How I Fell in Love with Wine in Montenegro

(Contributed by Makenna White) My relationship with wine is different from most Americans growing up. I have Danish family members that we would visit every couple years and my cousins, a couple years older than me, would have their own glasses of wine at dinner. After our first visit there, my parents introduced us to alcohol the same way many Europeans introduced their children to alcohol. They made it accessible for my brother and I to try, making drinking alcohol not seem forbidden and therefore “desirable.” As a kid having a sip of mom’s wine and dad’s rum and coke, none of it tasted good until our second trip to Europe.

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Wine & Food from Montenegro. Photo Credit: Commons

I first fell in love with wine when I was fourteen, at a little family winery in Montenegro. It was late May, 2014, we had just visited our family in Denmark, we flew to Croatia and drove to Montenegro to spend a few days there. My parents set up for us to go to a local winery with a translator and after driving through neighborhoods, we arrived at this little winery. The winery has been there for generations and is currently run by three generations of the family. We sat around a table in their cellar with old swords on the walls, barrels full of wine, fresh prosciutto from the neighbor’s pig, cheese from another neighbor, and fried dough the grandmother had just made.

Before even starting with the wine, they gave my parents six shots of brandy. Since Montenegro did not have a drinking age, they asked me if I wanted to try a sip of wine. I, being fourteen and wanting to act grown up, said yes. I tried two different reds, I do not remember the type of grapes but they were named Dionis (Greek God of wine) and Korin (which is similar to my mom’s name, Corinne).

I was very happy about the experience. It was amazing how connected everything was, the fresh meat and cheese from the neighbors, seeing the grapevines we just had wine from as we drove away, and sitting with the people whose whole lives revolved around a drink. My parents bought a few bottles to bring home, but I do not think we have anymore now. The experience we had will stay with me forever and remind me how ancient and universal this industry is.

Trend of Adding Ice to Champagne, Cremant, and Provence Rose Growing in France

On my recent trip to France, I discovered that the trend of adding ice to wine is spreading throughout the country. Introduced several years ago by Moët & Chandon, other Champagne and Cremant houses have followed suit, as well as some Provence Rose producers. However, interestingly, they have created separate blends and new products for their wines that are designed for ice additions.

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New Sparkling Wine from Cattin Winery in Alsace – -just add ICE!

The reason for this was all explained to me by Anais Cattin, during my recent visit to Cattin Winery in Alsace. Anais explained that because these wines are usually consumed in the summer with the ice melting in the wine, that the blend must be fruiter and sweeter. They have just released a new wine called Cattin Cremant d’Alsace ICE. Made from 100% Pinot Auxerrois, it is purposely made in a sweeter more fruity style, with 40 grams per liter sugar (4% RS). This sparkling wine is designed to be drunk with ice as an aperitif, and is targeted at younger wine drinkers in France and abroad. The packaging on the bottle is also unique, with the design created by a French street artist who specializes in painting large outdoor murals.

For more information on Cattin Winery, click on this link  https://winetravelstories2.com/2018/04/08/cattin-winery-in-alsace-creating-captivating-cremants-great-wine-tourism-experiences/

Many Advertisements for New Wines Designed for Ice

While in France I saw many advertisements for these new types of wine designed to add ice, and my French wine business students were raving about how good the new Rose Ice wine from Provence is on a hot summer day. Below is an advertisement for one of these “ice concept” wines on a street corner near a bus stop.

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Advertisement for new “wine with Ice” on street corner in France

 

How I Fell in Love with Wine: Autumn Leaves and Finding Grape Buyers

Contributed by Victoria Herrera – In 1950 my great grandfather bought 75 acres of farmland outside of the town of Healdsburg in Sonoma, California in the Dry Creek Valley AVA. It was then passed down to my grandfather, who was an immigrant from Italy. Naturally he planted several acres of Zinfandel grapes that he would sell to make a little bit of cash, and also make wine for the family.

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Vineyard Leaves in Autumn

Growing up, I always enjoyed visiting my grandfather at his Healdsburg property. I enjoyed watching him take care of his chickens, vegetable garden, walnut trees, and grapes. He took great pride in everything he grew. One of the best parts for me was to climb to the top of the hill in the autumn time and look down across the vineyards. There was a full 180-degree view of the Dry Creek Valley, and the vine leaves were always beautiful shades of yellow, gold, brown, red, and green.

Recently my grandfather passed away, so my mother and her two sisters had to take over the work of the gardens and vineyards. However, we no longer had any one to sell the grapes to because the connections my grandfather had remained with him. We were left with beautiful grapes, but no idea what to do with them or to whom to sell them.

This is how I fell in love with the wine business. My mother and I reached out to people, and eventually we found someone to buy and harvest our grapes. Experiencing the whole process created a spark within me, and I knew I wanted to be involved in the wine industry. That is why I am studying wine business at Sonoma State University.

Though I am not old enough to drink wine yet, I will be in another year. Then I look forward to falling in love with wine in another way – through exploring taste and texture, pairing with food, and sharing with friends and family.

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Old Vine Zinfandel in Autumn

 

How I Fell In Love with Wine in San Francisco

Contributed by Cecilia Bandalan – It was a cold winter day in San Francisco, and I had just turned twenty-one years old. I was also dating a French guy from Marseille here on a temporary visa working at a biotech company. Prior to dating him, I had very little experience with wine. After meeting him, we would drink wine at the end of our workday, but nothing he bought really lit a fire in me. He tried explaining the flavor notes; even paired some with cheese and charcuterie, but it still never excited me. Not until the day of my birthday.

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Tournedos Rossini. Photo Credit: CC by 2.0

He insisted that we eat at a French restaurant to get this one particular dish called Tournedos Rossini, which is a filet mignon pan- seared in butter, topped with a seared piece of foie gras, drizzled in a black truffle demi glace. Our waiter also suggested I get a Cote du Rhone to pair with this dish. Now, at the time I had no idea what foie gras was. When my French boyfriend told me that it was duck liver, I immediately pushed the dish away. He said, “Cecilia, trust me, foie gras is one of the greatest luxury foods in the world, have an open mind and just try one bite.” So I sliced a beautiful medium-rare piece of filet as well as a small slice of the duck liver, moved my fork full around the black truffle demi glace and took a bite. It was absolutely amazing. I chewed for a little bit, swallowed, then took a sip of the Cote du Rhone wine, and I kid you not, I lost track of time and very briefly forgot that I was on a date.

Not only was the dish amazing, but I remember starring at my wine glass wondering to myself, “Why is this red wine so damn delicious?!” I swirled it around to see if someone poured something in my drink because I could not believe how incredible this dining experience was. After swirling the wine around a little bit, I stuck my nose into the glass and took a big whiff, and from there it just all made sense. I understood the magic of pairing good food and even better wine. Ever since I was hooked on food and wine.

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Cote du Rhone Wine. Photo Credit: Agne27

I never stop looking for incredible wine and food pairings. I am also constantly trying to give myself “wow” moments where time stops. It truly is an exciting subject to study in college and it is a wonderful career to have. As a current tasting room associate, I feel overjoyed when I see that “wow’ factor on a customer’s face when they taste a first sip of the wine I am presenting to them. Overall, I am very passionate about wine and cannot see myself working in any other industry. Wine is magic!

Which Top American Wine Was Preferred by Chinese Master Class?

(May 19, 2017) Last evening I taught a Master class in Shanghai, China entitled “Top Wines of America.” It was scheduled from 7 to 9pm at the Hyatt Regency, and all 34 seats in the class were filled with young Chinese wine professionals. Most were working in the industry as wine retailers, marketers, or educators. There were also a few importers and winemakers in the class.

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Master Class on Top American Wines in Shanghai China

The hosts of the Wine100 Competition organized the master class and arranged for the wines to be available for the event. They requested that I select 8 highly rated wine brands that were available in the Chinese market, and that could represent the major wine-producing states of California, Washington, Oregon and New York.

My translator was Melody, who had graduated from the WSET Diploma program, so she knew wine quite well. We began with a 30-minute overview of the history and statistics of American wine, and then spent some time describing the climate and soil of the four major wine regions we would be tasting (See Powerpoint below, which includes Chinese translation).

Wine100 Masterclass on American Wines by DRLizThachMW

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Line-Up of Top American Wines

Line-Up of Top 8 American Wines

We tasted through the following eight wines, and then I asked everyone to vote by a show of hand for their two favorites. Following are the results:

  1. Forge Dry Riesling 2015 New York Finger Lakes = 3
  2. Kistler Vine Hill Vineyard Chardonnay 2013, Russian River = 11
  3. Domaine Serene Evenstad Reserve Pinot Noir 2013 = 13
  4. Kosta Browne Pinot Noir 2014 Gap’s Crown Vineyard Vineyard = 11
  5. Turley Old Vine Zinfandel 2015 = 6
  6. Opus One 2012 = 10
  7. Harlan The Maiden 2000 = 8
  8. Cayuse Syrah 2010, Cailloux Vineyard = 6

The Winning Wine from Oregon

So Domaine Serene Pinot Noir from Oregon ended up edging out the others by a couple of points. Though this wasn’t a scientific poll in anyway, and cannot be generalized, it was interesting.  In addition, I had been told before arriving in China that younger Chinese are beginning to show a penchant for pinot noir, over the more tannic cabernet blends that their parents have preferred. So perhaps we are starting to see a shift in palate preferences….

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With Anita and Melody – my two brilliant translators

Toasting Trione Winery at Over 100 Years in Sonoma County

(Contributed by Jane HofmiesterTrione Winery was the most recent guest winery in the SSU Winesense Club educational series.  Boasting over 100 years in Sonoma County, the Trione family are true pioneers in the region.

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The Old Stone Building at Trione Winery

 

About Trione Winery

Beginning as farmers and grape growers, the Trione’s own over 700 acres of vineyards in the Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley, and Sonoma Coast AVAs. They finally started making wine in 2005, and opened a winery tasting room for the public in 2008. Operated by brothers Mark and Vic Trione, along with Mark’s daughter, Denise and her husband, Kris, they opened the winery on the site of the historic Nervo winery.  Click here for a video on Trione Winery.

The Old Stone Building at Trione Winery

The famous Old Stone building was part of the original Nervo winery, and was constructed in 1908.  The Trione’s carefully renovated it, and today it is a showcase for weddings, fundraisers, live music, and other community events. The venue can accommodate gatherings of up to 250 people.

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Wines Featured for the SSU Educational Tasting

A Tasting of Four Trione Wines at SSU

What really stands out at Trione are their wines, produced by winemaker, Scot Covington. They specialize in well-balanced, handcrafted wines from their estate vineyards, with an emphasis on sauvignon blanc, zinfandel, and cabernet sauvignon from the Alexander Valley, and Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Sonoma Coast and the Russian River. Frank Tanner from Trione was kind enough to lead the educational tasting with the following four wines:

Trione 2015 Sauvignon Blanc ($23) – Aromatic, floral, herbal, crisp, grapefruit, lemongrass, nice minerality. What makes this Sauvignon Blanc unique is that it is made with a yeast strain from South Africa that enhances the flavors and aromas.

Trione 2013 Primitivo a.k.a Zinfandel ($37) – Earthy, fig, currant, blackberry, cherry. Italian style Zinfandel

Trione 2013 Zinfandel ($37) – Blueberry, blackberry, cherry, black pepper, tobacco, plum, long-finish.

Trione 2012 Henry’s Blend ($56) – a blend of the 5 Bordeaux varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Verdot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec. Soft, med-tanins, blackberry, cherry, cassis, cedar, vanilla, oak, tart finish. Will develop in the next 5-8 years.

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SSU WineSense Board with Frank Tanner from Trione

The Favorite of the Evening

All of the wines were delicious, but after the vote, the favorite wine of the evening was the Trione 2015 Sauvignon Blanc.

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Favorite of the Evening – Trione Sauvignon Blanc

 

The Unknown Story of Gloria Ferrer Champagne Cave’s First Venture into the US Market

Contributed by Jennifer Schiff – The SSU WineSense Club’s first meeting of the Spring 2017 semester featured Gloria Ferrer Champagne Caves, a prominent bubble house located in the southernmost part of Sonoma. The sparkling wine house was established in 1982 by the same folks who brought us the globally distributed Cordon Negro, Freixenet. However, there is a little known story about their first venture into the US in the early 1930’s.

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After years upon years of producing cava and becoming the largest producer and exporter of sparkling wines in the world, the Spanish company Freixenet decided to extend their reaches and break ground in the wine world here on US soil. When they first ventured to the United States, their visit was cut short due to civil unrest erupting back home, which would eventually develop into the Spanish Civil War of the late 1930s. Shortly following that conflict was World War II, resulting in a less than ideal time for the company’s out of country developments. It wouldn’t be until the 1980s that they would again venture West, this time to the Pacific Coast, in search of a property suitable for the growing of grapes. In 1982 a purchase of 207 acres, now referred to as their Home Ranch, was made. Jose Ferrer, CEO of Freixenet at the time, wisely decided that the estate was suited to be named after none other than his wife Gloria. Over the next four years, vines were planted, buildings constructed, and plans for business drawn up. The doors at Gloria Ferrer opened in 1986 and their adventure as the first sparkling wine house in Carneros began.

Gloria Ferrer Today

Thirty-one years have passed since their opening and Gloria Ferrer has established itself as one of the finest bubble makers here in Sonoma County. Today they are responsible for over 150,000 cases in production, and have accumulated hundreds of Gold Medals in recognition of their wine. The parent company, Freixenet, with over 500 years of winemaking of Metodo Tradicional, took their talents and applied that same expertise to utilizing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay under Methode Champenoise in California.

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SSU WineSense Club Tasting with Gloria Ferrer 

Tasting of Four Gloria Ferrer Wines

During the meeting, we had the pleasure of tasting four different wines from the GF portfolio, all some of their most successful and celebrated products. To ensure no bias or influence was impressed upon us by his words, our speaker opted out of providing any details beyond the name, style, blend, and vintage of the wine, so as to allow us to form our own opinions on tasting notes:

Name Vintage Style Blend Tasting Notes
Sonoma Brut NV Brut 88% Pinot Noir 12% Chard. Citrus, Tart Green Apple
Blanc De Noir NV Brut 92% Pinot Noir 8% Chard. Fruity, Dark Cherry
Royal Cuvee 2007 Brut ⅔ Pinot Noir ⅓ Chardonnay Yeast, Bread, Grapefruit
Brut Rose 2013 Brut 92% Pinot Noir 8% Chard. Red Fruit Straw. Cranberry

 

In the end, all of the wines were delicious and well-received, so it was not possible to select a favorite.

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SSU WineSense Board Members with Gloria Ferrer Staff

A Magical Field Trip to Hanna Winery in Sonoma

(Contributed by Jennifer Schiff) In October the SSU Wine Sense Club put on an extravagant field trip to Hanna Winery in Alexander Valley. Driving up the long and beautifully landscaped driveway, everyone was very impressed with the Spanish style architecture of Hanna Winery and the sweeping views of the valley. Our tasting took place under the large oak tree below the tasting room, and was facilitated by Shelby Lozinto, an intern at Hanna and also our Wine Sense Club president.

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Hanna Winery – Photo Credit: Hanna.com

About Hanna Winery

Hanna Winery was first started in 1985 by Dr. Elias Hanna.  Then Christine Hanna, president and daughter of Dr. Elias Hanna, took over operations of the winery in 1996.  At that time, the annual production was less than 10,000 cases per year, but now the winery produces up to 55,000 cases annually and is growing steadily.  Out of the 55,000 case production, 35,000 cases are solely Sauvignon Blanc, which has become the signature wine of Hanna. This is primarily because they consistently win best of show medals on this delicious wine with notes of grapefruit, grass, and a refreshing acidity.

Wine Tasting at Hanna

It was only fitting that we started with the 2015 Hanna Sauvignon Blanc from the Russian River Valley.  This wine took best in class during the San Francisco Wine Competition and received a double Gold medal during the Sonoma County Harvest Fair.

The second wine presented to the club was the 2014 Hanna Rosé, which was produced in more of a French fashion meaning it was light, crisp, and not very sweet; a dry taste of the wine was emphasized. The Hanna Rosé is almost a 50/50 blend of Pinot Noir and Malbec. The Malbec is produced in Alexander Valley, whereas the Pinot Noir comes from the Russian River Valley. A fun fact about this wine is to achieve the beautiful light pink color, the skins of the grapes are only in contact with the juices for at most 4 hours.

The third wine the club tasted was the 2014 Elias Chardonnay.  The Elias brand name is derived from Dr. Hanna’s first name, he is also a renowned heart surgeon.  During Dr. Hanna’s career, he was known for having the “Quickest hands in the West.” Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are some of his favorite varietals to grow and consume.  This Chardonnay is grown in the Russian River Valley near the Santa Rosa tasting room. It is also barrel fermented in French and Hungarian Oak which gives the wine its smooth texture.

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SSU WineSense Club Members at Hanna Winery

After the Chardonnay the group went on to sample the 2014 Hanna Malbec, which had recently received, the Gold Medal in the San Francisco Chronical. The Malbec came across as the perfect Fall wine as it resembles pumpkin pie spice, “jammy” cranberry sauce and an essence of sage; the perfect complement to any Thanksgiving meal. Overall the wine was very lively on the palate.

The last wine the group experienced was the 2013 Hanna Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. This bold wine was given 94 points by Robert Parker and retails for $62. It is grown in Alexander Valley where the valley has the perfect warm and sunny climate to produce Cabernet Sauvignon.

Big John’s Market, Grape Tasting in the Vineyard & Horse Carriage Ride

During the Wine tasting the Wine Sense Club enjoyed refreshing and delicious sandwiches and goodies from Big Johns Market in Healdsburg. At the end of the tasting Shelby escorted the group into the vineyards where everyone was able to sample a few grapes straight off the vine. In the area, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec were available to taste. The group was astonished with how sweet the grapes actually tasted and were amazed at the transformation they go through to transform into wine.

To continue with the tour of the property, Brett Roland, a local wine tourist guide was kind enough to take the wine club on a horse and carriage ride down to the ponds. To end the tour of the property, Shelby took the group into the cellar room below the tasting room to show off the barrels and tanks.

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Horse Carriage Ride Through the Vineyards at Hanna Winery

Hanna Winery – a Truly Magical Place

Enjoying the wines, the education, the beautiful scenery and clear blue sky above, the group was enamored by the wonderful experience. Overall, Hanna Winery had been a great destination to take in the beauty that Alexander Valley has to offer and enjoy some premium wines of Sonoma County.

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A Toast to Hanna Winery for a Great Field Trip

A Visit to Three Outstanding Santa Cruz Wineries: Pelican Ranch, Armida and Loma Prieta

(Contributed by Itze Monserrat Peña-Andrade) This past weekend a few members from the SSU Winesense Club took a field trip to visit the Santa Cruz wine region. This is a beautiful wine region near the ocean with over 120 wineries in the nearby hills. For more information about the Santa Cruz Winergrowers Association and wine maps, click here. We arrived Friday in Capitola, and set out to visit two small tasting rooms.

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SSU WineSense Members in Santa Cruz

Pelican Ranch

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Pelican Ranch Tasting Room

The first tasting room we went to was a small winery that produces only 1000 cases a year named Pelican Ranch. We stumbled upon this small winery and were fortunate to get an unexpected tour of the place. They specialize in Rhone and Burgundy style wines that result in rich, complex wines. It’s a quaint little winery that has only been in operation since 1997 and the generosity of the employees made this a great experience that we all really enjoyed.

 

Armida Winery

The second winery that we went to was Armida Winery and just like the first winery, we happened to drive by and decided to stop.  Located in Capitola, the Armida tasting room is one that shouldn’t be missed.  It is located near the ocean and the view is beautiful, it’s a great place to stop by for it’s nestled amongst a variety of fun shops in the center of Capitola. Armida also has a location in Sonoma County, so some of us were familiar with the brand. We tried their famous Poizon zinfandel wine that comes in a coffin shaped box, and it was a huge hit.

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Armida Tasting Room in Capitola

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The Famous Poizin Wine in Box Coffins

Loma Prieta Winery

The following day, we drove 2600 feet above Highway 17 to our next destination, and – unanimously – our favorite tasting of the trip: Loma Prieta Winery. The winery is actually known for being the largest producer of Pinotage in North America, and the view from the tasting room is absolutely breathtaking. The employees went above and beyond to make our experience enjoyable and it showed for we spent several hours there tasting and eating the day away.  Aside from tasting, we played some games outside, including a giant chess game, and the time just flew by. It is a winery we all really enjoyed and would definitely recommend.

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View From Loma Prieta Winery

The quick weekend trip was a great success. All the members and board members that were able to go had a great time and we were introduced to some new wineries that we all hope to revisit again. It is a trip that we won’t soon forget and recommend future members to attend.

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Giant Chess Game at Loma Prieta Winery

 

 

Swimming Pools and a Wine Wonderland – A Delightful Tasting with Francis Ford Coppola Winery

(Contributed by Itze Monserrat Peña-Andrade) This week’s SSU WineSense Club meeting was quite thrilling in that we welcomed Francis Ford Coppola Winery for the very first time. The meeting and educational tasting was led by Kevin Patterson and Kaila Medina, both Hospitality Professionals working in tasting room operations. They provided information about the history, products, and special amenities at the winery.

Swimming Pool at Francis Ford Coppola Winery

The Unique Attributes of Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Sonoma County

Nestled on what was formerly Chateau Souverain Winery in Geyserville, California, Francis Ford Coppola Winery is a winery that is not to be missed.  When the winery was being renovated, Francis had a vision that it:

“Should be like a resort, basically a wine wonderland, a park of pleasure where people of all ages can enjoy the best things in life – food, wine, music, dancing, games, swimming and performances of all types. A place to celebrate the love of life!”

Today his vision is a reality, and the Coppola Winery is truly a Wine Wonderland!  Influenced by Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, the winery offers many delights for the visitors of all ages. With swimming pools, bocce courts, restaurants, event rooms, multiple tasting bars, and a Hollywood movie museum, the winery over delivers with fun activities to while away an afternoon and evening.

Some of the unique features include several of Coppola’s Oscar statues, along with memorabilia from his movies, such as Vito Corleone’s desk from The Godfather and a restored 1948 Tucker Sedan as was used in Tucker: The Man and His Dream. 

Restaurant at Francis Ford Coppola Winery

Kevin Leads Wine Tasting at SSU

Kevin and Kaila led the members of WineSense club through a tasting that featured a diverse selection of five Coppola wines:

  • 2014 Directors Cut Russian River Valley Chardonnay
  • 2014 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
  • 2013 Directors Cut Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel
  • 2014 Directors Cut Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2012 Directors Cut Cinema Blend

They explained the special characteristics of each wine we tasted, and provided background information on the labels and unique packaging. These five delicious wines were but a glimpse of the many wines that Francis Ford Coppola Winery offers, and we were invited to visit the tasting room in the future.

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Favorites Wines of the Evening

At the conclusion of the meeting, the Millennial participants were asked to vote for their two favorite wines of the evening. The winners were:

2012 Directors Cut Cinema ($39) – A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel, this wine exudes blackberries, violets, spice and vanilla.

2013 Directors Cut Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel ($27).  Red zinfandel with notes of mixed berries, cherries and licorice, plus a hint of nutmeg.

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SSU WineSense Executive Board at Francis Ford Coppola Eduational Tasting