A Sense of Place: An Intimate Portrait of the Niebaum-Coppola Winery and the Napa Valley

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9780415920056: A Sense of Place: An Intimate Portrait of the Niebaum-Coppola Winery and the Napa Valley

In A Sense of Place, renowned wine expert and writer Steven Kolpan tells the story of how Francis Ford Coppola brought California's most distinguished and historic vineyard back to life.

Gustave Niebaum's Inglenook Estate, started in 1879, was one of the Napa Valley's first established vineyards and the birthplace of its premium wine industry. Generations after Niebaum's death, the vineyard was sold to Heublein, the wine and spirits monolith, who broke up the land and changed the Inglenook brand from a premium, connoisseur wine to a mass-market jug wine.

In 1975, Francis Coppola bought the Niebaum residence and the surrounding estate. Along with the original estate's reputation, he also brought back some of its original workers, including Rafael Rodriquez, who, in h is late seventies, now serves as the vineyard manager and historian.

Coppola overcame naysayers, red tape, and financial turmoil to reestablish the winery as a defender of quality, producing wine under four different labels, including the revered wine Rubicon.

In 1995, Coppola purchased the Inglenook Chateau and its adjacent vineyards, fulfilling his dream of reuniting the original Napa Valley estate.

Kolpan's luscious, flavorful narrative is worth enjoying now and keeping for later.

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Review:

Obscenely wealthy entrepreneurs--men who made their bundle in the coffee business, mining, shipping, commodities, and politics--decide to buy hobby vineyards in the trendy Napa Valley. The San Francisco Examiner publishes a special lifestyle edition on California wines. Sound familiar? Welcome to Rutherford, California circa 1890.

And welcome to A Sense of Place: An Intimate Portrait of the Niebaum-Coppola Winery and the Napa Valley by Steven Kolpan, professor of wine studies at The Culinary Institute of America. By charting the history of one piece of Napa soil, the author provides an absolutely fascinating tour that is part documentary, part Hollywood fable, and part scathing chronicle of corporate ineptitude. When Finnish mariner-turned-San-Francisco-millionaire Gustav Niebaum establishes Inglenook Estate in 1879, his dream is to make the finest wine in California. His heir comes close to fulfilling the dream before selling a portion of the estate to a wine co-op, which is purchased by liquor giant Heublein. Heublein turns the once-proud estate into a jug wine brand. Meanwhile, the heir's Mormon wife--who hates everything about the wine business--sells the original house and remaining vineyards to film director Francis Ford Coppola, who 20 years later buys Heublein's parcel to reunite the original estate. Chapters recount this tale through the recollections of Rafael Rodriguez, a migrant laborer working at the property in the 1950s and now vineyard manager; Scott McLeod, current Niebaum-Coppola "winegrower" and artisan of the high-end Rubicon; and Dennis Fife, Inglenook's final president during the tumultuous Heublein days and now a respected winemaker in his own right, in a chapter that reads like a financial report written by Mel Brooks.

Captain Niebaum's 1884 Inglenook Claret sold for $3 a case. Coppola's 1995 Rubicon was $75 a bottle. For the price of A Sense of Place, every Cabernet fan will be able to savor a little piece of "Rutherford dust." --Tony Mason

About the Author:

Steven Kolpan, professor of wine studies and gastronomy at The Culinary Institute of America, is the co-author of Exploring Wine: The Culinary Institute of America's Complete Guide to Wines of the World (which was nominated for Best Wine and Spirits book of 1997 by the James Beard Foundation).

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