Friday, March 10, 2006

Rubicon Estate

Yesterday I took my first guests to the new Rubicon Estate (formerly known as Niebaum-Coppola Winery). Prior to the changeover on February 1, anyone could stop into the winery; wander around the historic estate, Chateau, and museum; have a beverage at the cafe; and/or taste wine. There was a fee for tasting wine, but access to the estate, Chateau and museum was free. As a result, this was one of the most crowded wineries in the Napa Valley.

Yesterday, the facility was nearly empty. There is a $25/person fee to enter the grounds. This fee grants you access to the Chateau and museum and a tasting of five Estate wines, including their signature wine -- Rubicon. My guests enjoyed the wines, but the experience was too regimented for my taste.

Upon entry to the grounds, a staff member briefly describes the new rules and gives you an audio guide that explains them in more detail as you drive down the entry way. A second staff member takes back the audio guide. You then go to the valet stand, where you hand over your keys and receive your passport. Upon entry to the Chateau, your passport must be stamped at the concierge desk. After your tasting and visit, you return to a different valet stand, pay your $25/person fee, and get your car back. (Designated drivers are not charged.)

While the wine may be top notch, the team at the winery forgot one rule -- Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS). Winetasting is a leisurely experience. While the absence of crowds is a real plus, the experience comes across too much like an army drill.

Rubicon Estate is located Rutherford. The Chateau is open daily from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. (6:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday between Memorial Day and Labor Day.)

If you want to take a private, custom tour of the Napa Valley, please call me at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or e-mail me by clicking here.


Anonymous said...

My wife and I just returned from one of regular visits to Napa and Rutherford for lunch. He were very surprised and disapponted when we made a regular stop at what was Niebausm Coppola Winery, with intentions to buy a case of the lovely rose. We always loved the tastefully selected items in the gift shop as well and seldom left with out purschaing items for the dining table. We of course refused to pay 25.00 per person for the privilege. I can perhaps understand some effort to reduce the crowds but find myself shocked that an artist would come up with this militaristic/corporate methond. It was a pleasure to see a like spirit sharing you comments about you visit to the new military installation - Rubicon Estate.

Anonymous said...

$25 is a person is insulting and ridiculous. If the wine were better, it might be worth it but it isn't. Sad to see Napa Valley slide further into crass, mass commercialism.

Anonymous said...

I had been to the Niebausm Coppola Winery several times before it became the Rubicon Estate. I enjoyed the way it was run much better and that's why I kept hosting guests from out of town to the winery. Last summer, I brought my best friend and her family from aborad there to discovered that it was completely different. I freaking hated it. It was very impersonal and those staff were just running around like headless chickens. Additionally, the tour guide did not know what she was talking about. I just really hated it and was very disappointed. It was a $150 mistake (6 peole). I will never step my foot on that winery again nor recommend it to anyone.