Inglenook Estate (formerly Rubicon Estate, formerly Niebaum-Coppola) changed its name in 2011 after the owner, Francis Ford Coppola was able to finally purchase the rights to the Inglenook name. The Inglenook brand was bought by a number of corporate wine making machines and was most recently in use by Constellation Brands and the Wine Group.
Today the winery bills itself as “America’s Grand Wine Estate” – and it is certainly one of Napa’s most venerable estate properties. This storied winery has been in business for over 130 years and is among some of the most picturesque wineries in all of Napa. This was among the first Bordeaux styled wineries in the USA. The property was purchased in 1879 by Gustave Niebaum, a Finnish sea captain – he had a winery built starting in 1881 with their first harvest coming the following year. Over they years their wines won many prestigious wine tasting awards including gold medals at the World’s Fair in Paris in 1889. The winery was closed during Prohibition (like most of the wineries in the valley), but reopened after the repeal and again became very well known in the 1940’s and 1950’s under the direction of Niebaum’s grandnephew John Daniel Jr.
Film director and Napa resident, Francis Ford Coppola and his wife Eleanor of the Godfather trilogy and Apocalypse Now fame, have owned the winery since 1975 with their first vintage under their ownership from 1978. Coppola has long enjoyed wine (his grandfather used to make home wine in the basement of his New York apartment); this is not the only winery he owns – he also operates the very popular Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville in neighboring Sonoma County (complete with a pool, cabines available for rental, a restaurant, movie memorabilia and plenty of wine for visitors).
Inglenook used to be open to the public; today they only take appointments. As you pull into their driveway on the west side of Highway 29 (almost across from the Rutherford Cross Road and the great Beaulieu Vineyard) you will pass by two tall art ornaments – these were a gift to Francis Ford Coppola from George Lucas. Around dusk, the tops of these swivel down and turn into street lights. If you have an appointment, pull into the crushed stone parking lot to your right, check in with the concierge in the small carriage house (the Visitor Center, originally built in 1879 for housing tanks for water storage) and then proceed down the long driveway to the parking lot.
The Chateau is elegant both inside and outside. A beautiful reflecting pool framed by stately oak trees in front attracts the attention of all visitors. Looking the opposite direction to the east – one overlooks a sea of vineyards.
Before they implemented the appointment only policy – this used to be one of Napa’s most well-loved wineries – often with crowds of people milling about on the grounds and inside the winery ‘museum’. It is a different experience these days – one can walk the grounds in a much calmer and quieter setting. Several tasting/tour options are offered – including the Heritage Tasting, the Inglenook Experience (a tour + tasting) and a few select private experiences including a coveted tasting of select vintages of their Rubicon wines (these are wines are all distinctive – during a recent flight of various Rubicon vintages, none of the wines tasted alike).
Tastings are mostly of Cabernet Sauvignon. All estate wines come from their organically farmed vineyards on site. Inglenook owns many acres some of which extend all the way up into the Mayacamas Hills to the west of the actual winery. Their vineyards are separated into numerous small blocks – a surprising number of varietals grow on the property (both reds and whites).
The 2005 Rubicon (tasted 12 years after it’s vintage) shows what this wine will become with some age. The bouquet shows a wonderful depth of character – that evolves into a number of aromas as it opens. Shows notes of plum, mocha and cedar spices. It is savory at times. A very balanced wine that seems to be hitting it’s stride. It is supple on the palate – very pleasing. Hints of toffee, mocha and darker fruit lingers for some time. Sweet fine grained tannins hang delicately. A delicious wine.
The 2010 Rubicon is very dark in the glass; it shows minerality notes on the bouquet along with a dusty component – tends towards darker fruit aromas rather then red fruits. Somewhat savory with aromas of sage more in the background. We tasted this 7 years after the vintage date – still shows as a very young wine. Somewhat tight with astringent tannins. Flavors of spicy plum on the finish.
The 2013 is the first ever vintage of the Rubicon that was 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. The bouquet is dominated by secondary characteristics including cigar smoke, sweaty leather, tar and baking spices. The fruit is there, albeit hidden at times – showing mostly darker fruit aromas. Reveals excellent depth of flavor on the palate with noticeable mouth watering acidity. Flavors of blackberry and black currant along with various spices show on the finish. Features earthy long lasting tannins. No doubt, this wine will age for some time.
Be sure to visit the small sailing room downstairs (to the left of the main entrance and concierge station) which includes mementos and memorabilia from the original owner, Gustave Niebaum. As you will quickly learn from visiting the winery, he was a sailor.
A small film museum is located upstairs with many of Francis Ford Coppola’s awards, movie props and other interesting movie memorabilia. Exhibits upstairs are often displayed on a rotating basis. A grand staircase leads up to this museum and provides a good photo op at its base. Think Jack & Rose at the base of the staircase in the movie Titanic as you pose and smartly wave to the camera.
If its a warm day, there are tables outside for your relaxing enjoyment – also towards the south end of the winery there is a wine bar simply called “The Bistro”. This space provides additional tastings in a relaxed Parisian cafe style atmosphere (small food items are also served).
For more information and to book an appointment, visit: www.inglenook.com