Making good on a longtime vow, Francis Ford Coppola announced today that he and his wife, Eleanor, have acquired the iconic Inglenook trademark and that henceforth his Rubicon Estate in Rutherford will be once again known by its historic original name, Inglenook.
For years, Coppola had expressed an interest in acquiring the Inglenook name. Today, he sealed the deal, acquiring the trademark from the Wine Group for an undisclosed amount. Rubicon, a Bordeaux-style blend made from Coppola’s property, will become Inglenook’s flagship wine.
Coppola also announced that he had hired a new winemaker to succeed Scott McLeod, who resigned last year. Starting this summer, Bordeaux winemaker Philippe Bascaules will leave Château Margaux to assume the position of estate manager and winemaker at the renamed Inglenook.
Inglenook was founded in 1879 by Gustav Niebaum, a Finnish sea captain who built the magnificent stone winery. From the 1930s to the 1960s, John Daniel Jr., a descendant of Niebaum, oversaw winemaking with a run of tremendous vintages. Inglenook’s wines played a prominent role in defining Napa Valley as one of the great wine regions of the world. Many of the Cabernets of that period, including the legendary 1941, are considered by some to be the best wines ever made in Napa. They were known for aging extremely well. Daniel’s Pinot Noirs were also noteworthy.
Hard financial times in the 1960s led Daniel to sell the estate. Within a few years, it was owned by Heublein, a drinks conglomerate that also owned Beaulieu Vineyard in Napa. Coppola bought part of the estate in 1975 and added vineyards and other parts of the property to his holdings over the years, but the trademark continued to be held by corporate owners. Eventually, the Inglenook name become a label for ordinary bulk wines. It changed hands multiple times, most recently when Constellation sold it to the Wine Group in 2008.
Coppola remained steadfast in his desire to reunite the original vineyards surrounding the property as well as holding out hope he could buy back the name. The famed filmmaker, who directed the series of Godfather films and Apocalypse Now, has since expanded his wine empire to include numerous brands, including the renovated former Chateau Souverain winery in Sonoma, which he has rechristened Francis Ford Coppola.
“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 in a statement. “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.”
Bascaules, who spent the past 21 years at Chateau Mârgaux, will work with Stéphane Derenoncourt, the famed Bordeaux-based winemaking consultant who has been the consulting winemaker at the estate responsible for the 2008 and subsequent vintages.
The Coppolas have spent decades reuniting the vineyards and restoring winemaking to the historic château. Today, in addition to the Cabernet Sauvignon that dominates the estate, the Inglenook acreage is also planted with Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah and 6 acres of white Rhône varieties that produce the estate's flagship white, Blancaneaux.