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Wine of the Week: Francis Ford Coppola 2014 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

It’s a sure sign that I’m way too deep into the latest season of Game of Thrones when, as I apply my critical faculties of wine evaluation to a two-ounce pour of Francis Ford Coppola Winery’s 2014 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($27), my first thought is: Doesn’t this look like the kind of wine Tyrion Lannister might drink?

Perhaps it’s the bright, limpid ruby hue of the wine that inspires me to recall countless scenes in which Tyrion, the dwarf lord with an outsized appetite for wine and other pleasures, pours himself a nice glass of light red wine.

Is anyone else with me in asking: If Tyrion is such a connoisseur and man about the seven kingdoms, why isn’t he drinking some full-bodied, cult Cabernet Sauvignon — or the Westeros equivalent of such?

For those unsullied among us who are enviably unconcerned with the characters of this televised saga, a brief backgrounder: HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones is based on author George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series of fantasy novels. Call it a “moat opera” if you will, it’s not only lavishly produced, but a well-written and entertaining show that’s set in a vaguely “medieval” world — think of The Hobbit, but with language and adult situations as well as dragons.

A key enthusiast of adult situations, Tyrion Lannister is a caustically witty, hard-drinking dwarf nobleman who’s been called a Falstaff-like character and is played sharply and empathetically by actor Peter Dinklage.

Tyrion is often seen drinking wine — most often, bright red wine, even in sunny King’s Landing. Indeed, the mellow climate and seaside location of the capital of this fantasy land might be somewhat reminiscent of Sonoma County. So what’s the story with that pinkish wine? After all, the show has a good rep for “realism” — dragons excepted.

Then, I recalled a conversation I had with winemaker Sean Thackrey last December that might shed some light on the subject. Thackrey not only keeps a library of old wine books and texts; he uses some “medieval” methods in his winemaking.

“If you look at any medieval painting of a nobleman with a glass of red wine — if it’s actually a glass on his table — you know the wine isn’t dark red,” Thackrey told me. The wine is about the color of his deeply pink rosé wine, called “Fifi.”

“So my supposition,” Thackrey continued, “is what they called red wine in Burgundy at that point is really what we would now call something like Fifi — in other words, it’s dark for a rosé, but it certainly isn’t dark for a red wine.”

These days, we’ve come to expect our Pinot Noir to be full-bodied and deeply colored. Indeed, the Russian River Valley can produce that style. But it’s there’s no reason that a perfectly sound, silky, and flavorful Pinot Noir should display that maximum of color and extraction.

The Francis Ford Coppola Winery 2014 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($27) isn’t actually much of an outlier in its ruby hue, and is certainly deeper in color than a rosé wine. Toasted oak notes spice up this sweetly appealing, strawberry and raspberry conserve flavored Pinot, a fine quaff for sipping while gazing out over the seas from any high tower.

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