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Wines of the Week: Francis Ford Coppola Chardonnays

Francis Ford Coppola Winery & Vineyards in Geyserville, Sonoma County.

Here’s a matchup comparison of two new Francis Coppola Winery Chardonnays, one an appellation-wide release, the other from one of the Dutton Ranch’s single properties, both from Sonoma County.

White wines are generally less expensive than reds, and the reasons are mostly straightforward economics: Even in Sonoma County, white grapes tend to be farmed for higher production and may yield more juice per pound of crushed fruit (more vino for the buck), the wines are aged for a shorter period of time (less storage cost) and in less expensive vessels (no pricey oak barrels).

Ah, but there’s Chardonnay, that blonde Burgundian bombshell, the diva of vitis vinifera. True, Chardonnay can be usefully made into a crisp, light beverage in a few simple steps, in stainless steel tanks, bottled fresh and released early the following spring. But Chardonnay, she expects so much more: barrel fermentation in the finest French oak, regular stirring of the lees, and ideally, the respect afforded by a single vineyard name.

So what does a vineyard designation and 15 bucks get you in the Russian River Valley? Here are the details about the two Francis Ford Coppola Chardonnays.

2015 Director’s Cut Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($23)

A buttery aroma is typical of Chardonnay — this brings to mind the butter and lemon juice mixture you might melt for an artichoke dip, including a vegetal hint of the artichoke. There’s more sharp apple than zippy lemon on the palate, however, and after a silky, sweet sip, oaky astringency and sweetness contest for the finishing impression. A very typical California Chardonnay.

Bottle of Chardonnay from Bellwether Farms.

2015 Francis Coppola Reserve Dutton Ranch Jewell Vineyard Chardonnay ($38)

The oak treatment is unexpectedly understated on this pricier bottle, coming across cool and leesy at first — imagine a freeze-dried ice cream of oak and apple crisp concocted by some postmodern chef and grated to a fine snow. Browning apples appear for a moment, but the fruit is almost tropical and there’s a creamy feel to the flavors — mangos and peaches in rich sheep’s milk yogurt — while woody oak notes mark the boundaries without overwhelming the finish. I like this a bit better — just don’t expect a flashy butterball.



By the way, did you know that Sonoma County is one of the few place where sheep’s milk yogurt is made? This is not an official Francis Ford Coppola wine pairing, but I hope Bellwether won’t mind if I reprint their recipe here — hey, it’s got grilled chicken (summer Chardonnay pairing) and yogurt (sounds like a go with the Dutton Chard).

From Bellwether Farms:
“Tangy sheep yogurt marinade flavors and tenderizes chicken while the grill heats up for a tasty barbecue and bonus dipping sauce.”

Recipe: Chicken Kabobs


2 cups Plain Bellwether Farms Sheep Yogurt
Zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper, plus more for seasoning
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground paprika
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne
Pinch of ground all spice
Pinch of ground cinnamon
1 green onion, white bottom finely chopped, green top finely sliced
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 large (about 14 ounces) red onion, quartered

In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, lemon zest, salt, white pepper, cumin, paprika, cayenne, allspice, cinnamon, and green onion and stir to mix well. Divide the yogurt mixture in half.

Place one half in a gallon-sized re-sealable plastic bag, along with the minced garlic and mix well. Add the chicken and seal the bag, removing as much air as possible. Make sure the chicken is well-coated by the marinade. Place on a small baking sheet and store in the refrigerator for three to four hours, or overnight. Reserve and store the other half of the yogurt mixture in the refrigerator (as a dipping sauce) until ready to use.

Soak eight wooden skewers in water for about 30 minutes. Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium heat.

Break up the quartered red onion into layers of two to three. Thread the chicken onto the skewers alternating with the red onion making sure not to cram the skewers. Season the kabobs with salt and pepper before placing on the grill. Cook until hatch marks appear and the chicken is cooked through, rotating about every three minutes for a total cook time of 15 to 20 minutes.

Serve with French Lentil and Carmody Salad, and yogurt dipping sauce.

Makes about 8 kabobs, 4 servings


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