Over the Holiday break, my family and I took a trip out to Napa Valley to experience Wine Country. We visited a number of fantastic wineries, but one of the places that most inspired me was the Francis Ford Coppola Winery. It wasn’t even the beautiful grounds themselves or the quality wine that most inspired me, it was the way they brought Coppola’s personality to life in every aspect of the experience, from the environment to the naming of wines.
If you’re not familiar with Francis Ford Coppola he’s the prolific writer, director, and producer behind some of the most popular movies, most notably all three parts of The Godfather trilogy and Apocalypse Now. He’s one of only 7 other directors to win an Oscar for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay (Original/Adapted), he joined this group in 1975 when he won all three for The Godfather: Part II. He proudly displays many of his awards throughout the Movie Gallery space within the winery.
All this to say that he’s an incredibly creative person, and the place I found this most evident was in the care he took in naming his wine collections. He has one particular line of wines called the “Director’s Great Movies” collection that contains wines such as the King Kong Cabernet Sauvignon, the Jaws Chardonnay, and the Wizard of Oz Merlot.
Amusing names on the surface, but creative and unique when you look a little deeper. The King Kong Cabernet Sauvignon is so named because it’s a blend that offers “big, bold flavors and a dramatic finish,” while the Jaws Chardonnay is a light, tropical-toned Chardonnay that one might sip on a hot summer day – perhaps at the beach while avoiding a shark attack. Once you know the meaning behind the names, it brings a certain level of expectations for the flavor profiles. Even without the explanation the names do a wonderful job of communicating a subconscious message regarding what you should expect when you open the wine – maybe that’s part of the reason these wines have won so many awards?
The other collection of wines that I was inspired by is a series he calls the “Storytellers.” During our tour, we were able to taste one of these wines called Pitagora and I actually embarrassed my family a little as I geeked out about the meaning behind the name. Let me take you through it:
- First, Pythagoras (Pitagora in Italian) was a legendary Greek scholar known for mathematics and philosophy, who is most known for the Pythagorean theorem (TRIANGLES).
- Second, the triangle is important to the wine because the grapes used comes from three different areas of Sonoma.
- Third, two of the main varietals used in the blend are Petit Verdot and Petite Sirah, bringing the “pit” from the name back into relevance.
- And lastly, Coppola’s grandfather grew up playing in the ruins of a school run by Pythagoras.
It’s hard to deny that the name has an interesting depth of meaning.
Other wines in that series include a bold and intense blend of Cabernet and Malbec called Vendetta and a pair of French-influenced wines called Cyrano and Roxane, inspired by the characters in the play Cyrano de Bergerac. In a less complex take on naming, he’s also named a line of sparkling wines after his daughter Sofia Coppola, who is known for having a bright, “effervescent” personality with a heavily romantic lean.
The piece that I find most inspiring about these naming constructs is that while they all say something interesting about the wines themselves, they also tell a story about the winery brand, but especially about the values behind the man who runs it. He clearly values artistry, creativity, family, and curiosity.
Bonus: Check out this awesome bottle of Malbec that takes the Zoetrope label and brings it to life with a twist.