My Visit to the Francis Ford Coppola Winery

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If you’re a member of the TCM Wine Club, and even if you’re not, you are probably aware of the fact that director Francis Ford Coppola owns a winery located in California’s picturesque Sonoma County. I recently had the opportunity to visit the winery’s Rustic restaurant and explore the grounds, which house memorabilia from many of Coppola’s movies.

The Francis Ford Coppola winery is located in Geyserville within the Alexander Valley just outside Santa Rosa where Alfred Hitchcock shot Shadow of a Doubt in 1943. It sits on 24 acres of sustainable farmland using techniques that protect the environment, wildlife and surrounding community. All the food served at the winery’s Rustic restaurant is seasonal and sourced locally, which was apparent when I ate there. My meal was very fresh and very good.

Each year over 150,000 guests reportedly visit the winery but unlike many other wineries in the area, Coppola’s appeals to families and encourages visitors to explore the environs on their own. While there, you can swim in the accompanying pools or play bocce ball, backgammon, checkers and chess with the other guests. It’s a very relaxed and informal place that makes wine tasting a fun experience for wine connoisseurs as well as novices like yours truly. In Coppola’s own words (borrowed from the winery’s official website) he wanted it to be “a wine wonderland, a park of pleasure where people of all ages can enjoy all the best things in life – food, wine, music, dancing, games, swimming and performances of all types. A place to celebrate the love of life.” In retrospect, I think he succeeded. While roaming around I was reminded of large gatherings with my father’s Italian family when I was a child. There is a genuine warmth that seems to emanate from the surroundings and the employees I encountered were very friendly and helpful.

The Coppola Museum is spread throughout various rooms between wine tasting areas and shop displays so you have to explore the grounds to enjoy it. I appreciated the process of discovery and as a film buff, I found myself ‘oohing and ahhing’ at all the exhibits.

What follows are photos I snapped while I was there along with brief descriptions so others could get a taste of what to expect if they visit.

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The entrance gate to the Coppola winery and Rustic restaurant along with a shot of restaurant patrons eating outside with views of the vineyard. Also pictured is the Rustic menu along with our meal. I had the Pizza Sofia (named after Francis’ famous filmmaking daughter) and paired it with Coppola’s Diamond Collection wines.

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Coppola’s Oscars for Patton (1971), The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather: Part II (1974) are on display along with many other prestigious awards he has won.

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The car from Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988) is a beauty and it’s on display in the shop area of the winery where you can purchase wine and spirits as well as gifts and knickknacks baring the Coppola brand.

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The martini glass prop from One from the Heart (1982) is on display outside the entrance of the Rustic restaurant. In the film Natasha Kinski plays a circus performer named Leila who does a seductive dance routine inside this neon martini glass.

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My favorite thing about Coppola’s Dracula (1992) is the Oscar-winning costumes designed by Eiko Ishioka and I was even more impressed after seeing them firsthand. They really are spectacular, particularly the Klimt style gold robe worn by Gary Oldman and the wedding gown worn by Sadie Frost as Lucy.

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I was pleasantly surprised when I came across the impressive ships from Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoniette (2006).

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The beautiful desk seen in all three of The Godfather movies is one of the museum highlights along with a can of Genco Pura Olive Oil and the gold phone from The Godfather: Part II. There is also a letter from Marlon Brando to Coppola that reads, ” . . . Rest a little. Any way, we’ll talk over the phone I hope. Warm regards, Marlon P.S. Please tell Bob Evans that I couldn’t call him back.”

 

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My favorite display was for Apocalypse Now (1979), which happens to be my favorite Coppola film. It featured some great props and costumes, including the hat and boots worn by Robert Duvall as Lieutenant Colonel William “Bill” Kilgore, but it also taught me a few things about the film I didn’t know.

I’d always assumed the cameras that hung around the neck of Dennis Hopper’s nameless photojournalist were real but they’re actually fakes. I can only assume the weight of real cameras would have made them extremely impractical for Hopper’s character to lug around the hot jungle and the cost of journalist quality cameras, particularly in 1979, would have been an enormous expense.

I was also touched to see that Coppola had given the water skies used in the film the fictitious brand name of “Rosebud.” As my fellow classic film fans may or may not know, Apocalypse Now was based on Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness. When Orson Welles originally went to Hollywood in 1939 he hoped to turn Conrad’s story into a feature-length film himself but after facing various setbacks, he gave up on the project and eventually made Citizen Kane (1941) instead.

It’s also worth mentioning that when Coppola was casting Apocalypse Now he reportedly wanted Orson Welles to play Colonel Kurtz but he refused and the role ended up going to Marlon Brando. Coppola has always acknowledged Welles’ influence on his work but it was unexpected to see it represented on the water skies in such an informal, creative and genuinely moving way.

I hope you enjoyed visiting the Francis Ford Coppola Winery with me. If you ever find yourself in the California Wine Country, it’s well worth a visit.

Further reading:
- Francis Ford Coppola Winery
- TCM Wine Club

1 Response My Visit to the Francis Ford Coppola Winery
Posted By Doug : September 30, 2016 11:06 am

Love seeing the memorabilia,especially from “One From The Heart” and “Tucker”. I trained at a culinary school just down the road in Petaluma which sounds impressive until I share that it was a Coast Guard school.

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