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California Questionnaire: Francis Ford Coppola

The esteemed filmmaker loves great wine, local cuisine, and road tripping from the Napa Valley to Sonoma County

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Though best known as the Academy Award-winning director of The Godfather trilogy and Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola’s winemaking roots dig deep. He produced his first harvest at the Inglenook Estate in Rutherford in 1978 and now offers a wide variety of wines, including a highly acclaimed red blend, Rubicon, designed for discerning oenophiles. He also owns the 88-acre Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville, a particularly scenic corner of the Alexander Valley region of Sonoma County.

Beyond wine, Coppola has his hand in resorts, restaurants, a literary journal, an independent film studio, and much more. We asked the iconic filmmaker to share some of his Golden State favorites; his answers are below.

Where do you live? Rutherford, in the Napa Valley

Why there? That is the original location of the Inglenook Winery established in the 19th century and where we make our home.

Who or what is your greatest California love? I guess I must say the Inglenook Winery in Rutherford because it is probably the most beautiful large wine estate in the world.

What is the biggest misperception about Californians? It would be a misperception to assume Californians are all the same when in fact Californians represent such a diverse cross-section of people from all over the world, attracted by the extraordinary beauty and resources of California. They are truly cosmopolitan and diverse.

What is the stereotype that most holds true? You have to get everywhere by car.

What is your favorite Golden State splurge? To enjoy the incredible home-grown produce and agricultural products from this region.

Time for a road trip—where are you going? I love the drive from the Napa Valley wine country to the Sonoma wine country through the Alexander Valley. This is probably the most beautiful 45-minute trip existing anywhere and I find that I’m never bored by the journey nor hesitant to undertake it. I go from Inglenook and Rutherford directly through St. Helena then Calistoga and then continue through the Alexander Valley until I reach Highway 101, which I join. I then get off at the Independence Lane exit and I am there.

If you could decree an official state culinary experience, what would it be? This state is so diverse in its offerings it would be impossible to decree an official cuisine and be fair to the varying cultures that have influenced cuisine here. It is as easy to find an amazing meal inspired by local produce in the form of a vibrant and flavorful salad as it is to find high-quality Mexican-influenced cuisine or Japanese sushi.

How do you define California style? California is such a large state with the northern section and southern section varying quite differently from one another that it would be very difficult to typify beyond people who are friendly, love where they live, and feel grateful for being able to live there.

Best California song? “San Francisco (Open Your Golden Gate)” and “California Dreamin’”

How would your California dream day unfold? I’d enjoy an early morning espresso while viewing the magnificent vista into Napa Valley, and later drive into San Francisco to see a local dance company performance, or symphony, or an opera, or a film. I take great pride in the fact that we founded American Zoetrope, our independent film studio, in San Francisco. The Sentinel Building, located in what is now known as North Beach, is the the incubator of many of our art endeavors whether one speaks of the film history here, the award-winning literary magazine we’ve produced quarterly for 21 years (Zoetrope All-Story), or the Italian cuisine enjoyed in our Cafe Zoetrope. These places are all personal to me and my family, and while I’m continuing to innovate, it is always nice to come home to places we created years ago that still feel authentic, pleasurable, and of the highest quality.

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