Recently, while out to dinner with some friends, I was introduced to a bottle that I have been interested in trying for quite some time now. Coppola Merlot is one of those wines that I’ve heard about and seen around for years, but never got around to trying for myself. I think it’s because I am skeptical of this whole new sub genre of celebrity produced wines. Most likely, I assume, these are just mass produced gimmicks that are designed to capitalize on the fame of a certain person, not a high quality product. How much time and effort does one put into this “hobby” and what qualifies them as a winemaker in the first place ?
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to review another celebrity produced wine (Mike Ditka Mendocino County Cabernet Sauvignon), and was pleasantly surprised. So I felt a little more open minded when trying this Merlot. I have since done some research about the brand, as I was only familiar with the Coppola name and not their wine making history.
Most everybody knows that Francis Ford Coppola is an Academy Award winning writer and director of classic films such as The Godfather trilogy, Apocalypse Now and Patton. But he and his family also have a great tradition for wine making. In the 1920′s, during prohibition, Coppola’s grandfather would have grapes shipped from California to New York. There, he would make homemade wine in the basement of his apartment building in concrete vats, by having family members stomp barefoot on the grapes.
In 1975, with proceeds from the first Godfather film, Francis, with help from his father, purchased his first vineyard in California’s Napa Valley. Two years later they produced their first vintage. In 1995, the Coppolas purchased their second winery, formerly Inglenook, and renamed it Rubicon Estate Winery. And in 2008, a third winery was purchased and the Francis Ford Coppola Winery was born. In 2011, Coppola Winery was awarded USA Winery of the Year by the International Wine and Spirit Competition.
I find Merlot, in general, to be a light, easy drinking, fruity wine, not nearly as complex as other reds tend to be. This Blue Label Merlot (2010), however, is a little different. After opening, a strong aroma of raspberry, blueberry, and vanilla can be detected along with a slight scent of leather. It tastes smooth and fruity, plums most notably, while being a bit more rich and complex than most other Merlots (due to oak aging). This added richness allows it to stand up well to many different foods. Though not an ideal wine for cheeses, this Merlot pairs well with hearty or heavier white meat and seafood dishes as well as lighter red meats.