Judds Hill Winery is owned and operated by the Finkelstein family. Art Finkelstein founded Whitehall Lane Winery in St. Helena and his son Judd and his son’s wife Holly are running this small winery. Judd’s Hill is located just off the southern part of Silverado Trail slightly north of the city of Napa. When you turn into their small driveway you will cross a very narrow bridge and then will wind around on a gravel road up to the actual winery.
The winery is in a very picturesque location, set right among the rolling vineyard hills and you are surrounded by rows of grapes. Your tasting guide can give you a short production tour which involves seeing the “guts” of this small working winery. A great time to visit is during the harvest months when the winery really comes alive.
What sets this winery apart from other wineries is their MicroCrush Facility. It gives those who want to make wine in very small quantities (minimum quantity is 1 barrel – about 24 cases – 288 bottles) a place to actually have their wine made, as the larger custom crush facilities in the valley typically have much higher quantity limits – i.e., Napa Wine Co, Laird Family Estate. You tell them what type of wine you want to make and Judd’s Hill will secure the grapes, do all of the winemaking, aging, blending, bottling and can also provide labels.
Client’s can actually be quite involved in the wine and decision making process down to processing fruit, de-stemming, barrel selection, blending and more. This is probably the most affordable hands off or hands on way (depending on how much involvement you want to have) to produce your own small label using Napa sourced fruit. Well over 100 individuals are signed up for their micro custom crush and the huge lineup of empty bottles along the shelf in their tasting room testifies to the popularity of this service.
The sit down tasting room is small and elegantly furnished with windows overlooking parts of the vineyard. Their total production is about 3000 cases and for a winery of this size they make a large variety of different types of wines. Some of the wines can only be purchased directly from the winery including several whites, a Rose and a Muscat. A typical tasting will include 5 or 6 wines. All of their fruit is currently sourced with the exception being the Pinot noir from their estate although they still have Cabernet Sauvignon vintages from a former estate property they owned on Howell Mountain in the north part of the valley.
Their Pinot is fairly light in color but rich in flavor. A couple of other wines we really enjoyed are their 2005 Old Vine Zin made from fruit from 75 year old grapevines. There is a lot of alcohol in this wine but the alcohol does not dominate. What dominates is the fruit; it is a well-balanced wine with good acidity. Our favorite is their 2003 Petite Sirah. This is a big wine nearly as big as some of the Cabernets we have been drinking. It has a fantastic nose full of earthy aromas with even few mossy type characteristics. Despite being a big wine it is drinkable now with structured tannins and a long finish.
Sometimes its best not to take wine too seriously! Check out Judd’s eclectic Enormous Wine Show by visiting: www.juddsenormouswineshow.com. This series was created by Judd and Rudy McClain (the director/writer/producer of the new feature film Merlove). This show has new installments each week, and includes a wide range of wine-related content—from humorous scenarios and on-air interviews to updates on wines and winery activities. As Judd says, “We wanted to share our lively, frenetic lives at the winery with the world out there. We also wanted to get creative and make people laugh and have a good time, so we’re pushing the boundaries of blogging and video content online.”
More serious wine drinkers should consider asking for a taste of the wine they keep hidden in the “tiki” statue next to the tasting table! Also ask to see their Library Wine list, unlike many wineries in the area you can actually purchase wines up to 10 or 11 years old. Judd is a man of many talents, not only is he a magician, but he plays the ukulele for old-time Hawaiian music in his Maikai Gents band.
For more information and to make an appointment, visit: www.juddshill.com
Judd’s Hill Introduction: