Sunday, May 24, 2015

Francis Ford Coppola Winery, Sonoma County California

There are a huge number of wineries to be found in Northern California but being a huge movie buff one of the highlights for me had to be the Francis Ford Coppola Winery. As well as traditional Italian style wines they have an amazing on site tourist destination including a museum, restaurant and kitchen store.

The gates are postcard worthy with a view of the vines peaking out through a gorgeous stately entrance complete with a lead light glass sign. 

The buildings are equally impressive with no dollar spared - this is a loving tribute to wine and food from a man who has the funds to build his dream wine destination. The copper rooves and sandstone architecture hark back to his Italian roots.

The main grounds offer a huge number of events for locals and tourists to engage in fun and frivolity including regular concerts, dances and wine tastings. If you're bringing a family try visiting during the Summer months when the pool and cabines can be booked for some kid friendly fun while you enjoy the local wine. 

One of the main attractions is a museum devoted to Coppola's directorial career with one of a kind displays of costumes, props and accolades. I might love wine but this was the highlight of the visit for me especially with so many of the the goth fantasy Dracula items on display. 

Lucy Westenra's burial garb from Bram Stoker's Dracula

Dracula's mediaeval armour from Bram Stoker's Dracula

Props and memorabilia from Apocalypse Now

A restored 1948 Tucker from Tucker: The Man and His Dream

The infamous desk from The Godfather

Various film making accolades including several Academy Awards (Oscars) and Golden Globes

We were really here to have lunch and try the wine though, our basic visit structure was to speak to the hostess at the restaurant and get in line for a table, then spend the wait looking at the museum. If you've spent half an hour looking at the museum and then get asked to wait another half hour this will lead to cranky hungry people. 

The entire place is decked out with old school charm. I am particularly fond of the dark wooden bar with its classically trained cocktail staff and glorious Italian espresso machine. 

The restaurant itself Rustic looks a little like an Italian steakhouse but with gorgeous Californian views and an airy high ceiling. The menu highlights Francis' favourite meals along with many Italian classic rustic dishes. 

Coppola Winery Director's Cut Zinfandel 2011 $8.50USD

Zinfandel to me is a uniquely American wine, it's something I'd never really encountered before moving to the United States and it's still growing on me. This is definitely a food wine and would benefit from a few years grace but nonetheless it's an enjoyable tipple with an Italian meal.

Pettole (Zeppole) $3USD

A fried doughnut style bread product filled with a melted cheese, not too oily or too rich but just right!

Salad with candied walnuts and Sonoma County blue cheese $9USD

This was a lunch special included in the 3 course selection that we chose but anything that features that delicious local blue cheese is fine by me. Other salad offerings are primarily American rather than Italian classics like Cobb Salad.

Bumbola con Broccoli e Salsicce $17USD

I admit I spent a great deal of this meal trying to understand the pasta shape having never seen a bumbola noodle before. Some research proves that the name is given for the "bumblebee" shape and that the pasta is made custom for the Coppola brand. As well as being served in the restaurant it can be purchased retail in the kitchen store on site it is recommended for heavy sauces (rather like a large pasta shell). Served in a wine, fontina and cream sauce with broccoli rabe and loose sausage mince this is a very rich dish with a smooth but bitter end. As well as the rich sauce the pasta is very weighty - I can only manage a few noodles before I'm full. Both the pasta and sauce are delicious though, the simplicity of the meal means that all the focus is in the quality of the ingredients and I am not disappointed.

Rigatoni and Meatballs $18USD

Sometimes the simple things in life are best and while this might seem like a comfort food classic it is a great dish to order. Thick doughy pasta is perfectly al dente and served with freshly made meatballs (I want to say veal and lamb?) with flakes of real Parmiggiano Reggiano. A simple classic dish served exactly as it should be.

After you're done eating check out the kitchen store with high end oils, pasta and sauces, utensils and cook books as well as cute souvenirs. The entire place is well worth a trip, even if you're not a big wine lover for a simple meal made with a love and a great side stop on a roadtrip for the whole family. Kids, food lovers and movie fanatics will all be satisfied!

Francis Ford Coppola Winery

300 Via Archimedes
Geyserville CA 95441
(707) 857-1471

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