Thursday, January 10, 2008

Another reason to like F.F. Coppola


He's made some of the best movies in modern history. The Godfather and The Godfather, Part II alone qualify him for placement on a pedestal, and then there's Apocalypse Now and The Conversation, so he might have 4 films in my personal top 25 all time list. On top of being a bona fide artist with film, the man is audacious and bold, going broke and hitting jackpots with frequency. He had the huevos to go big time into the Napa wine business, buying properties to reunite the former glory of the Niebaum estate, which had been broken up and pillaged by philistine business interests over the years. Once he had the grand structure in hand, he poured a huge sum into restoration. I once watched a master carpenter working by hand to rebuild the massive staircase that you can see today at Rubicon Estate (formerly Niebaum-Coppola, formerly Inglenook.) That's the Coppola style - spend the money to do it right, or don't do it at all. The man lives large, takes big risks, dreams major dreams, and I find him to be one admirable dude.

Recently he made another move that raises his stocks even more - tearing down the barrel storage building out in front of the grand chateau. (Piece here from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.) This warehouse-like wooden box was thrown up in the '70s by Heublein, the corporate interest that had bought up Inglenook. Talk about lacking a vision! They built this big box that blocked off of the view of the classic Niebaum structure. (That's the Chateau in the photo, but it doesn't really do the place justice.) Anyone visiting Napa Valley would agree that part of the visual appeal is seeing these great old buildings sitting back along the base of the hills - Greystone, Far Niente and the Rhine House at Beringer come to mind as well. To build something out in front like that - what a bunch of goobers. Sort of like building a Taco Bell in the courtyard of the Alamo.

So hats off to Francis. He has done such a good thing here, I am willing now to forgive him for the movie Jack. (Now THERE is an obscure reference for you!)

2 comments:

DodgerScott said...

Huh? Did Francis promise to give you some free wine? How's the Uptown Theatre going in Napa? How many years has it been? What ever happened to Megalopolis? How many millions of his own money did he sink into that project? Have you ever talked to an employee at the winery? I have never heard anything good about the way the winery treats its employees. And lets be honest, the wine is overpriced and average at best.

Barry Martin said...

No, I did not get any free wine (and besides, you know I can't be bought - cheaply.) Uptown progress is slow but I don't think that has much, if anything, to do with Coppola. "Megalopolis"? Don't know, don't care. His reputation has already been secured, as I wrote, based on the earlier classics. I don't care if he ever makes another movie. I have never known anyone who worked at his winery so can't comment on that. I will agree that the lower end wines they make are not very good - in fact, I don't know why he puts his name on the cheap stuff, but puts Rubicon on the good stuff. I'd do it the other way around. But he didn't ask my advice.