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07.23.08

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Phaedra

Wine Tasting Room of the Week

Judd's Hill Winery

By James Knight


Stomp some grapes, make some wine, no problem. The law allows each "head of the household" to produce the handsome quantity of 200 gallons of wine per year. That's more than I can enjoy, and the cats don't drink. Want to sell the surplus on the side? Out of luck. While cherries, oranges and tainted tomatoes may be sold casually on the roadside, wine is locked tightly in bond. Fiscal conservatives have jabbered for decades in favor of free enterprise, individual responsibility and hands-off government—so where the hell's my roadside wine stand?

Fortunately for would-be winemakers with a yen for legality, there are custom facilities like Judd's Hill MicroCrush to make their liquid dreams a cork-finished reality. Judd's Hill offers an all-inclusive winemaking service (meaning, for one thing, customers needn't sip contemplatively in the path of the forklift driver) for backyard vineyardists, growers with some fruit to spare and those who want to explore the possibilities of a new brand. They take care of the processing, barrel storage and, of course, the paperwork, even providing grapes if needed. It'll cost some—but this is Napa! It'll pay for itself.

Not ready to commit to a barrel, French, Hungarian or otherwise? There's more. The family-owned winery offers its Barrel Blending Day Camp, after which happy campers can take home as few as three bottles that they've personally selected and hand-bottled from a range of Bordeaux-style blending options.

There's so much going on up on Judd's Hill, don't forget they pump out 3,000 cases of their own juice. Winetasting here on a recent day is a chaotic, if friendly, affair; we're seated around a big table with several groups under a complicated ceiling—it's like the conference room of a hip urban company. Note the tiki ornamentation; winemaker Judd Finkelstein plays ukulele in a band called the Maikai Gents.

The light orange-pink 2007 Rosť ($18) has an appealing cantaloupe and tangy apricot base under an aroma of orange peel, while the ebullient 2005 Chardonnay ($26) uplifts the palate with the sensation of smoky roasted marshmallow. Somewhat pleasant and plummy, the lightly raisined 2006 Estate Pinot Noir ($30) seems just a mesoclimate away from ideal, while the 2005 Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel ($30) bests many producers from that locale with spot-on fresh raspberry, plum skin and soft, juicy fruit without too much spice. For this summer's day, 2007 Sauvignon Blanc ($20) is the perfect, sweet and clean chilled melon in a glass. And with that, aloha.


Judd's Hill Winery, 2332 Silverado Trail, Napa. Tasting daily, $10. 707.255.2332.


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