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Coppola on the lookout for more

Francis Ford Coppola is on the lookout for more vineyards in the Rutherford area of Napa – but will only look at land adjoining his property.

The celebrated film director and owner of the Niebaum-Coppola estate has just paid a record sum for a premium Napa vineyard as part of his long-term ambition to be ‘America’s great first growth winery.’

The winery has not released the actual price, and will only confirm that it is a record. It is described by industry insiders as ‘shocking’, and various commentators have speculated it works out at around US$162,000 per hectare. In comparison, a nearby vineyard recently sold for $60,000 per hectare.

Coppola fought a bidding war that reportedly started at around US$24m, and included such major Napa names as Robert Mondavi.

The prize was the JJ Cohn vineyard, on some of the most sought-after land in California, consisting of 34ha of prime Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard and a large house. The land adjoins the Niebaum-Coppola estate. Coppola’s partner in the deal is Bret Lopez, one of the heirs to the Cohn property.

With the acquisition, Niebaum-Coppola has added 24.3ha to its hectarage of estate-grown fruit. The total vineyard hectarage is now 105.2ha.

Coppola told decanter.com, ‘What really enables us to strive to be an American first growth is that we are developing a single chateau property with contiguous vineyards. Our vineyards are centred entirely in the Rutherford Bench, and we are entirely owned by one family. These characteristics put us in a category of our own.’

To this end, Coppola said, ‘We are only interested in contiguous vineyards in the Rutherford Bench.’ Unconfirmed reports suggest a deal is in negotiation and will be completed soon.

Cohn grapes have an excellent pedigree, being used in Napa’s most aristocratic wines: Phelps, Opus One, Niebaum-Coppola and Etude. Coppola’s winemaker Scott McLeod said they will go into the icon Cabernet-based Rubicon, which sells for US$100 per bottle and is one of California’s cult wines.

Written by Adam Lechmere13 December 2002

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