Sonoma County is almost as long as it is wide and visiting all the wineries in this region would take a long time as they are nestled among four main valleys -- the Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Valley, plus nine other appellations. There are more than 55,000 acres in Sonoma County planted with grapes, and approximately 200 wineries in all.
The history of the wine industry in Sonoma begins when the Franciscan Fathers traveled north through California in the late 1700's to early 1800's, establishing missions a day's journey apart, from San Diego to Sonoma. By the time California became a state in 1854, wine grapes were an established part of agriculture in the region. The vineyard of General Mariano Vallejo, the military Governor of Mexican California, were producing an annual income of $20,000. In 1855 the man considered "The Father of California Wine Industry," was an Hungarian Count named Agoston Haraszthy who purchased the Salvador Vallejo vineyard in Sonoma Valley, renamed it Buena Vista, and soon began producing fine wines from the vineyard. In 1861 he was commissioned by the California legislature to study viticulture in Europe. He returned to Sonoma County the following year with over 100,000 cuttings of prized grape varietals from France, Italy and Spain. Haraszthy is credited with first promoting the concept that fine table wines could be produced in Sonoma County as well as Europe.
With so many wineries to choose from we had to narrow our visits down to about ten in all. In my last post I showed you the very beautiful Ferrai-Carano Winery. One of the most interesting we visited was the newly renovated Francis Ford Coppola Winery located in the Alexander Valley at 300 Via Archimedes, Geyserville, California.
Although still under construction, it was an impressive sight to see! As you may know Francis Ford Coppola is an American film director, producer and screenwriter as well as vintner. He is primarily known for directing the movies "Godfather Trilogy," "Apocalypse Now," "Dracula", and "The Conversation," and for writing "Patton."
Coppola has said: "When I make a movie, I always have a theme. Sonoma's theme is 'life.' Life with a joyous, Italian family feeling." Coppola's family made wine over many generations beginning with his grandfather who had hand constructed vats in his apartment basement in New York City. They believed wine was a fundamental part of family gatherings along with good food.
The tasting bar area, Rosso and Bianco wines are pored gratis, while there is a fee for tastings of his more sophisticated wines such as his reserves and his Diamond Collection and Director's Cut.
His visitors center is full of movie memorabilia! This display case contained some of his many awards.
Costumes used in some of his movies.
The desk where Marlon Brando sat when he played the Godfather Don Corleone.
Looking down the balcony of the visitor's center at the beautiful red car used in the movie "Tucker: the Man and His Dream." You can also see some of the gift shop items in the background. All photos will enlarge if you click on them once, and then again when they open on a new page.
More beautiful gift shop items.
We visited during an early dinner hour and so we decided to dine at Rustic, his on site restaurant.
On such a beautiful day we asked to be seated at an outdoor table.
The outdoor tables sit on a terrace overlooking some of Coppola's vineyards.
Rustic's menu can be seen in its entirety here. Our dinner began with a piece of fried bread presented in extra virgin olive oil, sort of savory zeppole instead of the usual bread. It was so good I could have eaten many more of them! We ordered a bottle of Diamond Cut Merlot wine which was to be a perfect accompaniment for our dinner selections. My husband and I shared an appetizer of Crispy French Fried Zucchini. They were hot, salty and delicious. Deciding to try pasta dishes I ordered "Bombola Con Broccolie Salsiccia" (pasta with broccoli rape and sausage), and my husband had Rigatoni and Meatballs. Both were very good and filling although my husband told me he preferred my style of sauce and meatballs. I guess after soon to be 36 years of marriage he would have to! For dessert we shared a vanilla panna cotta (heavy cream pudding) with raspberry sauce that was heavenly, and we each had an espresso.
It was just so relaxing to dine looking at such a beautiful view that I believe anything we ate would taste good!
At Francis Ford Coppola Winery, all 24 planted acres are sustainably farmed and part of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Program. They only purchase fruit from growers who farm sustainably, and some of the vineyards they source from are certified organic as well. Cory Beck is the Director of Winemaking and General Director.
Eventually The Francis Ford Coppola Winery will be a place which entire families can visit and enjoy as there will be two swimming pools and twenty-eight European-style personal changing rooms called "cabines." There will also be a pool cafe available which will serve summertime fare. Also in construction is a Pavilion which will be a platform for all kinds of entertainment at the winery, from daytime performances, which can be viewed poolside, to romantic evening music. Finally there will be four regulation-sized bocce courts and a park which also feature game tables for classic card and board games such as backgammon, chess and checkers. The bocce and all board games are available to use free of charge all day long!
It is a very ambitious plan but who else but an epic movie director would include such amenities in his winery? It will certainly live up to its motto of "Wine Food and Adventure"! We can't wait to visit it again some day!
I'm linking up with Claudia at the blog Dippity Road for Friday "Finding Beauty" and Sandi at the blog The Whistlestop Cafe for"Friday Favorites ♥ Linky Party♥" Please visit their blogs and join in all the fun!