Big Names in California Wine, Part 2: Francis Coppola Diamond Collection Black Label Claret 2011

Francis Coppola Diamond Collection 2011 Black Label Claret

Francis Coppola Diamond Collection 2011 Black Label Claret

Today’s follow-up to last week is about a nice Claret tribute from Francis Coppola’s winery, which is next door to Mondavi’s. After visiting with Mondavi at his winery, the author of “The Accidental Connoisseur” next paid a visit to this gothic-inspired winery in his quest to discover taste and sense of place. Read part one below this entry if you’re tuning in now…

While some might be skeptical when seeing a wine brand from somebody who clearly didn’t make his name in the wine business, I reiterate that many of the successful winemakers I’ve met or read about in my own quest started out being great at something else first.  And if not making it themselves, they have a vision and a good winemaker, which is okay too! Perhaps they always had the passion, but not the means for such a venture until they succeeded in another line of business. I myself, though not a winemaker, consider myself like the author, an “accidental connoisseur.” Wine is a pretty amazing thing.  Everything from the growing, to the vinification, to bottling has its own risks and rewards and many find themselves quickly consumed by wine and wine culture. And one thing I know is Francis Coppola takes his film work very seriously, to stellar results. So why wouldn’t he strive for the same results in any venture? I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of this wine and have really been enjoying it. At $17.99 its not a cheap wine, but its quality warrants the price.

The wine’s name pays tribute to the original Clarets imported from France by the British back in the day. The gold netting is a tribute to their original presentation, and the inspiration for this wine comes from a Bordeaux blend that they discovered in the cellar when they purchased the Gustave Niebaum “Inglenook” property in 1975. Niebaum was a Norwegian sea captain who founded the original winery in 1886 and had significant success in the 1940’s with winemaker John Daniel. The original Daniel wines are now very collectable. This wine is also the first and flagship wine of the Diamond Collection they started in 1997. Here’s a neat video on their site showing you how to open it and preserve the netting at the same time. It is primarily Cabernet Sauvignon like the original Medoc reds from the region, with the expected Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Merlot in the mix. Coppola calls this their signature, prize offering, which I think explains the pricing. And actually, $18 is not at all unreasonable for a good Napa Cab. It is aged 15 months in French oak, to complete the authenticity. At 13.5% abv, its just right. Winemaker Corey Beck has done a nice job with this one.

It is deep ruby in color and on the nose is blackberry, cherry, cassis, tobacco and clove. On the palate there is more black and red fruit, clove and baking spice from the oak. The tannins are firm and it has a nice acidity to balance it out. It should age well in my opinion. But I just finished it so fast I feel a bit like a thirsty vampire!  Now if only I had had Dracula on DVD to watch while I drank — a favorite film of mine. Gary Oldman is one great vampire, and so I tolerate Keanu Reeves. But it’s not all Dracula here. There is also memorabilia from Apocolypse Now and The Godfather films amongst the winery decor.

Here’s a great quote from the book about the visit to the winery:

“Its long driveway is adorned with voluptuous iron lamps brought from Paris, and as I drove down it a preposterously Gothic mansion swung into view. Edgar Allen Poe amid palms … following the Mondavi example, Coppola thought to revive the old Niebaum place by making it into a tourist attraction, a mixture of enological airport boutique and personal shrine to his own electrifying personality. People love it.”

Even if it’s a bit optimized for tourists, would you expect less from a renowned film director? Its on my visit-when-I’m out there list. Why can’t wine also be fun and not all stuffy all the time…

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