The soil in Northern California – Napa Valley and Sonoma County – is ‘oh so rich’, and because of its geographic location, both regions have the prefect amount of rain and sun for delicate grape varieties to flourish bountifully on vines. America is a young country, but winemaking has been going on almost as long as it has existed. Although wine is made in each one of the fifty American states, California is the leader in producing American wine, comprising around 90% of the market. Many Europeans might have turned up their noses at American wines in the past, but in the 1980s, a renaissance in California winemaking began. During this time, American winemakers were adept at perfecting the art of winemaking; experts around the world began to take notice of the exceptional quality of American Chardonnay and Bordeaux. In France, many American wines have been rated higher than some of the best French whites and reds during blind taste tests. These days, the high quality and quantity of wine coming out of small and large vineyards in Northern California have meant that Californian wine is not only drunk all over the States and Europe, but they have found a stronghold of popularity all over the World.
HOLLYWOOD & WINE
Wine is to Northern California what Francis Ford Coppola is to film. Lucky for us, Francis Ford Coppola is just as involved in California’s wine country as he is in Hollywood’s eminent film industry. The Coppola’s are easily one of America’s most famous families when it comes to the Hollywood film industry, but this name is just as important in California’s burgeoning wine industry. A name alone cannot make wine famous. The variety and caliber of wines coming out of both Rubicon Estate in Napa Valley and Rosso & Bianco in Sonoma County can speak for themselves.
Rubicon is a stately winery with an historic past. Although Director Coppola and his wife, Eleanor, have owned and operated it for over 30 years, Rubicon was formerly called Inglenook, which was founded in 1880 by Gustave Niebaum. Rubicon is known for producing special Cabernets that have an extraordinary history, dating back to the early 1880s when Niebaum brought vines directly from France. These vines have been continuously cultivated for years, so now they have been sectioned off and given the official title of “Rubicon Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Heritage Clone #29” by the University of California, Davis. Over the past 30 years, from the very first vintage Bordeaux blend (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot) produced in 1978, Francis and Eleanor Coppola patiently have taken Rubicon Estate to an ultra exclusive level in winemaking. This 235-acre estate is breathtaking; the vineyards – basking in the California sun – include Cabernet, Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah and even six acres of white Rhone. All of Rubicon Estate is organically farmed, certified by the California Certified Organic Farmers association and by the Federal Department of Food and Agriculture. Eleanor says, “When we became owners of this beautiful land we committed ourselves to taking care of the Earth by farming organically.”
If Rubicon Estate is all about an elegant and stately wine tasting experience, Rosso & Bianco – Francis Coppola’s newest winery in Sonoma County – is embodies casual chic and down to earth Italian ambiance. In March of 2006, Francis and Eleanor Coppola expanded their presence in Northern California wine country to neighboring Sonoma County. Its official name is “Francis Ford Coppola presents Rosso & Bianco.” Set in Geyserville, Sonoma County, Rosso & Bianco is an entirely different experience than the one at Rubicon Estate. Francis Coppola has a vision for this breathtaking and charming winery; we must be patient because eventually the courtyard will include out door cafés, music and dancing pavilions, fountains, pools and much more. With the purchase of this new property, Director Coppola decided to move all of the Hollywood memorabilia from Rubicon Estate to Rosso & Bianco. Coppola’s five Oscars are on display in the East wing, and eventually a tasting room with a selection of Coppola’s private film memorabilia will be on display. You can taste the wine in the main store at the entrance of the estate, shop for bottles or cases of wine, yummy pasta sauces, olive oils, Francis Ford and Sophia Coppola film memorabilia and then step out to the terrace – overlooking the vineyards.
The terrace is home to a lovely outdoor café, cleverly called “Unnamed Café.” In the future, its identity will be revamped and revealed – bringing a whole different concept and menu to the table. Unnamed Café has an absolutely gorgeous menu full of lovely pizzas, pastas, antipasto and paninis. This Italian comfort food is best paired with a glass or bottle of wine from the Rosso or Bianco table wines, Sofia Blanc de Blanc, Diamond Collection Chardonnay, or Director’s Cut Zinfandel. The Director’s Cut Zinfandel 2005 ($23) is one of Francis Coppola’s favorite wines currently, and it has recently been rated 90 points. It also won a double gold medal at the California State Fair this summer of 2007. It is 100% Dry Creek Zinfandel blended with a small amount of Petite Sirah; it’s great with tomato sauce pastas, burgers and duck. These days, any of the Director’s Cut wines are en vogue in the hippest American cities – the zoetrope band that encircles the bottle is another unique way Francis Coppola creatively integrates film and wine at Rosso & Bianco. A zoetrope was used in a 19th century invention to create the illusion of moving pictures. Restaurants and lounges all over California and New York are having a hard time keeping the Director’s Cut wines in stock!
Five Wineries to visit in Napa & Sonoma
(by alphabetical order)
CLOS DU VAL
5330 Silverado Trail, Napa, CA 94558 Tel: 1.707.259.2200 www.closduval.com
For the Cabernet Sauvignon lover…
Clos du Val is a special winery because of its French connection. It can easily be considered a Franco-American winery. In 1972, Bernard Portet, a descendent of wine merchants in Bordeaux, founded Clos du Val winery with an American businessman, John Goelet. Together, they own and operate 150 acres in the Stags Leap district and 180 acres in the Carneros region of Napa Valley. Clos du Val’s trademark is big, bold Cabernet Sauvignons with an elegant – yet complex – finish. In 1976, during a blind taste testing in Paris, Clos du Val’s Cabernet Sauvignon was placed in the top five. During a rematch in 1986, the same wine earned first place honors. This exclusive winery concentrates on four series of wines, mostly red varieties. Clos du Val is also involved in Hollywood; their wine is often poured at Emmy and Academy award parties.
Wine tasting costs $10, and it is refundable if you buy a bottle of wine.
8761 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, CA 95448 Tel: 1.707.433.6700 www.ferraricarano.com/
For the Chardonnay lover…
Since 1985, owners Don and Rhonda Carano are committed to producing top class, internationally known wines at Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery. Visit this classy area of Sonoma County if you are looking for the entire package: gorgeous rolling vineyards, a luxurious boutique hotel – Vintners Inn, and a top class restaurant – John Ash & Co. There are five breathtaking acres of gardens that surround the winery. Regardless if you stay at Vintners Inn or not, visit the gorgeous Ferrari-Carano for a luxurious wine tasting and tour. For the ultimate and intimate experience, schedule a private tasting in one of the specially designed rooms. Up to six people can sit down with one of the knowledgeable hosts for an educational and interesting afternoon of wine tasting. Ferrari-Carano produces some of the regions best whites: Pinot Grigio, Fume Blanc and world-class Chardonnay.
The tasting room is open daily from 10 – 5, and the cost is $5, refundable with a $25 purchase.
KELLER ESTATE WINERY
5875 Lakeville Hwy. Petaluma, California 94954 Tel: 1.707.765.2117 www.kellerestate.com
For the introvert…
As you approach the winery, the vineyards stretch out in the California sun below you. The Keller Estate has been owned and run by the Keller family for three generations. The winery has been in the family for a while even though the first vintage was released in 2001. The founder, Arturo Keller, originally planned to make wine for only his family and friends, but the quality of wine proved to be too excellent to be kept only within the family. They are located at the southernmost point in the Sonoma County appellation; this means the growing season is cool and a bit longer than other areas of Northern California. The Keller Estate is near the Petaluma River and the charming town also called Petaluma. The natural beauty is peaceful, and there is an olive grove on the grounds as well. The Estate makes their own elegant olive oil, which is paired perfectly with rustic homemade bread and the fine Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Rose that comes out of this quiet and peaceful vineyard.
The Keller Estate is open for only private tastings only. Make a reservation, or you won’t be let through the gate.
1991 St. Helena Highway, Rutherford, Napa Valley, California 94573
Tel: 1.707.968.1100 www.rubiconestate.com
For the aristocrat…
From the way the grapes are organically farmed, to the aging process – using 100% French oak or American oak barrels – that takes place in the massive underground caves, to the interior design at Rubicon, Francis and Eleanor Coppola are not just lending their name or celebrity status to California wine country. The overall attention to aesthetic details at Rubicon Estate remind you that a film director’s vision has created this luxurious experience for you: wine tasting that is all about the wine but much more. The drive into the beautifully manicured grounds of Rubicon Estate is absolutely breathtaking. The flowers, trees, shrubbery, and the Estate itself will remind you that the trip across the Pacific was worth it. Special tours are available – only in small and intimate groups – from wine and food pairing, hands on experiences to even historical themed tours. “Our objective is to elevate the experience for guests interested in the wines and history of this Estate. Our new VIP guest policy will reduce crowds, and guests enjoy a level of elegance and attention rarely available at other wineries,” said Coppola.
There is a $25 visitor’s fee, which does not include private tours or special events. For reservations, visit www.rubiconestate.com/site.php.
ROSSO & BIANCO
300 Via Archimedes, formerly Souverain Road, Geyserville, Sonoma, California 95441
Tel: 1.707.857.1400 www.ffcwinery.com
For the Hollywood hipster…
The winery is named after the table wines that Coppola has been producing since 1997. With the newly named Rosso & Bianco Sonoma winery came a hip image for the popular table wines ($11) that have played an important role throughout Coppola’s life. “My family has always made wine. To hear it from my Uncle Mikey, these were not fancy wines, but everyday wines, wines that were on the dinner table each night. When I make a movie, I always have to have a theme. Sonoma’s theme is ‘life.’ Life with a joyous, Italian family feeling.” It is very joyous indeed munching on local artisan cheeses or a slice of hand tossed pizza, while sipping a glass of bubbly Sofia Blanc de Blanc or Sofia Rose (two wines that Director Coppola named after his famous film director daughter) and looking out at the vineyards below. It feels like a scene from a Hollywood movie!
There is no visitor’s fee for Rosso & Bianco. Wine tasting is complimentary; hours are from 11 – 5. Lunch is served from 11:30 – 5 at Unnamed Cafe.
Written by Mi Soon Burzlaff
All photographs by Vincent Sung
Produced by Fluxus Agency