The history of Inglenook Winery in Napa Valley, California, spans nearly as long as California itself—with the first vines planted in 1879. Over the decades, some of the state’s most well-known and acclaimed wine producers owned this winery. Explore the fascinating history behind Inglenook Winery in Napa, including its former owners and the town that shares its name by reading its brief history below.
The origins of Inglenook Winery in Napa date back to the late 1800s, but this was not always its name. The winery was originally named after its location—White Rock Vineyards. During the mid-19th century, George Yount and Dr. Edward Taylor owned this part of the Inglenook estate. Subsequently, Gustave Niebaum purchased the winery.
Gustaf Ferdinand Niebaum was a Finnish-born entrepreneur and winemaker who is known for founding the Inglenook Winery in Napa Valley, California. Niebaum was born in Helsinki, Finland in 1842, and he immigrated to the United States in the late 1800s. In 1879, he purchased a piece of land in Napa Valley and established the Inglenook Winery. Niebaum was one of the first winemakers in Napa Valley to focus on producing high-quality, premium wines, and he is credited with helping to establish Napa Valley as a premier wine-producing region.
Niebaum was also a successful businessman, and he owned several other enterprises, including a distillery and a brewery. He died in 1908, and the Inglenook Winery continued to operate under the management of his family until the 1960s.
When Niebaum purchased Inglenook, he transformed it into one of California’s top wine-producing companies at the time by producing excellent quality wines and establishing it as one of the state’s best attractions for tourists.
Gustaf Ferdinand Niebaum
Inglenook Purchased by Niebaum
Niebaum purchased the Inglenook property and the adjoining Rohlwing Farm for $48,000. After doing extensive study and traveling, he picked Inglenook’s site, realizing its remarkable potential for cultivating high-quality grapes. Over the next few years, he secured more modest bundles of adjoining land. According to some estimates, he almost spent $60,000 to buy these lands.
Interestingly, he diligently gathered books consisting of winemaking processes and made a private library. Currently, it is an ideal place to learn more about viticulture.
First Harvest in 1882
Inglenook Winery made its first vintage in 1882. At that time, European Chateaus were its primary rival. The winery produced almost 8,000 gallons of fine-quality wine during the first harvest in 1882. The winemaking process took place in Niebaum’s private residence.
The Reopening of Inglenook Winery
Unfortunately, Niebaum suddenly passed away on August 5th, 1908 at 66 years old from heart disease. Consequently, the winemaking process stopped for the next two years. Mrs. Niebaum resumed the process in 1911 with the cooperation of San Francisco and B. Arnhold. They named Herman Lange the manager of the winery, and Lafayette was the appointed winemaker.
Later in 1939, John Daniel Jr., nephew of Niebaum, took over winemaking activities. Inglenook thrived during the 1950s, and then, in 1964, Allied Grape Growers took over.
The Selling of Inglenook
It was an extremely complicated task to maintain the entire winemaking operation, so Daniel sold the winery in 1964. He retained the home of Niebaum, however, and also retained almost 1,500 acres of property. Daniels died in 1970, and then his wife sold the remaining Inglenook Estate property.
New Era in 1975
For an unassuming “excursion cabin” in Napa Valley, Francis and Eleanor Coppola bought a piece of what had been the Inglenook domain in 1975. Subsequently, they soon realized the true value of the property and built their own winery. Its name was Niebaum-Coppola Estate Winery.
In 1978, the estate produced a wine called “Rubicon.” Rubicon was a kind of Bordeaux-style mixed wine. The name (Rubicon) highlights the true objective of Coppola, who wanted to create the highest quality wine in the iconic Inglenook region.
Inglenook Winery has a long and rich history dating back to the late 1800s. The winery has been through many changes over the years, but it remains one of Napa Valley’s most iconic wineries. Inglenook is known for its high-quality wines and for being one of California’s top tourist attractions.
Stan Shebs, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Key dates in the history of the Inglenook Winery:
1842: Gustaf Ferdinand Niebaum is born in Helsinki, Finland.
1879: Niebaum purchases a piece of land in Napa Valley and establishes the Inglenook Winery.
1908: Niebaum dies.
1960s: The Inglenook Winery is sold out of the Niebaum family.
1975: Filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola purchases the Inglenook Winery.
2011: Coppola announces that he is renaming the winery the Niebaum-Coppola Estate Winery.
2017: The Niebaum-Coppola Estate Winery is sold to a group of investors led by Belgian businessman Alex Merogiannis.