Big News: Coppola Buys Inglenook Brand, Lures Bascaules From Chateau Margaux

Very exciting news for the valley.

Jancis reports:

Press Release:
RUTHERFORD, CA (April 11, 2011) - Francis Ford Coppola announced today that
he has acquired the iconic Inglenook trademark and that henceforth, his
celebrated Rubicon Estate in Rutherford, Napa Valley will be known by its
historic original name, Inglenook, which he has acquired from The Wine
Group. In addition, beginning this summer renowned Bordeaux winemaker
Philippe Bascaules will assume the position of Estate Manager and Winemaker
at the newly renamed Inglenook.

Inglenook and its wines have played a prominent role in defining Napa Valley
as one of the great wine regions of the world, with a legacy dating back
nearly 150 years to the founding of the Inglenook Winery in 1879 by Gustave
Niebaum. The 1941 Inglenook Cabernet, which is considered one of the
greatest wines ever made, was produced from vineyards that are still part of
Coppola’s estate in Rutherford.

“Welcoming a preeminent winemaker like Philippe Bascaules to the renamed
Inglenook expresses my intention to honor the estate’s heritage and restore
its legacy,” said Coppola. “There’s an interesting idea that the owner of a
wine estate is part of the terroir, and it’s in this spirit that I’ve spent
the last year assessing Inglenook’s future needs, including recruiting
Philippe Bascaules, invigorating the vineyards, planning a new
state-of-the-art winemaking facility, and focusing on what it would take to
achieve my goal of restoring this property into America’s greatest wine
estate. This would not be possible save the gracious support of the
owner/managers of The Wine Group.”

“Good stewardship of our brands is central to our company’s operating
philosophy and culture,” said David Kent, CEO of The Wine Group. “We are
pleased to see the revered Inglenook brand reunited with its historic estate
under The Coppola Family’s stewardship. This is a proud moment for the
California wine industry.”

“I was charmed by the beauty of the estate and its unique environment,” said
Bascaules. “I found the tasting of 1959 Inglenook astonishing with regard to
its freshness and complexity, and when I tasted some samples of the 2009
vintage, I recognized the incredible potential of this property. I
understand Francis Ford Coppola’s desire to bring the quality of the wines
to their fullest potential and I’m excited to explore new methods to reach
this goal.”

Rubicon will continue to be the proprietary name of Inglenook’s flagship
wine, and Bascaules, who spent the past 21 years at Chateau Mârgaux, will
lead a team of talented winemaking professionals dedicated to the goal of
making Rubicon the finest New World estate wine produced in the Old World
style. Bascaules will work closely with Stéphane Derenoncourt, the famed
Pomerol-based winemaking consultant who has been the consulting winemaker at
the Estate responsible for the 2008 and subsequent vintages.

For the past 11 years, Bascaules served as Estate Director at the legendary
Chateau Mârgaux, one of France’s five First Growth Bordeaux wineries,
overseeing the vineyards and cellars and working alongside renowned
Technical Director Paul Pontallier. Bascaules, who has an agricultural
engineering degree, specializing in oenology, from the graduate school of
agronomy in Montpellier, France, began his career at Chateau Mârgaux as the
assistant to the Estate Director.

Concurrent with Bascaules’s arrival, Heather de Savoye has been appointed
President of Sales for Inglenook. Over the past four and a half years, de
Savoye has successfully established an international sales presence for the
Estate wines and will now assume responsibility for both international and
domestic wholesale sales operations.

Since only the intellectual property of Inglenook brand is being
transferred, The Wine Group intends to transition the current wines sold
under the brand name to alternative labels over the coming months. No
financial terms of this transaction have been disclosed.

So, this has my cynic alarm going off at high decibels…
Goal: restore this to America’s top wine estate (that should come with a commensurate elevation into the top tier of pricing, right?)

  • Invigorating the vineyards (sounds like maintenance and routine replanting)
  • Changing the name (sounds like an excuse to rebrand and reprice - higher)
  • Hiring a big gun winemaker to complement the current big gun consultant
  • Building a “state of the art facility” (Was the current winery really inadequate? How did they ever make those legendary wines in the past?)

I’ll stop now and politely wait for the results. I will admit that I’d like to try some of the newer wines. I have very fond recollections of the 1986 Rubicon (my first) and I still have a 1991 kicking around. A 1991 that I cracked open last year was ok, but nowhere near the experience the 1991 Monte Bello is (for me). If you want to take the title of premier producer of cabernet-based wines in the United States in my club, it will mean knocking Monte Bello off the shelf.

Thanks for the news here.


Fred, it is hard to be more cynical than me!

I was kind of glad to read this. Inglenook is certainly a historic name in American wine. And to reunite the name with the site is not out of line. (Not like someone buying the brand and simply whoring it on a California red.)

Coppola has done a good job with the winery over the years - even if he hasn’t returned it to the upper echelon. If they can upgrade the quality a little (and it isn’t like they are selling plonk) along with the rebranding, I think that would be a nice thing.

Sure prices will go up - but what else is new? I will set aside the cynic in me and embrace the move!

I agree with you Fred but I think it’s still a good thing. I look forward to tasting the wines but to your point I probably will not be buying them :slight_smile: Interesting to read that this has been part of Coppola’s plan for so many years.

Maybe they will steal my idea and make a $35 White Zin.

Skeptical, but hopeful. It would be great to get Inglenook back to where it was and where Rubicon never has been, but acquiring the trademark is certainly not going to make this happen

I like the changes from a sentimental point of view, but I understand the skepticism. Its good dirt and should be making great wine, which it has on occasion, just not very consistently over the last 10 years. Some of the old Reunion were fabulous and a few of the Niebaum-Coppola wines have been as well.

Perfectly stated.

I have had several 1980, 84, 85 and 86 Inglenook wines in the last few years, mostly various Reserve Cask cabs and blends, and most of them have been great. The 1980s are nearing the end of their life span but still nice in a delicate way, and the mid 80s ones of course vary some from bottle to bottle but can be spectacular.

Just to be clear, is he only renaming the estate Inglenook or changing the brand to Inglenook? I assume he entry level Coppola wines will remain unchanged.

Francis owns two properties, distinctly different. One is Rubicon Estate in Rutherford, now to be re-named Inglenook. The other the old Souverain facility in Sonoma, the home for Coppola Diamond, Director’s Cut, and Rosso/Bianco/Sofia.

Francis has done a good job of spearating the two entities, and now can focus on his lifelong dream, to re-unite the old Gustave Niebaum Estate (minus the Scarecrow portion), continue to have the largest contiguous organic vineyard in the valley and continue to be a steward of the land, all the while trying to make the best wine possible on the Estate. Unlike many here so far, their wines are now finding a path…when FFC started the wines were so tannic he held them for 5 years before releasing them and the fruit never caught up, then he went to a more traditional wine based on balance for aging, and now he is matching a world class winemaker and consultant with a world class vineyard…how can that be a bad thing for California, or Napa Valley? I’ll leave my opinions about wine quality out as I have sold them for a decade, but the changes from 2005 on are promising, and they can only get better. As for price, the guy paid $300k an acre, no matter what the wines are going to be pricy with land costs like that, but they are far under what many, many of his Napa Valley neighbors cost who have land with no track record or history.

All in all, I guess we’ll see, but I am looking forward to what FFC’s passion and vision bring.

Cheers, Kris

Thanks for clearing it up Kris. We have sold his entry level wines too for sometime but we stopped in the last year or two. I never took an interest in them but I would be interested in trying the Rubicon.

I’d love to find one of these legendary old properties that still had a library/cave of their older wines (40s-70s) on hand. It would be great to buy it and:

(1) Keep the library for my own cellar…the key point! [cheers.gif]
(2) Strip off the name and sell it to some commercial interest; and
(3) Sell or lease the vineyards to up-and-coming winemakers.

Oh, well, I probably missed my chance by 20 years. Maybe if the economy REALLY hits the skids in the next decade… neener


  • Frank

When FFC bought this, they found a walled up area with Inglenook wines going back to 1892 that must have belonged to Gustave Niebaum…that would be cool. John Daniel had a great run from the 30’s to the 60’s, and now hopefully Francis can realize the full potential of what really is Napa’s First Estate.

It’s exciting at 35 years old and ITB to see some history coming back to life. Now if only he could resurrect Tchelistcheff too!

Personally, I’m happy to read this. Mr. Coppola obviously has a vision and has dedicated himself to it. I was happy to see him reacquire the property parcels, and very happy when they tore down the Heublein warehouse between Hwy 29 and the original estate. It’s nice to see someone who seems committed to restoring an original estate to its original glory. Finger’s crossed for the future!

Coppola is in the news a lot…

Coppola sued by contractors

I thought the portion that is still missing is Napanook (Dominus) and not Scarecrow?

What does his property in Sonoma have to do with Rubicon Estate?

I don’t think so…could be wrong, but was under the impression that the purchase of the old JJ Cohn vineyard put the estate back together, and since Scarecrow is part of the JJ Cohn vineyard, that was the last remaining parcel.

From Asimov:

While Mr. Coppola’s holdings now constitute the original Inglenook estate, one remaining piece of the historic Inglenook empire, the Napanook Vineyard, lies elsewhere. Napanook was planted in 1836 by George C. Yount, for whom Yountville, Calif., is named. In 1946, Mr. Daniel, then the owner of Inglenook, bought the Napanook estate. When he died, and the remainder of Inglenook was sold off, the Napanook Vineyard remained with his daughters, Robin Lail and Marcia Smith.


Maybe we are semantically wrong here…I am talking about the Rutherford Estate which was a contiguous vineyard and is missing the Scarecrow piece to be complete…I believe the Napanook vineyard is in Yountville and not part of the Rutherford property originally owned by Gustave Niebaum, and then John Daniel.