I remember, on one of my first trips to the Napa Valley in the late 1960’s, driving down the entrance lane to visit the Inglenook Winery. I was mesmerized by the beauty and majesty of the Inglenook Chateau. At that time, the winery was in the hands of the Allied Grape Growers. When the legendary John Daniel Jr. sold Inglenook in 1964, the mystifying sale resonated throughout the Valley. I also remember entering the Chateau and browsing in a wine room to the right of the entrance doors. In the room, Allied was selling old bottles of the Inglenook wines. John Daniel Jr. made those wines and the Cabernet Sauvignon was renowned throughout the world. The Allied takeover sent the winery in the opposite direction, and since that time the name has been associated with plain and simple jug wine.
But last week the name has come full circle. Francis Ford Coppola announced that he has acquired the Inglenook name from the Wine Group and that his winery, Rubicon Estate, would soon be called Inglenook. This puts the cap on his purchase of the Inglenook estate vineyards in 1975 and the purchase in 1995 of the Inglenook Chateau. Henceforth, the Inglenook name will now be known for quality as it was in the heyday of Gustave Niebaum and John Daniel Jr.
If you have not visited this winery I suggest you do so on your next trip to the Napa Valley. Upon entrance, visitors can purchase a “Passport” that entitles guests to a historic tour of the winery and a tasting of five top Rubicon wines. The tour lasts around 30 minutes and is very well done and informative. It is a great history lesson of this amazing winery.
In one room you can view some of the old bottles of Inglenook fame. If you see a bottle of 1954 Inglenook Charbono it might be the bottle my wine friend traded to Larry Stone, former manager of the winery. Mike found this bottle in his wine cellar and traded Larry Stone the ’54 Charbono for a half-case of the Estate Cask Cabernet Sauvignon. Inglenook was one of the few wineries that made a Charbono wine. Today there are no Charbono grapes at Inglenook, but could it be that Francis Ford Coppola has it in his plans to bring back this wonderful Italian varietal of Inglenook fame?