My wife and I are First Members of the wine club at Francis Ford Coppola in Geyserville. So when I got a call reminding me that our most recent shipment needed to be picked up we took off with a friend to visit the winery.
Our friend had never been to the Coppola Winery at Via Archimedes; we drove up at shorty after noon. His first impression? “Impressive buildings. A bit like Disneyland.” The bold roofline, the grand stone façade, the sound of water splashing in the pool. The last time my wife and I were here, the weather was still cold and the pool had not yet opened to guests. This time the day’s pool passes were sold out, the cabines and deck chairs were occupied, the lifeguards were watchful, and the pergola bar was doing a slammin’ business.
We had an OpenTable reservation at Rustic, the winery’s onsite restaurant. We were early but the desk did not keep us waiting. All Rustic diners receive pettole, freshly-made savory doughnuts. Served hot in a white paper bag, pettole eat like a guilty pleasure. Our membership got us each a glass of house wine – Rosso or Bianco – and a white bean appetizer. The appetizer consisted of a mild white bean paste on toast rounds, drizzled with reduced balsamic vinegar, olive oil and chopped parsley. Light and bright.
The three of us shared our entrees. My wife ordered one of our menu favorites, the Short Ribs Argentine Style. Tender, grilled to a perfect medium, lovely chimichurri sauce, roasted veggies. Our friend went with the Rack of Lamb Madame Bali. Tender, medium rare, not gamey, served with fluffy rice and roasted veggies. My Pizza Luigino with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, oregano, and fresh basil was much larger than I expected, flavorful and delightfully New-York-style thin.
We ended the meal with zeppole, freshly-made doughnuts (very similar to the pettole) dusted with powdered sugar. A happy way to bring the meal full circle. Our server, Jordan, had served our family during a previous visit and provided the excellent service we’ve come to expect at Rustic. Our only gripe about this meal? The flies, which must have entered through the doors that open to the patio.
After lunch we wandered around the building a bit and checked out the store and the movie memorabilia exhibits. Then we cruised up to the tasting bar.
Our tasting steward, Mike, graciously allowed us the luxury of building our own tasting program. So we tasted a combination of whites, roses and reds, and talked them through among ourselves and with Mike, who was very knowledgeable and pleasant. Our friend was quite taken by the Moscato and purchased three bottles. I got excited by the 2009 Director’s Cut Zinfandel and was happy to hear that it was part of my club shipment. My wife has always enjoyed the bright, dry effervescence of Sophia and opted for the four-pack of bubbly in a can.
After our tasting we picked up our shipment and headed to Dry Creek Vineyard.
Dry Creek offers a very different atmosphere and experience. The grounds are much quieter; their building is reminiscent of a European chateau. The fenced, manicured grounds invite you to picnic at the umbrella-covered tables. The tasting room is designed like a great hall, with the counter at the long wall across from a large fireplace. The staff seemed genuinely happy to see us, even if it was nearly 4:15 p.m.
Behind the counter we remembered Maggie, who signed us up as members the first time we visited the winery. She was cheerful and knowledgeable, and encouraged us to taste the Chenin Blanc and Fume Blanc because they had released new vintages of both wines since we were there the last time. We found the 2009 Chenin Blanc to be bright and dry, with hints of citrus and grass, and a complexity that spoke of older vines. We bought two bottles, which will be perfect at a picnic or tailgate party. The 2009 Fume Blanc had distinct green pepper on the nose and palette, with some white and pink floral and fruit notes. It should go well with a cheese and nut plate.
We tasted a trio of Dry Creek Zinfandels: 2008 Spencer’s Hill, 2008 Somers Ranch, and 2007 Old Vine. The Spencer’s Hill was full of warm, red spices, in contrast to the jammy, fruit-forward Somers Ranch. The Old Vine offered a balance of the two zinfandel styles with the complexity of grapes from 85-year-old vines. This was a delicious and educational experience. We’re excited that one of those zinfandels will be in our September shipment.
The end of the day came too soon. We’ll be back in a few weeks to sample more wines and explore a new restaurant or two.