Francis Ford Coppola Winery — near Sonoma, Calif. — welcomes guests of all ages with film relics, a spacious pool and games. // © 2015 Zorianna Kit
Feature image (above): The pavilion at the winery hosts myriad events and was inspired by the bandshell from Coppola’s 1974 film "The Godfather: Part Two." // © 2015 Chad Keig
Wine tasting, we can all agree, is for adults; leave the kids with the babysitter, right? Not always. At Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Sonoma County, the Academy Award-winning proprietor and namesake insists that guests bring along their families.
“Francis’ focus has always been on family,” said Marlow Daniel, the winery’s director of public relations and communications. “Everyone is included.”
Located in Geyserville, Calif., just a short drive north from San Francisco, the winery features an all-ages playground that families, groups of friends and even the lone wine connoisseur can enjoy.
Coppola Winery is a working winery with tasting rooms and 26 acres of estate cabernet grapes that go in to the making of the Director’s Cut line of wines. However, the highlight at this facility is the 3,600-square-foot pool, which is open from April through October.
Plenty of lounge chairs, private changing cabins and lush grass surround the water. The Pool Cafe offers food and beverage. Purchasing “cabine” packages online guarantees spots while daily pool passes can be bought upon arrival. Cabines accommodate up to four people (adults and children age 3 or older) and include four reserved chaise lounge chairs on the pool deck, a private shower, Sofia sparkling white (for mom and dad to sip), a deck of Coppola playing cards and an invitation to the winery’s Tasting in the Dark series.
While kids can certainly accompany mom and dad to tastings, they will likely prefer to be in the water under the watchful eye of the lifeguards. There are also games to be played such as bocce ball (on four regulation-sized courts), backgammon, chess and checkers. Not too far from the pool, a standing teepee doubles as a lending library. Crawl inside, and it’s chock-full of children’s books that are perfect for poolside reading.
Saturdays on the estate feature smoothie tastings for the kids. On Easter weekend and Halloween, there is an egg hunt and a carnival, respectively. It’s all part of the Coppola Winery belief that children are supposed to be seen and heard.
Meanwhile, film buffs will enjoy the various memorabilia from Coppola’s movies sprinkled throughout the winery. In the middle of the ground-floor gift shop, for example, sits the original automobile from the filmmaker’s 1988 film “Tucker: The Man and his Dream.” It’s parked on a rotator and slowly spins 360 degrees to be admired in all its shiny red glory. Go up the winding staircase, and you will not only see a glass case with Coppola’s gold Oscar statuettes, but also Don Corleone’s desk from “The Godfather” movies.
When the pool closes at 6 p.m., it’s an easy segue to dinner at the winery’s restaurant, Rustic Francis’s Favorites. The menu features Coppola’s favorite dishes from around the world, such as Marrakech lamb and chicken “mattone.” The menus describe each dish and their personal meanings, using stories written by Coppola himself. The food is cooked on a “parrilla,” an Argentinean wood-burning grill.
The treats don’t stop there, however. In lieu of standard lighting, Rustic is illuminated like a movie set, bringing in a touch of Hollywood magic.
If you are at Rustic on a Tuesday, you will experience the restaurant transformed in to a family-style dining experience known as a “Tavola,” which means, “to the table.” Waiters dressed in vintage Italian costumes portray traditional characters found in a typical Italian family. While serving customers, they act out family dynamics and dramas, creating interactive Italian theater.
Speaking of family, Coppola winery works with more than 150 growers to source the fruit for its wines, many of which are named after the director’s beloved family members including the Eleanor (wife), Sofia (daughter) and Gia (granddaughter). The Votre Sante wine collection pays tribute to Copolla’s grandmother Maria Zasa, who would raise her wine glass every Sunday at the family dinner table and proclaim, “A votre sante!” or “To your health!”
“Francis’ life is all about family,” said Corey Beck, president and director of winemaking for Francis Ford Coppola Winery. “He wants to honor them always.”
That’s something we can all raise our wine glasses too — “la famiglia!”