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Copyright © 2015
Forkmedia LLC

by Fred McMillin
for July-August 2001


Francis Ford Coppola, The Vintner



Francis Coppola label 
"A business is but the lengthened shadow of a man."
...Capt. Gustave Niebaum, 1842-1908, first great Inglenook vintner


The Rest of the Story

Milestones of the Niebaum-Coppola Winery

1889—Capt. Niebaum cast a very long shadow, indeed. It reached all the way to Paris. At the Wine Exposition of 1889, his Napa Valley Inglenook wines won a special award for overall "excellence and purity."

1975—Francis and Eleanor (she's a native Californian) bought the historic Niebaum home and its 85-acre vineyard. He would return to the simple, rural life of his Italian ancestors, growing grapes and occasionally run off to make another movie. After all, the Godfather had financed the purchase of the Napa Valley property, and directing was in his blood.


Francis' Shadow

Now just a minute. Francis Coppola casts a very long shadow, too. He's a creative genius who operates on a huge scale. Imagine him watching the explosion of Napa wine production and quietly selling his ultra-premium Rutherford Bench grapes to other vinters! Not a chance. Just three years later, he's making wine.

The plan was in time to produce 6,000 cases a year. Sure, sure. Today, Niebaum-Coppola production is about 110,000 cases, including two very affordable models introduced just four years ago. Here they are.


Francis Says...

"When I was a child, the happiest times for me were the family get-togethers. There were uncles, aunts and cousins...there was laughter and plenty of kids. We were all united around the table with Italian dishes and wine. When you look back, those everyday meals turned out to be the most memorable."

Consequently, under the label "Coppola Presents" there is a white and red, affordable, flexible, for everyday meals.

Coppola Bianco (white)
The Bianco's chief grape is Chardonnay, plus some Riesling, Muscat and Malvasia. My panel gave the latest vintage, 1999, lots of accolades, Best Buy, Best White of Tasting, and a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Plenty of eye-opening, acid punch for a $10 wine.

Coppola Rosso (red)
The red wine was up against 11 competitors with an average price twice that of the Rosso. So there was no way it could win Best Red, but it did garner RECOMMENDED and Good Buy. Was perfect with my pepperoni pizza. $10. Oh yes, dominant grape is Zinfandel.

Contacts: Winery—(707) 968-1100, Fax (707) 963-9084; New York—Office of Kathleen Talbert,(212) 675-5525, Fax (212) 627-8458


Postscript—You Can't Take the Director Out of the Winery

In the formative years of the winery, the winemaker wanted to use the top floor of the old Niebaum coach house to store barrels of aging wine. Francis said he wanted to use it as a recording studio and film projection room. "Is this a winery or a film studio," asked the winemaker.

He found out. A year later the projection room was there and the winemaker wasn't!

James Conaway's Napa
Frank Prial, New York Times 7/10/96,
Bruce Schoenfeld, Wine Spectator, June 2000


About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. For information about the wine courses he teaches every month at either San Francisco State University or San Francisco City College (Fort Mason Division), please fax him at (415) 567-4468.



This page created July 2001