Director and vintner Francis Ford Coppola and a partner acquired one of the most sought-after vineyards in Napa Valley, paying a reported $31.5 million for the J.J. Cohn Vineyard, in Rutherford.
Coppola -- the famous filmmaker who owns Niebaum-Coppola Estate Winery, also in Rutherford -- won a bidding war that reportedly started at $24 million and that attracted offers from some of Napa's largest wine companies.
The high-priced bidding cooled speculation that Napa Valley vineyard prices might soften given the current economic climate.
The Cohn property encompassed about 84 acres of vineyard land and a large house. Coppola's partner in the deal, Bret Lopez, who is one of the Cohn family heirs, retained the home and 24 acres.
Coppola acquired 60 acres, including 46 acres of Cabernet and Merlot, along with land suitable for planting more vineyards, said Niebaum-Coppola winemaker Scott McLeod. The purchase brings Coppola's vineyard holdings in Rutherford -- an important Cabernet district in the heart of Napa Valley -- to about 260 acres.
"We're thrilled to have it," McLeod said. "Besides the obvious, which is additional Cabernet, the vineyard gives us flexibility to choose which lots we want for our [different wines]." The grapes will go into Niebaum-Coppola's Cask Cabernet bottling and its proprietary red table wine, called Rubicon, which sells for around $100 a bottle and is among Napa's top Cabernet-based wines.
The Cohn property (which has no connection to the BR Cohn winery in Sonoma Valley) borders Niebaum-Coppola's Garden Vineyard, a primary source for Rubicon.
In recent years, Cohn's grapes have been sold to Joseph Phelps Vineyards, Opus One, Niebaum-Coppola and Etude. Several of those wineries, along with Beringer Blass Wine Estates, had shown an interest in buying the property. Opus One was reportedly one of the last bidders to drop out.
Since 1975, when Coppola purchased part of the old Inglenook Estate vineyards and founded Niebaum-Coppola, it has been his dream to acquire most of the original property. In 1995, he bought the estate, including the old château, and this fall, the winery reopened and crushed grapes for the first time since 1966.
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