Vol. 25 No. 02 Wine

Valentine’s Day with Wine Country Icons

Wine country icons Francis Ford Coppola, Cathy Corison, Paul Draper, and Philippe Melka offer favorite Valentine’s Day wine and food pairings.


Recently my mind wandered as I Zoomed with several wine country greats during virtual tasting events. I wondered what wine and food they would serve their spouse on Valentine’s Day. Here are a few vignettes from Francis Ford Coppola, Cathy Corison, Paul Draper, Philippe Melka, and more.

Francis Ford Coppola, Inglenook and The Family Coppola wineries

On the set of his first feature film, Coppola met his future wife Eleanor, and they married in 1964.  Coppola had no intention of becoming a vintner when he hunted for a “vacation cottage” in Napa Valley in 1969. But a historic home with vineyards captured the filmmaker’s imagination, and he bought it. Coppola restored the chateau and vineyards to their previous grandeur and launched Niebaum-Coppola Estate Winery; in 2011 he renamed the property to its original brand, Inglenook.

Fall 2019

Along with acclaimed Inglenook, Coppola owns The Family Coppola wineries in Sonoma and Oregon. In 2016 the vintner launched Eleanor wine, a blend of Sonoma and Napa Valley Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Coppola honored his wife in the wine’s tech notes: “Eleanor has always been a true partner in my endeavors bringing her creativity, honesty and general spirit to it all.” Given her interest in textiles and fabrics, Coppola commissioned a label with an Art Deco pattern, her favored artistic style.

As for Coppola’s favorite food pairings with red wines such as Eleanor, Timothy Bodell, the culinary director at Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville, notes that Coppola chose “classic Fiorentina steak for two” at his April 2019, birthday celebration.

Cathy Corison, Corison Winery

A Napa Valley pioneer in the production of outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon, Corison was also one of the few women vintners in 1987. She worked at several wineries while making wine on the side for a few years. By 1990 Corison met William Martin, an architect with an interest in wine. After they married, they purchased Kronos vineyard, and Martin designed the Corison Winery “winery barn” and tasting room. He handles the winery’s accounting while Corison has branched out to produce other varietals from Napa and beyond.

When asked about their wine selection for Valentine’s Day, Corison immediately responded, “Corazón Rosé. Corazón means heart in Spanish, and there are subtle hearts included in the label, designed by my husband,” said Corison. “Corazón Rosé is a serendipitous byproduct of our flagship cabernet sauvignon—the juice is “bled” as the grapes are crushed and fermented to total dryness.”

Corison’s description of the rosé spells romance: “Aromas, including dried rose petals, jump out of the glass. Flavors include Bing cherry, red currant, and plum, and snappy acidity keeps it lively.” For pairing, Corison suggests grilled Alaskan salmon, which echoes the salmon-pink color of the rosé.

Paul Draper, Ridge Vineyards

Paul Draper didn’t start Ridge Vineyards, but his name is near synonymous with the winery. The Monte Bello Winery was conceived in 1885 on Monte Bello Ridge in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The winery was reinvigorated and rebranded in the early 1960s as Ridge Vineyards. In 1969 the owners hired Draper, a philosophy graduate from Stanford who recently started a winery in Chile.

As a hands-on winemaker rather than a graduate-level enologist, Draper’s wine impressed the world at the Judgment of Paris when the 1971 Monte Bello Cabernet placed fifth against the French. Draper’s winemaking skills enhanced the Ridge portfolio, which grew from Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel to other varietals from other AVAs.

Retired in 2016, Draper offered his favorite Valentine’s Day pairing to share with his wife Maureen: 1995 Ridge Vineyard Monte Bello Cabernet with chocolate cake.  Draper added, “A rich chocolate cake echoes the resolved structure of a great vintage.” As for the main course with Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet, the winery offers a recipe for pan-seared filet mignon with foraged mushroom gratin and Marchand de vin sauce.

Philippe Melka, Melka Estates and Atelier Melka Consulting

Philippe Melka was born in Bordeaux and later graduated from its famed university in agronomy and enology. His interest in vineyard soils led him to France, Italy, Australia, and the U.S where he met Cherie Montbleau, the lab director at Ridge Vineyards. With his limited English language skills balanced with her fluent French and their mutual fascination with the science of wine, the couple quickly fell in love.

Relocating to Bordeaux and marrying there, the Melkas related a favorite Valentine’s Day from that era. “We were apartment sitting for a friend’s place with a beautiful view of the Bordeaux Cathedral. Lit up at night it is quite majestic. We decided to make it a simple night with a fresh baguette, some amazing French cheeses, and a lovely bottle of Château de la Dauphine.”

After they returned to the U.S., they launched a consulting business, now named Atelier Melka. Known as the 100-point winemaker, Philippe earned his first of many 100-point accolades with Dana Estates. Atelier Melka continues to work with long-term clients including Lail and multi-year stints with Quintessa, Vineyard 29, Hundred Acre, and Dalla Valle. The Melkas launched their winery, Melka Estates, in 2011.

This year, reported Cherie, their Valentine’s celebration will include “2009 Philipponat Champagne with caviar and more and more seafood and then more bubbles.”

Parallel Wines

Melka began consulting with Parallel Wines in Napa Valley and produced their first vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon in 2003. The owners of Parallel Wines are four wine-loving couples from Park City, Utah who are avid skiers. The name refers to the parallel tracks skis make in the snow and the owners’ parallel lives in Napa Valley and Deer Valley (Park City), Utah. Referring to the most challenging ski runs, the label of their Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is Black Diamond with a different black diamond run from around the world added to each vintage. Parallel is made at Brasswood Napa Valley and offers a diverse menu of live and virtual tasting packages. Melka crafts a Parallel Chardonnay, which would be a sacrilege to his Bordeaux white-wine-is-Sauvignon-blanc professors. In a recent conversation though, he waxed romantic about the Parallel Chardonnay. “Powerful but light on its feet, full of seduction with exotic fruit, a little honey, the wine is balanced and pairs well with food.”

The owner couples have unique love stories. Mac and Ann MacQuoid exemplify the spirited group, many of whom moved to Park City before it evolved into a global destination. Relocating on a whim with their child, they soon met friends who were “risk takers, fun-loving, but serious about Parallel” and joined the partnership.

Ann described their Valentine’s dinner of beef tenderloin with a 2017 Black Diamonds Eclipse Cabernet Sauvignon. “While we always enjoy the combination of a big Cabernet with a bold meat dish, the story behind Eclipse adds to the enjoyment.” The wine was named for a black diamond run in Vitacura, Chile, and the “Great American Eclipse” coincidentally occurred in August 2017.

This Valentine’s Day many of us may celebrate in our home regions rather than traveling afar. Like Cathy Corison, my husband and I will enjoy rosé and salmon. May everyone find ways to enjoy, with good wine and food.

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Don’t miss Features, Reviews, News, and Recipes from top Restaurateurs!

Suggested roles: Restaurateur (e.g. manager, owner, cook, chef, sommelier, bartender, mixologist), PR (e.g. PR agency), Producer (e.g. winery, distillery), Marketer (e.g. ad buyer), Consultant, Journalist

Suggested interests: wine, spirits, food, recipes, cocktails

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