Larry Stone and Rubicon

America's most honored sommelier talks about his move to Rubicon Estate.

While the San Francisco restaurant world mourns the displacement of Rubicon's founder and wine director, folks on the northern side of the Golden Gate are parading through muddy Rutherford vineyards to welcome Larry Stone, M.S., to the position of general manager, Rubicon Estate. Playing the lead role in Francis Ford Coppola's venture, has been a long time in the making, according to Stone.


Q: When did you first take notice of the seriousness of what was coming out of the Rubicon Estate?

A: I was working in a small restaurant in Seattle in the early 1980s. I tasted the Daniels' 'Reunion', which Niebaum-Coppola influenced (they were one of the three vineyards owned by the Daniels family at the time). In February 1992 I moved to San Francisco with my family and tasted the '89, '90, and '91 Rubicons. The vast differences and progression were beyond noteworthy. I realized, "This was it. This will be one of the greatest wines of the decade." 

Q: What was the deciding factor that pushed you in to the north and away from the day-to-day workings of a restaurant?

A: There were a few things, actually. First, Rubicon is a classic and historic estate where all the wine that is produced there, is grown there. The big news, that we are downsizing [case production] to focus on perfecting the wines that we produce, was a huge draw for me.

In addition, we are bringing the estate back to its original [design]. Although seemingly large at 235 acres, we will produce in the low 10,000s of cases of wine; we are keeping things "tight" in order to master the quality. Restoring the Estate to its 1930s authenticity is a rather exciting venture to be a part of.

Second, Niebaum-Coppola was not entirely focused on the selling of its wines in the past. Now, with his recent land purchases and the renovations, we will need to augment an income. Focusing on the quality of his wine will aide in that aspect, which is where I come in.

Q: And working with Francis Ford Coppola should be an experience as well. Are there parallels between his growing interest in wine production since '75 and your career development?

A: Well, I've actually known Francis since opening Rubicon—we had to approach him to use the name. He liked the idea so much he actually signed on as an investor. Francis is a very creative person, and he sees the vision and tradition of this classic estate. He enjoys the challenge of bringing it back to it authenticity, as well as new, creative things like the Sophia Mini's, which have sold well over the years. There will be more ideas like that coming forth from here.

Francis loves to see people drinking wine—delicious wine. That's something we share in common.

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