Tuesday, August 18, 2009

"Inglenooking" revisited...

I have been doing far too much traveling for brand promotion and sales these past few months. Sales are finally starting to creep upwards again though, so hopefully the recession is on the way out.
Anyway, I was looking through a list of "Top Wines form Argentina" while on a flight back to California, and was somewhat amused to see Inglenook as the #3 brand (Chablis, same wine is in the #13 spot as well).
Inglenook? Really??
I had lost track of that brand a few years back when it was still low-end California bulk wine. Anyway it still shows up in the #10 spot (for Burgundy), #15 (Chianti Classico), and finally in the #20 spot (Rhine). Not bad to have your brand in 4 of the top 25 positions....but even so, it is still extremely sad when you remember the rich heritage of the Inglenook name.
Inglenooking is a term used within the industry referring to a high-end brand which is then shifted down-market to capitalize on the previous successes. In the case of Inglenook, it was once the highest end Cab from Napa Valley, with the 1941 Inglenook Napa Cab having a perfect 100 score retrospectively bestowed upon it by the Wine Spectator. Bottles of that vintage can still fetch almost $25,000 each. (Yeah, that's right...$25k for each bottle!)
Now THAT's a brand....top of the Napa wine heap....or at least it was for a while....
It was relegated to California plonk as the brand was expanded and moved in larger format bottlings onto the lower shelves of the supermarket displays. Now it seems to have been further globalized by its corporate handlers...

Labels: , ,


Anonymous Tom Ferrell said...

As a young enologist fresh and idealistic out of Davis in 1970 my first job was to establish a laboratory on the third floor of the Inglenook Winery. Within a few months the winemaker had quit,I tried to fill his shoes, it was a great vintage, I got the credit for what the grapes did, and for the next 11 years was winemaker for the "Estate Bottled" Napa Valley Inglenook wines. A second "Vintage" line of wines were made at primarily at ISC in Asti from Napa and Sonoma grapes, I made the blends and they were trucked to Rutherford and bottled. The Navalle wines were made and bottled in Madera from big valley grapes. I had nothing to do with them.

The Estate line grew to maybe 125,000 cases, the Vintage line was maybe 400,000 and the Navalle line began early in that decade and broke 6 million cases before its end. Making my career here in the Napa Valley I watched Mondavi make the same mistakes a decade later.

I think I have about as complete a perspective on "Inglenooking" as a person could have.

Inglenook had everything it needed to be an Opus One or a Harlan or a Screaming Eagle. At a purchase price of $750,000 (1964) and with one of the greatest quality vineyards in the world it would have been highly profitable as well. All it needed was the pursuit quality wherever that might lead.. and pricing the wine accordingly.

Instead no matter what the quality of the Napa wines, people would pick up a bottle of Inglenook "Navalle" Cabernet and get a slightly sweet, bottle of plonk, and form a lasting opinion on the brand.

Regarding the six and a half million "other" cases bottled as Inglenook, that same volume could have been built on any brand name. The brand could have simply been "Navalle" and built as it was by classic marketing, price positioning, advertising, packaging, and distribution support. The Inglenooking of Mondavi was not quite as bad. Woodbridge could have been built without the Mondavi name on the bottle, but the real killers for Mondavi were the North Coast wines that looked identical to the Napa products. The Mondavis knew the risk, they were just driven by their stock price and desperate for big numbers.

Inglenooking is a mistake that comes from two things. 1)Corporate focus on volume not on profitablity. 2) Unimaginative marketing and management who, lacking creativity, choose to tag along on a brand's goodwill.

These are people who have no idea that they could start with any name, let's say a simple name like "Kendall Jackson" and with such ordinary name, they could build an empire without destroying the reputation of an existing brand.

August 18, 2009 2:25 PM  
Blogger St. Vini said...

Thanks Tom, for the first person perspective of "the end" of a successful brand.

Tragic marketing blunder, especially when a 1941 bottle (probably undrinkable by this time) can still fetch $24.7k at an auction...
The good news is that the story is still alive and serves as an example to future generations.


August 18, 2009 7:56 PM  
Anonymous Janet Texas said...

In 1980-1983 I was the on-premise manager in New York for Inglenook Estate-Bottled wines. There were few high-end restaurants willing to put the estate-bottled wines on their wine lists because of the erosion of the brand at that point.

One of the restaurants that did was Pat Cetta's Sparks Steakhouse. Pat was my best Inglenook customer, and on more than one occassion would treat his special customers to a comparison tasting of Inglenook, Beaulieu and Mondavi Cabs of which he had many vintages.

He bought Inglenook Charbono for as long as the estate produced it.

During my tenure at Inglenook I arranged a dinner at Lavin's Restaurant for about 60 people, media and customers, which was hosted by then winemaker, John Richburg. We tasted about a dozen Cabs going back to the 40's which were shipped to the restaurant directly from the cellar at the Inglenook estate.

It was a difficult evening to pull off because neither Heublein nor the local distributor had any interest in doing anything to promote Inglenook wines from the Inglenook Estate.

The evening was memorable and poignant. The wines were amazing, but many of us there realized that Inglenook was in it's final death-throws.

I count myself lucky to have been able to taste these old Cabernets from the Inglenook Estate.

August 19, 2009 10:15 AM  
Anonymous Tom Ferrell said...

Janet Texas is right on about Pat Cetta being a big supporter...especially at the Heublein wine auctions...especially big bottles. Imagine the opportunity that existed for Heublein ... running the biggest and best wine auction... owning BV and Inglenook with deep wine libraries...possessing the finest vineyards in the valley.

Oh, and St. Vini, the last I tasted the 1941, the wine was still identifiable as Cabernet. Who knows now after another decade at 55 degrees.

BTW, forget $25k, if anyone is interested in a perfectly stored, absolutely perfect provenance 1941 and has $5k burning a hole in their pocket, contact me. I'd rather put it in my son's education than my gut. I'm in the book.

August 19, 2009 12:43 PM  
Blogger St. Vini said...

Janet, Tom -
Thanks to the both of you for the excellent commentary.

There are some of us out here who still recall the former glory, and have seen others start brands on the same road to oblivion that Inglenook has taken.

For what it's worth to the other readers, the Wine Group now owns Inglenook (they also have Franzia, Corbett Canyon, Glen Ellen, Almaden, and Foxhorn, to name a few). They produce ~40 Million cases annually.
Constellation was the previous owner of Inglenook, having purchased it from Heublein back in 1994 (I think?).

At the time of the purchase, Wine Group was to be in the "dominant position of box wine sales", according to Jon Fredrikson, one of the principals of Gomberg-Fredrikson. Shows you the depths the brand had fallen to in early 2008...

Cheers to you both for sharing with us!
/ Vini

And Tom - do you accept personal checks?

August 19, 2009 1:32 PM  
Blogger Vinogirl said...

What a great little (wine) history lesson.

August 27, 2009 9:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its very beautiful wine. Its sol old but still peoples like it very much and they want to get advantage of its Wine gifts.

December 14, 2009 4:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

we should enjoy wine in holidays & must be careful while drinking. you can also get generic cialis to enjoy sex in better way

December 18, 2009 2:25 AM  
Anonymous adipex said...

These time wine is good product to make own business.

March 10, 2010 1:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Herbs and Supplement have shown promise in lowering blood sugar, boosting insulin sensitivity and reducing high blood pressure and cholesterol.

September 28, 2010 11:08 PM  
Anonymous Careprost said...

Hola,Ha hecho un trabajo muy bueno. Hay muchas personas en busca de eso ahora van a encontrar suficientes fuentes por tus consejos.espera para obtener más consejos acerca de que

March 11, 2011 9:19 PM  
Anonymous Kamagra Oral Jelly said...

Hey, Really great work,I would like to join your blog anyway so please continue sharing with us,

April 19, 2011 4:48 AM  
Anonymous careprost said...

Really great post, Thank you for sharing This knowledge.Excellently written article, if only all bloggers offered the same level of content as you, the internet would be a much better place. Please keep it up!

May 24, 2011 6:21 AM  
Anonymous Ranozex said...

Això és realment interessant, ets un blogger molt hàbil. M'he unit a la seva alimentació i esperem que busquen més del seu missatge meravellós. A més, he compartit el seu lloc en els meus xarxes socials !

June 16, 2011 6:16 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home