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Friday, October 17, 2008

Coppola’s Rosso & Bianco Winery

Dick Starr takes us on journeys to wineries, tasting rooms, restaurants…anywhere he can chase down a good bottle of wine and tell us all about the story behind the wine and winery and the pleasure of drinking fine wine. This month we learn about Francis Ford Coppola’s other passion…wine.

Coppola’s Rosso & Bianco Winery
– a future family affair

Two years ago, I bemoaned Francis Ford Coppola’s failure to muster his vast resources and assign his Apocalypse Now special effects gurus to tame the elements – a driving, drenching rain, the wettest storm of 2006 – during his 67th birthday celebration. The event was held under mammoth outdoor tents with a mammoth cake on his newly purchased Sonoma County winery – formerly the Chateau Souverain – in Geyserville. Souverain moved into Italian Swiss Colony’s former location in Asti.

During a recent visit – my second – to Coppola’s Geyserville wine digs, now named Rosso & Bianco Winery (Italian for red & white), it was a dry, balmy and delightful day providing a pleasant respite from the birthday soaking. Prior to an al fresco harvest luncheon, a hand full of us took a guided hard hat tour of the new facilities.

It is important to understand that the conceptual engine driving this project is first and foremost the family. As Coppola observed, “When I make a movie, I always have a theme. Sonoma’s theme is ‘life.’ Life with a joyous, Italian family feeling.”

The first phase, due to open by early summer next year, will encompass a guest entrance building and tasting room (the original one was named as one of America’s top 25 tasting rooms by the Wine Enthusiastic Magazine). Also planned is a kitchen upgrade, a new 70 seating indoor restaurant and an outdoor grill and terrace seating 90 where lunch, dinner and brunch will be offered. A 150 seating band shell designed for community events, the arts, and family oriented entertainment is planned as well as a Bocce Court.

Lastly, and perhaps most significant with film buffs, a movie memorabilia museum will be under the cover of a two tiered pyramid. Included will be paraphernalia from The Godfather trilogy, Apocalypse Now, and the 1948 Tucker automobile that was used in the movie by that name which will be on a rotating dais. The twin pyramid roofs will be made out of an extraordinary museum-quality material: Kalwall is a structural composite sandwich that captures and controls natural daylight to provide the ultimate in energy efficiency. It was announced that the newly restored Godfather films that Coppola had been extensively laboring on were just released on DVD and Blue Ray.

Phase two, planned for a 2010 completion, will be a large H shaped swimming pool framed by cabanas for rent. By the conclusion of phase two, Coppola hopes to make Rosso & Bianco a world class destination for families.

After our tour, we were escorted to a view enhanced terrace for a lunch of pizzas, grilled lamb loin chops, grilled Italian sausages, roasted veggies and cannoli. Fortunate for me, I was seated next to Coppola’s personable winemaker Corey Beck who had created the nectar for our luncheon pairing: a Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Viognier, Alicante Bouschet, Zin, Syrah, and a Cab Sauvignon. Given the rare and prized grape gene (a family steeped in wine lore) and armed with a fermentation science degree, Corey came to Rosso & Bianco from Coppola’s Napa winery, Rubicon Estate.

Of the wines presented, the three for me that deserve extra merit are the Reserve Cab Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Sam’s Vineyard 2006 for $45; the Director’s Cut Zin, Dry Creek Valley, 2006 for $23 (both the Cab and Zin won gold at this year’s Harvest Fair); and the Diamond Collection Magenta Label Alicante Bouschet 2007.

Alicante Bouschet

An exceptional stand-out for me was the Bouschet, especially the attractive price of only $16. This is one of the very few red varietals that the grape flesh is red giving it a red intensity of an almost indigo hue when enhanced with the skin. Its inception was the result of a French father and son. Louis Bouschet, the father, crossed Aramon with Teinturier du Cher, naming the result Petit Bouschet in 1824. The son, Henri, crossed Petite Bouschet with Grenache to create Alicante Bouschet in 1865. With a high yield and easy maintenance, it became popular among French wine growers, especially in Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Loire Valley. It was also grown in southern Italy and became popular among Italian immigrants winemakers during Prohibition. Plantings in California reached nearly 30,000 acres by the 1940s, but have since declined to less than 5,000 acres.

The grape was used by Coppola’s grandfather Agostino, a home winemaker, so he asked Corey Beck to scout for Bouchet vineyards. From 85 year old vines located in the central valley, Corey crafted a soft, medium bodied wine with savory flavors of blackcurrant, plum, dark fruit and spice. This Diamond Collection Magenta Label Calicante Bouschet 2007 was a friendly pairing with our pizzas, sausages and absolutely yummy with the lamb. Additionally, I’m sure it would embolden pasta and meat dishes.

The tasting room is open daily at 11am and is located just off of Independence exit from Hwy. 101. The winery can be reached at (707) 857-1400.