“Some people have such good taste they can’t enjoy anything.” … Marty Rubin

As a person reaches a certain age and prepares to write the final chapters of his life’s story, certain deeply meaningful, philosophical questions remain not only unanswered but ever more troublesome -- such as: “Why does a blowing fan attract dust instead of blowing the dust away?”  (I found the answer to that one). But here’s one that lingers: “Does a winery’s success breed contempt or are people just not being honest”?

Take your pick from any of the large wineries whose presence is well established in grocery stores. Today, I’ll be “picking” on Francis Ford Coppola: a wine theme-park offering tours but also lodging, bocce courts, swimming pool, cabanas, an outdoor stage and restaurants on-site in the Geyserville, Sonoma winery grounds where I visited. Lots of movie memorabilia (including the car used in the making of “Tucker” and items from “Godfather”) in another building so large it has an elevator. Pasta & expresso machine, oh my! There’s so much going on, one wonders if there’s any room for the wine (there is).  But go online and look for critics’ reviews of Coppola’s “Diamond Collection” wines and you won’t find much.  The glitterati of wine writers have little to say about this price series.  With some exceptions, wine bloggers also seemingly avoid such less expensive labels.   

Is it that the winery, being so well established, has become too common a name for people to spend time writing about it, or is it disdain for the brand’s association being a “grocery store” wine?  The reality supports neither but also doesn’t explain it.  As with other California wineries, Coppola is somewhat of a “winery within a winery.”  And, as with those other wineries, Coppola makes world-class, highly rated wine but in limited production and available only at the winery, or at fine restaurants or to club members. You may come across a review of Coppola’s “Archimedes” ($120) or “Eleanor” ($80) – neither of which you will find in grocery stores. Both these wines are incredible.  And though they score well (my opinion) in the value to price category, they’re pricey enough to be removed from the “everyday drinking” category (at least for me). 

It was while pouring wine at retail events that I came across Coppola’s “Diamond Collection” series:Twelve wines, none single vineyard, all priced for everyday consumption and all with the simple California appellation. For some, that’s another issue – no AVA, no sub-AVA, not all the grapes being from a south facing slope on a particular hillside at a particular elevation.  But as with Champagne and some scotch for example, blending is an art too.  An art that allows the artist to knit together a sum greater than its parts. 

Coppola’s Syrah-Shiraz (different names for the same grape) is that. And with an average retail price of $14 (U.S.), it’s even more than that.  A blend of 99% Syrah and 1% Petite Sirah (percentages may change with vintages), people note aromas of wild berries and pomegranate spiced with a hint of tobacco leaf.  Others note plum and clove, mocha and toasted oak.  For me, it was deep rich fruit with raspberry and blueberry preserves being dominant and enticing. On the palate, dark cherry in a silky-smooth wine with very subdued tannins and well managed alcohol that generates no “heat” on the palate.  Sweet vanilla balances bittersweet chocolate. Some plum carries onto the palate from the wine’s aroma.  Other tasters note some smoky bacon and fig and cassis and caramel.  Some note white pepper, others black pepper.  I note that we can complicate things, but – in order to do so – the wine must be good to start with.

The wine is medium bodied and if there is any potential drawback to it, it is that it so easy drinking and enjoyable. Definitely “new world,” it is fruit forward, but not jammy.   Though some tasters commented on “earthy notes,” I found them subtle and without mushroom.  Not that such are bad things. Most of my cellar is “old world” and ageable.   This is wine that knows its market and is simply and unapologetically delicious, easy to enjoy and in good balance.

A Magnum! Who says
the best things
come in small
A benefit that comes attached to such “wineries within wineries” that also make “grocery store” wines is that the same skill and concern that goes into making their top priced labels goes into those labels also (in this case, the “Diamond Collection”).  In fact, such is a common practice in Bordeaux, though the Chateau name may be different enough to be confusing.  In the U.S., wineries may do the same by using the number #2 preceded by the first letter of the first name of the winery or they may use a play on the name of their winery along with a related image.

Although some varietals included in Coppola’s “Diamond Collection” series have been rated highly or have won GOLD at various San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competitions, the series itself doesn’t get the attention it deserves.  Maybe it’s that “grocery store” thing.  Maybe it’s low price doesn’t build the wine’s cachet among the glitterati. Maybe there’s more to Rubin’s quote that I realized.  I’ve tasted several varietals among the “Diamond Collection” series with the Syrah-Shiraz being the most recent.  (They are not all at the same price point as the Syrah-Shiraz, though all are inexpensive).   And should someone make a disparaging comment when you offer them a glass of this “grocery store” wine, don’t reply in kind. Be kind: pour them a taste.

………………. Jim

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Francis Ford Coppola Winery     
300 Via Archimedes,
Geyserville, CA 95441
(707) 857-1471

Blend:                                                   99% Syrah 1% Petite Syrah, Generally from Paso Robles
                                                              and Monterey.
Appellation:                                          California
Aging:                                                   French oak, 12 Months
ALC:                                                     13.5%
TA:                                                        .64g/100 ML
pH:                                                         3.62

Included in the 12 shown on Coppola’s web site for the “Diamond Collection” are Claret, Pavilion (a Chardonnay), Oregon Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay (not the Pavilion), Red Blend, Malbec, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir (not the Oregon), Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel and the Syrah-Shiraz.



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