Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Coppola Family Buys Out Inglenook

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(in this photo, 1960 Inglenook "Cask" Cabernet Sauvignon from Cask F-9 12½% alc)


"No, I buy you out, you don't buy me out.", The Godfather 1972


Francis Ford Coppola has settled all family business this week. First, he announced recruiting Philippe Bascaules, winemaker at Bordeaux first growth estate Château Margaux. A person with suitable gravitas for an impresario like Coppola to replace both Larry Stone as manager and Scott Mcleod as winemaker of his Rutherford-based winery, Rubicon Estate. Per his agreement with Bascaules, Coppola waited until the 2010 Bordeaux en primeur was all but concluded before making the news public.

And secondly in a move even bolder and quite formidable--considering how its stirs up old Napa ghosts--Coppola made it known that he has acquired the Inglenook label, and, henceforth, Rubicon Estate is being rebranded to Inglenook.

Of course, the foundation of Rubicon Estate is Inglenook's Home Vineyard in Rutherford and the old Inglenook winery itself that still houses the mothballed giant redwood casks where the winery's famous "Cask" Cabernet Sauvignons were aged.

Yet, in all the excitement, what's never been mentioned is that the crème de la crème possession of the old Inglenook estate, the Napanook Vineyard, which lies separately in Oakville, will continue to remain outside Coppola's hands. Napanook was the heart of Inglenook, the main source for its famous "Cask" Cabernets. But today, this historic vineyard is part of Dominus Estate, the Napa winery of Bordeaux titan, Christian Moueix.

Moueix acquired Napanook from the heirs of John Daniel, Jr., who ran Inglenook during its greatest period between the 1930s and early 1960s. Daniel was the great-nephew of Inglenook founder, Gustave Niebaum. After Daniel sold off most of the Inglenook holdings, he ordered his daughters on his deathbed never to sell Napanook Vineyard. Alas, the daughters did not persevere in the wine business. They partnered with Moueix, but after some years the partnership broke off and Moueix came out owning Napanook.

Meanwhile, last time I checked Coppola's Rubicon Estate "Cask" Cabernet Sauvignon was being heavily discounted at Costco, side-by-side Inglenook labels. John Daniel must surely be turning in his grave.

3 comments:

  1. Rubicon Estate CASK was never heavily discounted nor was it ever side-by-side Inglenook labels. It was offered at Cosco for $50 during the bleakest two years of the recession, as production had been substantially ramped up due to its success, when wines over $50 were suddenly a casualty of the American restaurant business.

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  2. Napanook was never 'heart' of Inglenook, having been acquired in 1946.
    Thus is was never a component of the acclaimed John Daniel Cask cabernets during the 30's and culminating in the 1941 Inglenook, one of the greatest wines of the world. Napanook, a distance away from Rutherford, was owned for 14 years of Inglenooks 150 years

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  3. Thanks to the two Anonymous comments. As always history is always retold in various shades, so I appreciate the input. From some accounts Inglenook made very good Cabernets in the 1930s and 1940s, with the '41 getting much praise. But this was prior to the existence of its most famous Cabernet, the "Cask" Cabernet, created only after the purchase of Napanook Vineyard in 1946. The first vintage of "Cask" Cabernet was the 1949, a blend of the Home Vineyard, the Niebaum vineyard around the winery, and the Napanook. In the 1950s John Daniel Jr focused much effort in promoting "Cask" Cabernet, thus it became the symbol of the winery's excellence. So even though the winery was making highly acclaimed Cabernets in the earlier years, without Napanook there's no "Cask". And later on, when Daniel sold Inglenook, the only thing excluded in the sale was Napanook, which he wanted to stay in the family. It's quite obvious then that Napanook had a special place in his heart.

    As for Rubicon "Cask", I'd say that dropping the price by 50% from $100 to $50 would qualify as heavy discounting. Further, after the holidays, I saw the "Cask" at Costco South San Francisco being sold for just $28! Surprised me for sure. Wish I took a photo

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