Friends with Francis

4 December 2017

Today we went to Napa Valley to visit our friend, Francis. Not the fictional Francis from House of Cards, but Francis Ford Coppola. We figured Griffin could do with a few tips before he starts his film and media course at TAFE next year.

However, when we arrived at his humble abode, Francis sent his lackey to play host. Now this lackey had a name, but it was caught up in his gleaming smile as he said it, so let’s just call him Guy. Guy’s father was (is?) a sheriff in Napa Valley and inspired him to study criminal justice at university but as soon as university ended, Guy entered the wine industry and is yet to regret it. He was eager to please and to assure us he was indeed a friend of Francis, dropped his name into conversation frequently, as he showed us around the estate and revealed its history.

Francis bought Inglenook back in 1975 with the proceeds from Godfather and gradually also bought surrounding parcels of land. In 2003 he added some artificial ‘caves’ to store the barrels of wine, as per the French way, and to add dramatic effect, I suppose. Guy took us through these corridors and out the back door to show us the gorgeous vines, mountain backdrop and Francis’s house, although the house was hidden behind a clump of trees.

The tour ended with a sampling of wines, accompanied by bread, cheese and the smiling prattle of Guy. To counter the effects of the wine we were also served coffee, the best we’ve had in the US so far, because, you know, Francis is rather particular about the quality of his coffee, as well as his wine. We bought one token bottle of wine for what we would normally spend on half a dozen bottles, and will need to save it for a special occasion.

Since Francis wasn’t available in person, we went on to visit his other main estate, this one named after himself. It was more in the style we expected from our mate, Francis, with its showcase of movie memorabilia and grand pool, cute change-rooms alongside. We viewed the memorabilia, perused the shop (John bought a T-shirt) and tasted the wine, a little more within the budget here. We bought a couple of bottles and then dined at Rustic, with its menu of Francis’s favourites. Wouldn’t you know it, but our waiter was also a good friend of Francis’s, frequently mentioning the times they had dined together.

By the time we finished lunch I had consumed enough wine (and a cocktail) to pose on the Mustang we hired for the day. By the way, driving on the wrong side of the road is a frightful exercise. I allowed John to take on the task while I hid, squashed in the back, and Griffin navigated with the aid of the GPS system. I only freaked out a few times. Unfortunately it was a cool and windy day so we didn’t drop the roof down but we returned to our hotel via the Golden Gate Bridge to complete our day with a quintessential San Francisco moment.


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