Coppola Winery Movie Museum
When we travel in offbeat exploration mode, wineries usually don't offer much to make us slow down. But call one a "Wine Wonderland," and we have to look. Besides shooting for (and attaining) a premier viticulture identity, the Francis Ford Coppola Winery aims to be a major tourist magnet, if judged by its latest display of Hollywood props, costumes and memorabilia from the owner's iconic movies. The wines are good, the family-friendly restaurant is excellent. But we're certain it's the world's only winery with a pile of skulls, a bamboo prisoner cage and the armor of Vlad the Impaler.
The Coppola winery is on a picturesque hill surrounded by vineyards (the former Chateau Souverain winery), just west of US Hwy 101. Major renovations in 2010 have transformed it into the Coppola cinematic vision of an adventure winery. When we visited, workers were still finishing up on a swimming pool at the front entrance, with a band pavilion based on a Lake Tahoe scene in Godfather II [now complete, with cabanas rented daily in pool weather].
Don't misunderstand -- it's all tastefully furnished and designed (despite the cinematic terroir, Coppola has thus far resisted calls for a Horse's Head Reserve label). The movie exhibits are spread over two floors, intermixed with gift shop offerings, tasting areas, and Rustic, the restaurant with Francis's "favorite" family recipes. The experience is so visually compelling and seamless, you might get the eerie sensation that you are an actor in a movie, in which you visit a winery, enjoy a fine meal, and get to admire props from films you didn't star in.
One gallery of the building is centered on the chrome and maroon Tucker car from the eponymous movie. Remember Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988)? That's part of the fun. In one glass case you spot instantly identifiable items from a groundbreaking, important film; in the next you find yourself trying to recall - when - that - came - out. But no doubt that Coppola delivered the career goods -- one display features a row of his Oscars from just one movie...
Apocalypse Now gets its own wall, including Dennis Hopper's outfit and array of cameras in their senseless jabber glory, along with Robert Duvall's cowboy boots and cavalry hat. The Dracula display fills an area adjacent to another wine tasting station (insider tip: sample only red here), and features the lacy gown of Winona Ryder's character's doomed friend Lucy and Gary Oldman's gaudy Count D. duds. Vlad the Impaler's red-ribbed armor is like something worn by a Batman arch-villain.
A pair of scale model sailing war ships were being wheeled into position upstairs for a new exhibit. We couldn't recall what movie Francis used those in (Jack?) until someone pointed out they were from a battle scene in Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette (2006). The new generation!