Rubicon Winery Quietly Changes Course

On a recent trip up to Napa, we hit a decent series of wineries including (our constant favorite) Frog’s Leap, Grgich Hills, Rubicon, and then a tasting event for our other favorite, Ceja. While it’s always annoying to see wine tastings getting upwards of $25 a shot per person (which we managed to avoid through crafty Catalan-in-training tactics), the biggest surprise was the change of face at Rubicon.
A couple years back, Rubicon (which of course used to be Niebaum-Coppola in days of yore) was one of the flagship wineries who thought they were so big, so incredible, and so above the commoner that they would close off visiting the winery only to those who booked and paid for a tasting prior to visiting the winery. Not only were the tastings then priced at $25 (when most in the valley were at $10) but you basically couldn’t set foot in the place unless you booked ahead. This was due to the fact that Francis made the mistake of stopping by his winery on a weekend when the place was a complete zoo. It was true that something had to be done, but I for one thought this was too drastic a change. But somehow it seemed that they were making it work.
At some point between my last visit in March of 2007 and now, they scrapped this. Now, I’m not sure if it’s a permanent scrapping or that they’re just have the elitist system during the heavy visit months of May through October. But, when I called them up prior to visiting and assuming they still had the attitude, the woman on the phone was completely ignorant of any previous reservation required policy. So it appears that while they’ve changed it, they don’t want to admit to changing it as it shows that they really aren’t able to be all that poshy and not have it hurt the bottom line, which I find some comfort in.
Of course one might ask as to why bother visiting them at all given that they seem to be so full of themselves. Well, I had friends who live in SF that had never been to Napa and so we made a little trip, in which I wanted to include showing them one of the oldest winery buildings in the valley. And I have to say that it is much more impressive now. They finished their new aging caves which meant that the two incredibly ugly square buildings in front of the Chateau that they had previously used could be demolished. In their place, they’ve planted new vines, so now the vineyards come up to the very steps of the winery proper. It’s definitely a vast improvement. That and the fact they’ve moved the Oscars, the Godfather desk, and a bunch of other items to their new Rosso & Bianco Winery over in Sonoma Valley, I think this will go a long way to avoiding the previous zoo explosion that used to be so commonplace there. Oh yeah, it’s $25 to taste and if they can get away with it, I wouldn’t be shocked if they bump it to $30 a taste next year as you do get the Rubicon and Cask in that tasting. It’s a ludicrous price, but I have to admit that they still make really good wines there and haven’t started trading just on their name like Stag’s Leap does.
Rubicon Winery Quietly Changes Course