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Inglenook vintages at auction

Posted by Stephen Meuse  September 13, 2011 04:22 PM

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inglenook.JPG Recently we commented on a personnel and style shakeup at Napa's historic Inglenook property. The estate has been undergoing rehabilitation under the ownership of famed filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola who is making a big investment in hopes of returning the noble estate (and brand) to a measure of its erstwhile glory.

Since an important part of the project involves a well- publicized attempt to reclaim the classically-proportioned style that made the great Inglenook vintages of the mid twentieth century what they were (and so different from what Napa cabernets have become since) it strikes as odd that part of the plan would involve selling off a portion of the estate's stocks of these very wines.

But such appears to be the case. A press release appeared on our doorstep this morning with news that Coppola is offering a number of lots of older Inglenook vintages at a Christie's auction in New York on Sunday, September 24.

The Inglenook offer appears on pages 16-19 of Christie's handsome ecatalogue of the event. I count 59 bottles with Inglenook labels, most from the 1940's and 1950's.  One, vintage 1935, provides a modicum of local interest since it bears the the legend "Bottled by Inglenook Vineyard Co. for [old time Boston specialty grocer-to-the-Brahminocracy] S.S. Pierce Company." Lot 56 consists of two bottles of the 1941 vintage, said to be have been superb. This lot is estimated to fetch between $8,000 and $12,000.

Add up the total value of the midpoint of the estimates for all the Inglenook wines (a number of bottles are in less than pristine condition) and you arrive at something in the neighborhood of $30,000. It's such a small amount of money, you have to wonder what could possibly be motivating the sale - especially since renewed brand cachet (something ownership is eager to create) could only serve to lift the value of remaining stock.  

Less puzzling is a twelve bottle lot identified as "Premade Vertical of Legendary Inglenook," proceeds from the sale of which will donated to a Shigeru Ban Architects + Voluntary Architects Network, a charity helping to build temporary housing for victims of the Japan tsunami.  

Ellen Bhang

About By the Glass

Ellen Bhang writes about food and wine and reviews Cheap Eats restaurants for the Globe. Wine is the focus of her degree in the Gastronomy master's program at Boston University. She can be reached at bytheglass@globe.com.

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Read more of Stephen Meuse's columns at www.bostonglobe.com

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