Valley’s dedicated agriculturists.
Of course, the property first and foremost is a winery, which means farming is a critical endeavor. Coppola’s winegrowing practices include an integrated pest management program, which involves the best practices for maintaining soil and vine health and proactively farming to reduce and treat pest pressures.
The winery also recycles its grape and water waste by fertilizing with composted grape pomace and irrigating only with reclaimed winery wastewater.
Francis Ford Coppola Winery is a family-friendly adult playground that offers everyone a taste of the good life.
300 Via Archimedes, Geyserville, CA 95441
Open Daily at 11 a.m.