Meet Andrea Card, the Director of Winemaking for every wine program at the Coppola family of wineries. A fourth-generation Sonoma County, California native, she is rooted in wine and was destined to be a winemaker. Dating back before Prohibition her great grandparents grew Petite Sirah and Carignane in the Alexander Valley, so grape growing runs in her veins.
Andrea started her winemaking career over 20 years ago at a Biodynamic® winery in California and it was here her fascination for flora and fauna started to unravel even further. The Francis Ford Director’s Cut line also became 100% certified sustainable in 2019 and the winery became 100% certified sustainable in 2019. To achieve the certification of sustainability at the Coppola Estates the winery installed bluebird boxes, owl boxes, raptor perches, and also the recycling of water for irrigation. Francis Ford Coppola Winery along with Jackson Family wines were the two pilot wineries to lead the way with sustainable practices in California, educating that a sustainable way of thinking was needed for the future survival of wine in the region.
The Francis Ford Coppola Winery was built on Francis’ desire to create a ‘wine wonderland’ full of adventure. One could also say that ‘Adventure’ is Andrea Card’s middle name. When I asked her what the craziest thing she ever did was she replied with “I’ve been skydiving twice – I was a pilot when I was younger and I always thought, how cool would it be to abandon your plane and just jump out?” right away I knew she was one with the birds and bees at the winery and there was no doubt, she had followed her calling to being a winemaker.
Although being a winemaker in California is her dream job, when I asked her what stamp she’d love to have her passport next she said “My dream would be to go to Madagascar, I’ve wanted to go there since I was a child. Any place that I can learn about a new culture, foods and communities – I love traveling. (That’s why I still compete in lumberjack competitions – because it affords me an excuse to travel!)”. A Lumberjack competition? Wow that caught me off guard, and it got me thinking… here is a talented, young winemaker, who loves to jump out of planes and also get down and integrated with nature…it sounds to me like she is definitely in the right profession at Francis Ford Coppola Winery.
“Francis Ford Coppola is like no other place in the world!” she says “It’s about more than just wine. It is a winery that is about enjoying the best things in life – food, wine, music, games, swimming and performances of all types. We have a restaurant and swimming pool right in the middle of the vineyards. And we also have a lot of Francis’ incredible movie memorabilia on display.” Now, I don’t know about you, but this is a true destination for any wine enthusiast and when it comes to movies and wine, I think many of us are pros at their pairings, especially after the last two years.
I asked her about her background in Bio-dynamics, if she felt she had a kismet relationship with nature, and if so how does that impact her relationship with winemaking.
“I think about nature every time I encounter a wine—thinking about where it came from, how nature set the stage for it to come to be what it is. Biodynamics is about partnering with nature to let the vineyard express its best qualities through wine. I am passionate about vineyard expression, and about letting the terroir of a place speak through the wine. I don’t want wines to be perfect, I want them to reflect where they came from. It’s amazing the differences that you see in wines that come from vineyards next door to each other, but with differences in the sites that absolutely show up in the glass. Biodynamics makes one very attuned to how every decision one makes can impact the wine, and as a winemaker, I aim to preserve those vineyard expressions wherever possible in order to make wines that are harmonious and balanced.”
As a nature enthusiast and an expert in her craft we switch our conversation to climate change and how it’s affected the wine world, “In the bigger picture” she says, “ the biggest challenge that all of us in the wine industry are facing is the threat of climate change. It is impacting winegrowing regions around the world in different ways, and forcing us to adapt and rethink how we grow and make our wines.”
Biodiversity is a very large part of being sustainable in the vineyard and naturally helping to combat the changing tides of mother nature. Wineries need to create a living biosphere that works in harmony with nature and all that is within it, to protect, preserve and improve the systems at hand. Card admits she truly enjoys working in tandem with nature to produce premium and delicious wines that truly offer a sense of place to the final drinker. “Encouraging wildlife and having it be a part of how we farm is incredibly important to me. My favorite practice is cultivating insectary areas. Providing a habitat for beneficial insects helps us fight vineyard pests in a more ecologically sustainable way.”
With just a few vintages under her belt, and wine in her veins, she’s learned a lot from wine and what it takes to make world-class Cabernet. “Working in wine teaches you patience and perseverance. It takes years to make a great Cabernet Sauvignon, for instance — from when the grapes are picked through fermentation, bottling and aging. And most decisions along the way are irrevocable, so you need to get them right. The biggest challenge is perhaps the challenge of making a unique wine that is true to itself, true to its varietal and region and also different from other wines from the same appellation.”
All this to say, she really does love her job at Francis Ford Coppola Winery and agrees that every day is an adventure.
“From a winemaking perspective, Francis Ford Coppola Winery is an amazing place to work, because we make such a variety of wines. People know us for the Diamond Collection wines, which are widely distributed, but we also make Sofia sparkling wines, Director’s Cut wines, and numerous special little cuvées that we sell only at the tasting room. So, working with different varietals and vineyards and wines makes it super interesting.”
As any wine lover and enthusiast she must have a personal wine cellar, right? I asked about what she might have lurking around in her collection these days, “I have too many wines, according to my husband!”, she says “My collection is California-centric, because we have such diversity here in the state that there’s always more to explore. I also stockpile Oregon sparkling wines, and have a collection of unusual wines that I stocked up on on a trip to Serbia. Southeast Europe, Australia and the Finger Lakes are other regions well represented in my cellar.”
This April, we celebrate California Wine Month in Canada, and one of my favorite wines from Francis Ford Coppola is the 2018 Diamond Collection Cabernet Sauvignon. Seeing as how I thought Card would be the perfect person, I asked her what she would pair with it. “This wine is more versatile than a lot of Cabernets — you can pair it with big steaks and also with foods that aren’t as heavy. I love it with herb-rubbed lamb chops, but it’s great with mushroom risotto or a grilled portobello burger with the works—Cheddar cheese, lettuce and tomato.” Everyone loves a great cabernet that is versatile, delicious, and hand-crafted and the wines from Francis Ford Coppola – the children of Andrea Card are just that!
Card did mention to me a little secret that I’ll share with you about a special release at the winery, “We have just released a new Appellation Series Sauvignon Blanc in the Diamond Collection that I’m super excited about. Sonoma County is one of the world’s best places to grow this grape, and I love this wine and am excited to see it take off, hopefully!
Plan your dream California vacation at Francis Ford Coppola Winery, relax in the pool, wander through the vineyards, and enjoy this wine wonderland. It may be just the inspiration you need!