For only the second time in 20 years, Napa Valley's Niebaum-Coppola Estate Winery will not produce a vintage of Rubicon, its flagship blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The winery decided that the quality of the 1998 vintage was not up to par with Rubicon's reputation.
Most of the Rubicon blend comes from the Garden Vineyard in Rutherford, which did not produce topflight fruit in 1998, as the growing season was plagued by a cool, rainy spring and an intermittently torrid summer.
"El Niqo proved to be too great a foe for the Garden Vineyard," said Scott McLeod, winemaker at Niebaum-Coppola. "And without the Garden, there is no Rubicon."
McLeod added that the 35-year-old vines in the organically farmed Garden Vineyard were more susceptible to the vintage's weather abnormalities than the estate's younger sites. The winery will produce its Cask Cabernet, Edizione Pennino Zinfandel and Niebaum-Coppola Estate Merlot and Cabernet Franc from the 1998 vintage.
The most recent release of Rubicon, 1995, was released last March, retailing for $80 a bottle. The 1996 Rubicon will be released next week. Since 1978, the first vintage, the only other year in which Niebaum-Coppola did not make Rubicon was 1983.
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