Director Coppola buys Inglenook winery estate

March 08, 1995|By New York Times News Service

Francis Ford Coppola is about to start directing the winery, Part 2.

The film director, perhaps best known for the "Godfather" series, and his wife, Eleanor, have just added the Inglenook estate, a historic Napa Valley property in California, to their wine country portfolio.

The couple have owned the adjacent Niebaum estate for nearly 20 years and released their first wine under the Niebaum-Coppola label in 1978. Neither Mr. Coppola nor Heublein Inc., which owned the estate, would disclose the price for the 95 acres and 39,000-square-foot chateau. Industry sources estimate it at $9.5 million to $10 million.

The Coppolas are not just any buyer. This purchase reunites the original property of Gustave Niebaum, a sea captain who founded the estate in 1879 and began making wines he hoped would rival those of the great chateaux of Bordeaux. Mr. Coppola said he had had his eye on the Inglenook estate since he bought the Niebaum property. "It always bugged me that this incredible chateau and this great winery were split off," he said. "The chances of bringing something like this back together are slim. It was luck."

Inglenook, one of the few estates in California that was

established before the turn of the century, was acquired by Heublein in 1969. Last year Heublein sold the Inglenook name to Canandaigua Wine Co. of New York.

Mr. Coppola said his plans were still being developed. "I believe we have the potential to produce 75,000 cases of wine that will rival a major chateau in France." He expects that developing the property will require a substantial additional investment.

The 1,560-acre Niebaum estate where the Coppolas have lived since 1975 has 125 acres of vineyard. It is best known for its top-of-the-line Niebaum-Coppola Rubicon, a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc.

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