Coppola: Apocalypse Now nearly killed Inglenook dream

  • Thursday 5 January 2012

Francis Ford Coppola reveals his 1979 Oscar-winning war film almost ruined his chances of reuniting Inglenook.

Francis Ford Coppola

In his early days in Napa, the renowned director and proprietor of America’s most celebrated winery was very close to bankruptcy.

As he tells Adam Lechmere in an exclusive profile in this month’s Decanter magazine, the success of 1971's The Godfather gave him carte blanche in Hollywood to make more Mafia movies – but nothing else.

‘After Godfather they queued at the door to make more gangster films – but no one would give me money for Apocalypse Now.’

As a result, fresh from buying the first portion of Inglenook with the proceeds from The Godfather, he found himself in debt to the tune of US$21m.

That was what it cost him to make Apocalypse Now, the now-legendary Vietnam epic which critics gave a lukewarm reception in 1979.

‘At that stage it looked like I would lose it all because it seemed like no-one liked [the film]. I was on the verge. I was in bankruptcy. I had arrived at a kind of paradise and I was only there in order to lose it.’

But, as Coppola (pictured) tells Decanter, he spent the 1980s ‘doing one film a year just to pay off the debt’ – and gradually buying portions of the Inglenook estate as they came on the market.

This culminated in his paying multinational The Wine Group ‘in the region of’ US$14m for the Inglenook trademark in April last year – the final piece in the jigsaw.

From the 2009 vintage, the wine known as Rubicon will become Inglenook, and it will be in an elegant Bordeaux bottle to replace the heavy, embossed Rubicon bottle, and a label inspired by an original from the 1940s.

Coppola’s neighbours are delighted to see a cherished icon restored. As Napa elder and former Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars owner Warren Winiarski says, ‘It is such a high-minded, noble enterprise.’

And Coppola himself is delighted – if incredulous - to have realised a dream of a quarter of a century.

As he tells Lechmere, ‘How could a guy like me, from a lower-middle-class family from Queens, end up owning America’s greatest wine estate?’

Read the full seven-page feature in this month’s Decanter magazine, out now.

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