Francis Ford Coppola, he of Godafther and Apocalypse Now cinematic fame, is probably even more known to some wine folk for his endeavors in California wine for many years now. And when it comes to wine news concerning Mr. Coppola, the recent news of him re-booting the Inglenook brand, and the old Inglenook property’s vineyards, after buying back the Inglenook trademark in 2011 is the cherry on the cake he’s been putting together when not busy bankrupting himself and avoiding Hollywood slavery while making groundbreaking films.
Coppola bought the Niebaum mansion in 1975 and over the past four decades, he began buying back the property that had been sold in pieces, made it his family home, and poured money into it even when he wasn’t flush with money – but that’s what a labor of love does to you. It’s the one thing he has stuck with, even as he has easily abandoned Hollywood, parting with mainstream filmmaking, something most of the world knows him for. But then again, Coppola has always been one to walk his own path
Inglenook’s fame is decades old. Over a hundred years ago they were already making award-winning wine on this estate founded by, of all things, a sea captain from Finland. It garnered the kind of legendary status that has made it, as Robert Mondavi called it, “the most important winery property in the Napa Valley.” So to Coppola, it was a no-brainer to buy back the original Inglenook brand, and replace the Rubicon brand with it, when it became available.
But it doesn’t stop with just a brand. Coppola is intent on reviving the lighter style of wine that made it famous, Cabernets made with few of the modern techniques that seem mandatory in today’s winemaking process. He’s even ready to abandon the usually over the top, oaked fruit bombs of Cabs that Napa has made famous and turn to an older style, some would even say a more Bordeaux style. The shift also requires a change to the hundreds of acres of vines at Inglenook’s vineyards. Coppola has always been very attentive to the farming of his land, and is one of the only vineyard owners in the region to keep a full crew year round to better achieve this purpose.
Now we are beginning to see the first vintages, but a hundred years ago it was the long lasting quality of the Inglenook wines that made them special, so it could be expected that the success of the results of Coppola’s work can only be weighed years, if not decades from now. But if the long-lasting success of his greatest cinematic labor of love, Apocalypse Now, is any sign, there may be great things to come.