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Coppola’s Sonoma County Wines Served at 2017 Oscars

Francis Ford Coppola's Cinema and Director's Cut Wine Series

“Cinema” came to the silver screen when Sonoma County wines shared the spotlight with nominees at the 89th Annual Academy Awards and Governors Ball on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017.

Film auteur-turned-vintner Francis Ford Coppola supplied the wines, which included his top Cabernet Sauvignon blend from Alexander Valley along with two special editions of his upper-tier “Director’s Cut” Sonoma County wines, as part of a three-year exclusive deal secured with the Academy this year.

Coppola is, of course, no stranger to the red carpet, having won five Oscars as well as being honored with the Irving G. Thalberg lifetime achievement award.

“Cinema” is the name of a Zinfandel-based blend in Francis Coppola Winery’s “Director’s Cut” series, which feature a unique label based on zoetrope strips.

For years, Coppola has collected vintage zoetropes, which made an early type of motion picture with strips of illustrated paper. To get his labels to spiral around the bottle was not possible, Coppola was told, so the innovative auteur, who overcame many challenges to make such films as Apocalypse Now, had a small company custom-design a machine to do it.

Like modern-day film, the scenes depicted on the labels range from lighthearted to horror-show, from dancing to devils. The wines offered at this year’s Academy Awards were limited edition “Director’s Cut” wines produced specifically for the event, according to winemaker Sandy Walheim, who worked on this special project with Corey Beck, director of winemaking at Francis Ford Coppola Winery.

“The winery worked closely with the Academy to choose wines that they felt their members and guests would enjoy, and reflect the prestige of their awards,” says Walheim. “For the Chardonnay, they favored a lush, ripe wine with a forward oak profile.”

That certainly jives with my tasting notes—see below.

“For the red wine, they wanted something that had some maturity and would be showing well at the events,” Walheim continues. After conducting blending trials and presenting samples to the Academy, they selected two “Cinema Premiere 89th Edition” wines. The “89th Edition” refers to the Academy Awards — although Coppola has been making wine for almost half that many vintages!

“The Chardonnay was a Russian River Valley lot that was quite tropical, yet well balanced,” says Walheim. “It was returned to new French oak for an additional three months of age. The wine’s big fruit tones meld very nicely with the oak and it is full on the palate. The red wine is a Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petite Sirah blend. Vintage year 2013 produced some robust Zinfandel and Petite Sirah and they too needed a touch more barrel age to develop.”

Here are my tasting notes:

2015 “Cinema Premiere 89th Edition” Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($45)

No surprise that the folks in Hollywood like a Chardonnay that puts on a show: This has a nose of simmering butter and spicy oak, and the fruit is ripe, as much baked peach as baked apple, with ice cream and flaky pasty notes making a cobbler. Silky smooth as it glides over the palate, this Chardonnay, like a sentimental film scene as the music swells, is so slickly finished I don’t mind if it’s slightly saccharine. Chilling to refrigerator temperature, nominally a bit too cool for Chardonnay, brings out the acidity and crisp flavors of sliced pear in juice. A fine “cocktail” Chardonnay for receptions.

2013 “Cinema Premiere 89th Edition” Sonoma County Red Wine ($65)

Smoke from dark, toasted oak wraps around stewed black fruits, creating a furry aromatic sensation. A serious note of graphite, perhaps from the Cabernet in the blend, firms up fruit wrap and blackberries-in-wine sauce aromas. They certainly privileged softness on the palate here: tannins make their presence felt, but — as if wrapped in fruit and lubricated with plum sauce — they roll on over the tongue. A note of fruit skin tartness wraps up the finish.

2013 Archimedes Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($90)

Earlier editions of this wine, named in honor of Coppola’s Uncle Archimedes, who was in turn named after the Greek mathematician, bore a striking label of red, silver, and black with technical illustrations; the new one depicts a legend of Archimedes. If more refined than an earlier vintage I tasted, this shows more subtly, too: the aroma is savory, like an herb-crusted filet. Cooler in character than the fruit-forward “Cinema” red blend, this eventually unfolds to display classic Cabernet blackcurrant aroma and flavor and is so supple and sip-able, it’s only on the finish that I can actually feel my tongue turning purple—made with mountain-grown Alexander Valley and Knights Valley fruit, it’s a tannic, if tamed, beast, for sure.

During last month’s Oscars events, some 10,000 glasses and 2,200 bottles of these wines were poured. For the visually minded, that’s almost 20 barrels of wine! But the wines are still available at the winery, located in Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley viticultural region

Convenient to the 101 freeway, yet picturesquely situated among the vineyards, Francis Ford Coppola Winery is a well thought-out wine theme park that includes a pool, film museum, and restaurant as well as a walk-up wine tasting bar downstairs and a reserve room for more serious swirling upstairs. Francis Ford Coppola Winery, 300 Via Archimedes, Geyserville, 707-857-1471