This morning I made my way to the very pleasant Nana Bar (Rehov Ahad HaAm 1 and if you haven't been there, well worth visiting for lunch, dinner or just drinks) to a tasting of a dozen of the recently arrived wines of Francis Ford Coppola.
Francis Ford Coppola is probably best known and admired by many as the director, writer and producer of films such as The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, Patton, and The Rainmaker. Coppola is equally known to wine lovers, however, as the person who entered the wine industry with the idea of producing highly tannic wines, much in the tradition of Bordeaux, that could live for fifty or more years. The truth is that Coppola has yet to attain that goal, his first wines, released in the 1980's being so highly tannic and coarse what they were far from great. Those earlier days have been forgiven however, for Coppola, who purchased and revitalized the old Inglenook and Rubicon Estate wineries has for almost twenty years now produced Rubicon and that has become one of the most sought after wines in the United States, the wine often showing elegance, balance and sophisticated restraint. .
Rubicon may be Coppola’s best and best known and most expensive wine but in the thirty years since he started his adventures on the wine road, his wine interests have expanded and he now produces well over 2.5 million bottles annually, those in series known as Rosso & Bianco and Diamond Collection. What the producers seem to have lost track of, perhaps in their efforts to please every level of wine drinker, is that there are now so many different labels in those series that consumers have become a bit confused. In the Diamond Collection series for examples there are varietal wines in red, yellow, black, gold, silver and platinum sub-series.
As will be seen in the following tasting notes of twelve of these wines to recently make their appearance locally, all imported by Y.D. Enterprises, Coppola's Rubicon and the Rubicon Cask wines remain of high interest and quality. As to others, those range in quality from merely acceptable to quite good. This is not the first time that Coppola's wines have been imported and now, as earlier, it remains difficult to understand why these wines cost nearly 100% more than they do in the USA.
The More Serious Wines
Francis Coppola, Claret, Diamond Collection, Black Label, California, 2006: In the beginning (let's say the 14-16th centuries), wines from Bordeaux were far lighter in both color and tannins than they are today and largely because of that the wines became known, especially in England,. as "clairet". Later, as Bordeaux became a wine force with which to be reckoned, the English kept the name, changing it somewhat to "claret" and even today tend to refer to all Bordeaux wines by that name. A true Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc (79%, 9%, 7%, 3% and 2% respectively) but no-one will ever take this for anything but a California wine. Whatever, medium- to full-bodied, with silky tannins and opening to show blackcurrant and blackberry fruits, those supported by notes of espresso coffee and Oriental spices. Drink now-2011. NIS 118. Score 87. (Tasted 24 Sep 2008)
Rubicon Estate, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cask, Rutherford, California, 2004: Made entirely from organically raised Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, developed in 500 liter American oak barrels for 28 months. Dark, almost inky garnet in color, opens with generous spicy wood and blackcurrants, those yielding in the glass to blackberries, purple plums and licorice and finally, on the long and mouth-filling finish fruits and tannins rising along with a generous note of vanilla. In regular format (i.e. 750 ml. bottles) best from 2009-2014. In magnum bottles (1.5 liter) best from 2013-2025. NIS 450 in regular format, NIS 1070 in magnums. Score 91. (Tasted in magnum and regular format bottles 24 Sep 2008)
Rubicon Estate, Rubicon, Napa, California, 2004: Deep garnet towards black in color, reflecting its 22 months in new French barriques with overtones of spices and vanilla, a blend of 96% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2%Petite Verdot and 1% each of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Still in its infancy but already showing fine balance and structure. Opens slowly at this stage to reveal blackcurrants and blackberry fruits, those on a background of anise, licorice and minted chocolate. A complex wine with a long and generous finish. NIS 750. Approachable now but best 2009-2020. Score 91. (Tasted 24 Sep 2008)
Not Quite as Serious
Francis Coppola, Cabernet Sauvignon, Diamond Collection, Ivory Label, California, 2006: Dark garnet in color, medium- to full-bodied, with soft, well integrated tannins and showing appealing blackcurrant, raspberry and cherry fruits on a background of Oriental spices. Drinking nicely now-2010. NIS 115. Score 87. (Tasted 24 Sep 2008)
Francis Coppola, Syrah-Shiraz, Green Label, Diamond Collection, California, 2006: An odd name for a wine considering that Syrah and Shiraz are simply different names for the same grapes and that the wine also includes 7% of Petite Sirah which is a completely different grape. Whatever, medium-bodied, smooth and round, showing appealing red and black berries and purple plums along with hints of chocolate and white pepper. Drink now-2009. NIS 103. Score 86. (Tasted 24 Sep 2008)
Francis Coppola, Zinfandel, Red Label, Diamond Collection, California, 2006: Dark but dull garnet in color, with an appealing sweet berry nose and showing generous vanilla from its 14 months in French oak. Opens to show wild berry and red plum notes on a lightly spicy background. Drink now-2009. NIS 103. Score 85.
Francis Coppola, Chardonnay, Gold Label, Diamond Collection, California, 2007: Light gold in color, developed for 10 months in oak and then 10 months in stainless steel vats, showing tropical fruits, apples and melon notes along with a hint of vanilla that comes in on the finish. Drink now. NIS 96. Score 85. (Tasted 24 Sep 2008)
Francis Coppola, Sauvignon Blanc, Yellow Label, Diamond Collection, California, 2007: Light straw colored, light- to medium-bodied, an unoaked white with generous acidity and showing aromas and flavors of melon, and grapefruit and lemon rind. Not at all complex but easy to drink. Drink now. NIS 96. Score 84. (Tasted 24 Sep 2008)
Francis Coppola, Merlot, Blue Label, Diamond Collection, California, 2006: An oak-aged blend of 92% Merlot, 6% Petite Sirah and 2% Syrah. Medium-bodied, with chunky, country-style tannins and opening slowly to reveal blue- and blackberries, currants and notes of vanilla. Pleasant enough. Drink now. NIS 115. Score 84. (Tasted 24 Sep 2008)
Francis CoppolaRosso & Bianco, Rosso, California, 2006: Garnet red, medium-bodied, with soft tannins a blend of Zinfandel Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon (48%, 27% and 25% respectively). Shows an easy to take berry-cherry personality. Not at all complex but a simple quaffer or good entry-level red. Drink now. NIS 70. Score 84. (Tasted 24 Sep 2008)
Francis Coppola, Rosso & Bianco, Bianco, California, 2007: The color of light straw with a green tint, an unoaked blend of 89% Pinot Grigio, 6% Sauvignon Blanc and 5% Chardonnay. On the nose and palate tropical and summer fruits along with a hint of pink grapefruit. As it is intended to be, a simple but pleasant little wine for everyday drinking. Drink now. NIS 70. Score 83. (Tasted 24 Sep 2008)
Francis Coppola, Pinot Noir, Silver Label, Diamond Collection, California, 2006: Pale, almost washed out ruby in color, a light- to medium-bodied wine that shows no reflection at all of the 12 months in spent in oak. A few red berry and cherry fruits here but beyond that a rather banal little wine. Drink up. NIS 126. Score 78. (Tasted twice with consistent notes 24 Sep 2008)