Our last stop on our Napa Valley wine tasting tour was Inglenook Winery. We chose Inglenook for two reasons: 1) I had delighted in Rubicon at a friend’s house and wanted Andy to try it, and 2) Francis Ford Coppola owns the estate. Given that Andy and I are both screenwriters and love exploring the complexities of great red wines, stopping at Inglenook was an easy decision. And our stay at Rancho Caymus Inn (located across 29 from Inglenook in Rutherford, CA) granted us a nice discount for a tasting at the Chateau. We were in!
Inglenook and the Coppola Family
Francis and Eleanor Coppola were not necessarily on the hunt for a winery. The story goes that they were looking for a vacation cottage but discovered and bought a portion of an estate (the Chateau and the acreage) sold by Betty Daniel. It was only after the purchase that they realized exactly what they owned and the extraordinary history of the winery (which you can read about here). They restored the Chateau and bought back the original property to fully “reunite” the lands and vines of Inglenook.
Keep in mind that this is not the same as the Coppola Winery. Inglenook had a long history before the family, and it has certainly thrived after they restored the property and spirit of the winery. Still, it is a different winery from the one you may have heard of. The Francis Ford Coppola Winery (aka The Family Coppola) is in Geyserville, CA (and also on our list when we start planning our next California wine tasting tour).
The Inglenook Napa Valley Wine Tasting Experience
Our Inglenook experience was very different from the rest of the wineries on our self-directed Napa Valley wine tasting tour. Here, we made a reservation for the outdoor Bistro Experience, where we bought glasses of wine from their Estate Wines menu. We didn’t get small pours of a variety of different wines. If you want to do that, you can sign up for the Estate Library Experience, Heritage Tasting, or Salon Tasting. We knew we wanted to enjoy the Rubicon as we kicked back and marveled at the beauty of the Chateau and the grounds.
We also decided to make a lunch out of our adventure. Unlike many of the other wineries, Inglenook serves light bites for pairings. We added a mixed plate of Molinari Salami, the Fiscalini Lionza, some cheese, and the baguette for a relaxing Rubicon-inspired picnic on the grounds.
The 2018 Rubicon was much loved by critics (and us!). Robert Parker has it a 94, and James Suckling awarded it a 97. The first thing you’ll notice is the dark garnet color. I got notes of chocolate, blackberry, and tobacco. Lavender was also on our minds (and noses). This is a bigger wine and has a long finish (not surprisingly). But it is beautifully smooth to drink, and if you are a fan of wines that feature luscious black fruit, you’ll love this. And we will absolutely raise our hands for a glass wherever it is offered.
Reservations and Rules
As was the case at most places we visited on our Napa Valley wine tasting tour, reservations are required at Inglenook. There may be slower days where you can grab a glass and sip it outside, but if you want formal tastings or guided experiences, you will need to make a reservation. Also, some of the experiences, like the Salon Tasting Flight or the Private Tour, require some notice and reservations to secure limited space and guarantee a guide.
If you plan on bringing children to Inglenook, they request that you call ahead so that they can make a recommendation for the best tasting that will be enjoyable for everyone in your party. Obviously, the grounds are open and gorgeous, so kids might enjoy just exploring the property. Otherwise, they prefer that guests at Inglenook are aged 12 or over.
California COVID rules were still in place for all of the wineries we visited on our Napa Valley wine tasting tour. In May, Inglenook asked us for our vaccination cards or proof of a recent negative test. This is partly because part of enjoying a wine tasting here is going through the museum inside the Chateau. Also, many of the tastings are inside, and the welcome desk is in the Chateau, so it is for the safety of the staff and guests alike. I also wore a mask while touring the museum as an added precaution.
The Costs and Duration
We were fortunate in that our Bistro Experience included a waived bistro table fee and 15% off wine by the glass because of our stay at Rancho Caymus Inn. Otherwise, the cost would have been determined by the glass for our particular tasting. We were allowed to stay as long as we liked. We lingered at a table outside, walked the grounds, and then took a self-guided tour through the Chateau and the museum. So, we were there for about two hours, but your experience will largely be guided by your own schedule.
The Estate Library Experience (Thursday-Monday) is $100 per person, and they suggest you reserve about an hour plus tour time. The Heritage Tasting (Thursday-Monday) is $60 per person, and I would leave enough room for questions of the sommelier – so, about 75-90 minutes. The Salon Tasting is $100 per person, and you should block off two hours (in fact, the reservations themselves are set in two-hour time blocks for a leisurely experience).
The full Private Library Tour and Tasting Experience is available Thursday-Sunday. It’s a private experience, so you should block off at least an hour. It is $125 per person. If you want to get into the details of winemaking, explore the secret spots and open grounds, and sip incredible wine in the cellars, this could be the one for you. Obviously, you should make a reservation for this experience as far in advance as possible, as the availability is limited.
Inglenook Winery’s Setting and Location
As you can probably tell, we were utterly enchanted with the winery’s grounds and the museum (you’ll be amazed at the winemaking and filmmaking memorabilia there). The Chateau features the original vaulted stone cellars, a hand-carved staircase that is too gorgeous to believe, and event rooms that instantly made us wonder what we could plan there (as it was, one of the stately event rooms was being set up for a wedding rehearsal dinner). Inglenook is located at 1991 St Helena Highway, Rutherford, CA, 94573.