Napa Valley residents called it an eyesore and a monstrosity. And now a 1970s building is on the way to disappearing from a historic winery in Rutherford, Calif.
Last week, Francis Ford Coppola, who owns the 235-acre Rubicon Estate and its buildings, began the six-week process of demolishing its concrete barrel cellar, which he calls "huge and unsightly."
The Heublein Corporation, Inc., the former owner of the estate, began building the $3 million barrel building in 1973, blocking roadside views of winery founder Gustave Niebaum's 19th-century mansion.
"Over the 32 years of our ownership, I've often thought to myself when I had to make an important decision, 'What would Gustave Niebaum do?'" Coppola said in a Dec. 13 statement. "I find the heritage of this estate a constant source of inspiration as we move forward."
Coppola, who has wanted to demolish the two-and-a-half-story building since he bought part of the estate in 1975, plans to salvage for sale the steel beams and wood and to reuse the 3,000 tons of concrete in the estate's roads.
In 1995, Coppola bought the Inglenook Chateau and a 90-acre parcel, uniting Niebaum's severed estate.
Niebaum, who founded Inglenook in 1880, once said, "I am going to make a California wine, if it can be made, that will be sought for by connoisseurs and will command as high a price as the famous French, German and Spanish wines, and I am prepared to spend all the money needed to accomplish that result."
Next spring, Coppola plans to plant one acre of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes on the site of the barrel building. "I think Gustave Niebaum would approve," he said.
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