From the Wine List: Inglenook Vineyards

Inglenook VineyardsHere at the Cork, we pride ourselves on our deep and diverse wine list, featuring vintages for the ages alongside everyday favorites. One wine I was particularly pleased to include on our current list is the Inglenook Cask Cabernet Sauvignon from 2010. The Inglenook tasting notes put it best – this wine offers an “alluring nose of dark cherries, blueberries, chocolate, tobacco and sweet toasted oak.” It is smooth and delicious, and has a unique story to go with its unique taste.

The Inglenook winery is inextricably linked in modern times to the filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola. Inglenook is located in Rutherford, California, and is one of the most famous properties in the Napa Valley. Founded in 1879 by Finn Gustave Niebaum, Inglenook boasts one of the Valley’s most historic vineyards, and the mansion and chateau that overlook the lands bear Niebaum’s name. In 1972, following the success of his film The Godfather, Coppola and his wife Eleanor purchased the Niebaum mansion for $2.2 million.

The purchase did not include the Inglenook vineyards, although it did include 100 acres of grapes attached to the mansion. Flush with his film’s success, Coppola gave no thought to winemaking at the time, only of providing a summer home for his family in the Napa Valley. The Niebaum mansion became that Coppola family home, while the nearby chateau became a museum for Coppola’s movie memorabilia – an attraction that drew tens of thousands of tourists. Over the 20 years tourists were flocking to the chateau, Coppola gradually realized how the intensity of the tourism was ruining the legacy of historic Inglenook.

While Coppola’s was souring on the commercial and tourist nature of the chateau, the legendary Inglenook winery itself had undergone a similar souring. By the time the Coppolas bought the Niebaum mansion in 1972, the quality of a wine once known as one of the finest in the Napa Valley now rated only as a jug wine. The winery had passed through a series of owners who valued profit over quality, and the vintage had suffered.

In 1979, with Apocalypse Now suffering in the press and Coppola’s filmmaking career stalled, Coppola decided to begin dabbling in winemaking with the small 100 acres of grapes that had come with his purchase of the Niebaum mansion in 1972. He bottled a few years and experienced no success until the 1992 release of his successful film Bram Stoker’s Dracula. With the success of Dracula, Coppola bought the Niebaum chateau and the mistreated Inglenook vineyards, and decided to enter the winemaking business in earnest.

Coppola has dedicated himself to turning around the vineyard and restoring quality to the Inglenook name. In 2011, he reacquired the rights to use the Inglenook name and returned the estate to its traditional title. The estate’s previous name, Rubicon, now graces the label of the Inglenook winery’s flagship red. Today, the Inglenook vineyard produces excellent wine once more, and the Cask Cabernet Sauvignon is a perfect example.

Next time you are at the Cork, consider the Inglenook Rubicon, Inglenook Blancaneaux or the Inglenook Cask Cabernet Sauvignon with your steak, fish or prime rib, or ask your server about any of the other amazing wines we feature by the bottle and the glass.