Whenever I visit The San Francisco Bay Area, aside from seeing my family, I always make time for my best friend from college, Bat Pat. I’ve known her since I was a teenager. Back in those days, the Seventies, we shared many a Lame Adventure and for me, many firsts.
My first memorable first with Bat Pat is eating my first lobster at a restaurant in Ghirardelli Square called the Hungry Tiger. This adventure turned into me eating two lobsters, or possibly the first one run under the tap and reheated. When I tried to crack my first lobster I dipped my less than nimble fingers into the butter sauce, and created a mini oil slick. My red-shelled crustacean went flying and crash-landed under our table. Upon reflection decades later, many free-flowing glasses of Chardonnay might have also contributed to that situation. Now, I hold my liquor better, and my food, the little my gastroenterologist allows me to eat at this stage in my decay, remains in place — at least on the plate.
On a very rainy Tuesday in late December 2010, Bat Pat and I embarked on our latest Lame Adventure when we visited Francis Ford Coppola’s Sonoma County winery located in Geyserville.
As any lover of Coppola’s film, The Godfather, might expect, this is an epic production. The facility opened last July. The wine tour is essentially a tasting, followed by several ooh and ahh moments while recognizing the many familiar movie props peppered throughout, as well as stops by the movie memorabilia display cases followed by a brief visit to the bottling plant.
Apparently, Coppola wines use grapes from neighboring Alexander Valley vineyards, so if you want the full wine tour experience where you’re walking through miles and miles of cellars past stacks of oak barrels, you will not see that site here.
Yet, if you want to see the desk that Marlon Brando sat at then he played Don Corleone, as he stroked a kitten and listened to a distraught father’s woes, this is the place to visit. If you’d like to ogle Coppola’s Tucker Torpedo car decorated for Christmas, just travel down a short flight of stairs. If, as you drool over the car, you realize that you’re hungry, Francis has built a very nice (what else?) Italian restaurant on the premises he calls Rustic. It’s decorated with his extensive olive oil can collection.
In summer when temperatures can climb over 100 degrees, kids can play in the swimming pool, as their parents lounge nearby enjoying the mini cafe.
I was not sure if Neil, our tour guide, was joking or serious when he said that Francis was thinking about having smoothie tastings for the small fry, but this entire facility is so well designed, it seems possible. For anyone interested in film design, Coppola’s frequent collaborator, the production designer, Dean Tavoularis, also creates the labels for the reserve wine bottles, no doubt to Francis’s specifications. The posters are available for sale, $450 unsigned; $900 signed. We contented ourselves with taking a photograph.