Tag Archives: Francis Ford Coppola winery


When visiting California wine country, many people prefer exploring Sonoma County, which has excellent wineries and is less crowded and more laid back than its more famous neighbor Napa. Of course if you really want laid back, you need to come to Santa Cruz, but that’s another story.

The best towns for a base of operations in Sonoma County are Sonoma and Healdsburg. They each have a town square or plaza, surrounded by restaurants, boutique inns and shops, and tasting rooms. On a recent visit to Healdsburg, we found ourselves staying at the H2 hotel, just a block off the Plaza. It’s a modern, sustainable affair, with bamboo flooring, recycled steel and an undulating, living roof. The café, Spoonbar, opens onto the sidewalk so you can eat al fresco, and the food is extraordinary. In the same space is the “Receptobar”, where you can check in, get a drink, make a dinner reservation, borrow a bike to ride around town or a DVD to play on the flat screen in your room. We watched My Favorite Year in which Russell Crowe plays a ruthless stock trader who inherits his uncle’s French vineyard where he had spent summers as a boy. See it.

Next door to the H2 is the La Crema tasting room, featuring some of my favorite Sonoma County Pinots and Chardonnays and a friendly, young tasting room staff. Venturing further down Healdsburg Avenue, you’ll find the Healdsburg Bar and Grill, Murphy-Goode and Kendall-Jackson tasting rooms, and the Bear Republic Brewery, all highly recommended. Just past the plaza is Willi’s Seafood and Raw Bar. If you are only able to do one thing in Healdsburg, this has to be it. You can sit at Willi’s bar and order individual oysters from all over the world, along with numerous tapas style delicacies. We like to dine on the patio on calamari and ahi.

Healdsburg wouldn’t be complete without getting in the car and venturing out from downtown. To the south, you’ll find Rodney Strong. I always like to visit at least one place whose wines I can find at home, and I always enjoy their Chardonnays and Cabernets.

If you are a movie buff, consider driving north from Healdsburg where you can visit the Francis Ford Coppola Winery, a gorgeous estate that was once called Sovereign. The movie memorabilia that used to be on display at Coppola’s Inglenook estate in Napa is now here, including five Oscar statues. Coppola’s wines are always excellent, so we didn’t leave empty handed.

On the way back to Healdsburg, you might enjoy stopping at Trentadue. We found the staff friendly and the wines well made. The winner was the Chocolate Amore desert wine, and I don’t normally go in for port. While at Trentadue, you may be able to pick up a bottle etched with the logo of your alma mater, unless you’re a Banana Slug or Gaucho fan.

Closer to downtown Healdsburg is Seghesio, who have a large, Mediterranean style tasting room with glass windows behind the bar providing a view of the barrel room. The variety and quality of the wines were much to our liking and the pour girl was unusually knowledgeable.

After two fine days in and about Healdsburg, our Wine Country adventure continued with a drive through the Alexander and Knights valleys to Napa. Please stay tuned.


Wine and the Movies

With that title, you might be expecting a story about taking a flask to a theater, or which wine pairs best with Casablanca (Bogart’s characters would likely prefer whiskey or gin). In fact, we’ll be exploring several aspects of the long relationship between wine and filmmaking.

Legendary director Francis Ford Coppola owns two wineries, including the historic Inglenook estate in Napa Valley, which was purchased with the proceeds from The Godfather and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It’s a beautiful chateau to visit and the wines are exemplary. Like most Napa establishments, they focus on Chardonnay and big Cabernets.

The list of current actors who own wineries or vineyards includes Kyle MacLachlan (Pursued by Bear, Washington State), Dan Aykroyd (Aykroyd, Ontario), Antonio Banderas (Anta Banderas, Spain), Emilio Estevez (Casa Dumetz, Malibu) and Fess Parker. Parker’s vineyard in Foxen Canyon, near Santa Barbara, is worth a visit. The Pinot Noir and Syrah are excellent and the tasting room features wine glasses with a coon skin cap etched onto them. For those too young to remember, Fess Parker played Davy Crocket, an early 19th century American wilderness man who wore a raccoon skin cap.

Wine itself can be prominent in film, but sometimes it just drops in for a cameo, as in two of my favorite Roy Scheider films. In Marathon Man, Dustin Hoffman stars as an NYC grad student whose life is consumed by his studies and marathon training. When his worldly brother (Scheider) visits with a great French Bordeaux in hand, he searches the kitchen for wine glasses before settling on two water glasses of questionable cleanliness.

Marathon Man Wine Scene

The tables are turned on Scheider’s character Chief Brody in Jaws, the 1975 Spielberg thriller. This time it is he who disrespects a fine bottle of Burgundy that shark expert Matt Hooper (played by Richard Dreyfuss) has brought for dinner. Brody, severely stressed after losing a second citizen to a shark attack, grabs the freshly opened bottle, fills a tall glass and starts gulping as Hooper attempts to protest “you should really let that breathe”

Wine takes center stage in Sideways, the Alexander Paine comedy about the last romp of a groom and his oenophile buddy who takes him tasting, and adventuring, around Foxen Canyon and the Santa Ynez Valley. They even stop at Fess Parker. Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church are terrific in this film, so if you haven’t seen it and you like wine and laughs, put it in your Netflix queue.

Another great film that is wholly about wine is Bottle Shock, the story of Chateau Montelena’s improbable victory in the “Judgment of Paris”, a 1976 international wine competition that helped propel Napa to the forefront of the wine universe. Bonus points: it stars Chris Pine, who played young Captain Kirk in the J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie.

There is much more to this story than we can fit in these pages, so you’ll have to continue the journey through wine and film on your own. Bon voyage.