In the 1990s,
Coppola extended the brand to include a multiplicity of ventures, including
a new line of mammarella pastas made from antique molds, and organic
sauces, linens, pottery, candles, writing tools and pasta bowls. In 2000, we
caught up with Coppola at the end of his eight-cities-in-five-days hop
around the US to promote his Niebaum-Coppola brand, a trip made endurable
by his new Venetian blue Lear jet, complete with espresso machine.
Gayot.com: What was your earliest experience with wine?
Ford Coppola: Growing up in Long Island, wine was always at the
table and they let us drink it with water, though we preferred it with
ginger ale. We called wine at that level rosso and bianco.
G: When did you begin to make wine?
FFC: 1977. My father, my kids, my wife helped stomp the grapes barefoot.
We made about four barrels.
G: Do you still stomp your grapes with bare feet?
FFC: We do it every year at a harvest party, invite the neighbors, do a special
batch that way, and then drink the wine.
G: What was your segue from the movie business to the wine business?
FFC: It was just after the first Godfather, and I wanted a place that
would be a home for my family. I found the Niebaum Estate and bid on
it at auction. I was amazed that a big company like Seagrams, or the
established winemakers like Mondavi, didn't buy that property. That
they let a filmmaker come in and take a jewel of Napa Valley was a miracle!
G: How did it develop from there?
FFC: Growing up I was always conscious of the fact that many of my friends
couldn't afford expensive wine, so we made the Black Label Claret, and
then we introduced the Rosso and Bianco, in the $10 range. We produce
a family of wine that touches all uses and occasions. The business doubles
G: What was your most hair-raising moment in the wine business?
FFC: When I put the winery up to secure a loan to make Apocalypse Now.
G: You almost lost the ranch on that one, didn't you?
FFC: Almost! Godfather III helped me save it. Then, directing Bram
Stoker's Dracula allowed me to buy the second half of the estate.
We now have 2,000 acres and the vineyards are certified organic, farmed
almost as they were at the turn of the century.
G: All this expansion in your wine and food business sounds like a full-time
job. Is it taking precedence over your movie-making?
FFC: Oddly enough, I don't put that much time into the business now. I'm
the artistic director and I help sell it ... I've used all this to make
a transition in my film career. The wine business is giving me the time
to write, so one day I'll be able to make another film that's more my
G: And what's your goal in the wine business?
FFC: To perfect the Rubicon. We know we have the earth and the fruit to make
the ultimate wine of its kind.