Although Napa Valley’s Scarecrow winery was founded in 2002, the vines date back to the 1940s. In 1943, Joseph Judson Cohn, the famous MGM executive producer of The Wizard of Oz and Ben Hur, purchased a 79 ha property in Rutherford, adjacent to the Inglenook Winery. Soon after, his friend John Daniels, who had convinced Cohn to buy the land in the first place, agreed to manage the Estate. Together, they planted grapes and the vineyard soon became known as one of the leading terroirs in Napa Valley. As a result, the fruit has been used by Inglenook, Opus One and Phelps Insignia.
Today, Scarecrow is recognised as having some of the oldest vines in the Napa Valley. When the prevalent thinking in Napa was to replant vineyards with European rootstock, John Daniels kept the originals. This was considered risky at the time, but paid off when phylloxera destroyed the replanted rootstocks. As such, Scarecrow’s vines boast some of the only vines from 1945 in the world. In 2009 these old vines poetically led to the creation of the most expensive bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon ever sold, with an auction lot of five cases of Scarecrow selling for $80,000. Two years later, five cases sold for $125,000, firmly establishing it as one of Napa’s cult Cabernets.
In 1996, Cohn died at the age of 100 and his heirs put the property up for sale to help resolve an inheritance dispute. From 1996 to 2002 the value of the property rose from an estimated $4 million dollars to $33.6 million, when Francis Ford Coppola of the Rubicon Estate Winery bought the Estate in a packaged deal with Cohn’s grandson, Bret Lopez. Coppola received 140 acres, while Lopez, and his partner Mimi DeBlasio, received the property’s buildings, 25 acres of planted vineyards and 2 acres of the original Cabernet vines planted in 1945. Lopez immediately employed the revered winemaker Celia Welch to create Scarecrow Cabernet Sauvignon. The name Scarecrow pays homage to one of the most popular characters in the Wizard of Oz.
Aside from being highly allocated and hugely desirable, Scarecrow is now rightly mentioned in the same breath as the benchmark of premium California Cabernets, Screaming Eagle, yet it remains about one third of the price. This 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wine is truly incredible, its ripe, balanced and elegant fruit profile means it can be enjoyed immediately yet will improve in bottle for 30 years. Scarecrow is certainly one of the must own Napa wines.