Visiting Judd's Hill Winery on the Silverado Trail in Napa Valley

Wine tasting is one of the greatest and most relaxing ways to spend a couple of hours, a day or a week. If you spend enough time in tasting rooms it’s easy to pick out the places that are truly special. At the end of the day if the wine is good, that’s sufficient I suppose. That said some places take it to another level by treating their visitors particularly well or offering more than just a couple of pours at a bar in the corner. I spent the last week plus out in Napa and Sonoma and I found some excellent places to recommend. Once such producer is Judd’s Hill, which is located on the Silverado trail. If you hit the trail out of downtown Napa they’re quite literally the first producer you’ll run across. Judd’s Hill is a boutique winery that sets itself apart from the masses in Napa in a number of ways. From the moment you drive onto their property you’ll feel like you’re transported to a different time. Their facility is just perfectly secluded enough to make this an incredibly serene environment. Lucky for us wine lovers that they share it with the public. Tastings at Judd’s Hill occur daily from 10 AM to 4 PM by prior appointment. The tasting room itself seems like anything but the standard bearer rooms you find at many other spots nearby. It’s a bright, well lit room, with a large conference style table at the center. The walls are adorned with artwork from both local artists who are being featured and members of the family such as founder Art Finkelstein. Tastings at Judd’s Hill are $10 (waived with a $45 purchase) and officially they have about 5 wines at a time they pour. However often they have other wines open which are gladly sampled for the keenly interested. Someone will guide you and/or your group through the tasting and walk you through the facility as well if you’re interested. Their wines are made both from estate and purchased fruit. What is distinct about the Judd’s Hill wines is that they are each well-balanced and loaded with varietal character. They’re also priced very fairly which is nice to see. Their new release 2010 Sauvignon Blanc ($24) is a particular standout in terms of being an exceptional value. The Estate Pinot Noir which is available only at the winery was my favorite of their current releases. I also got to sample a Merlot and several Cabernet Sauvignons. Each wine they poured for me was terrific and if you’re a fan of one of their wines there’s a good chance the portfolio in general will appeal to you. The reason for this is the house style which is aimed towards producing balanced and food friendly wines which are proportionate.

In addition to producing wines under their own label, Judd’s Hill is a custom crush facility. That means you can sign up to utilize their equipment and vast wine making acumen to make your own wines. Unlike many of the other such facilities out there Judd’s Hill is a Micro Crush facility; their focus is not on large commercial clients but rather on wine enthusiasts the world over who want a place to enjoy their hobby or start their small brand. By focusing on smaller clients, one barrel (24 cases) is the minimum; they can apply the same personal touches they do to their own small-lot wines and tasting room visitors to their Micro Crush clients. Their website contains many more details, but in short someone who wants to participate can pick exactly which parts of the process they want to be involved in, Judd’s Hill will handle the rest for you.

Judd’s Hill also offers a wine club that can be customized to suit your personal tastes and needs. This includes selecting the number of bottles you receive (shipments are quarterly), as well as an option to receive red wines only. Wine club members are also welcome to pick their wines up at Judd’s Hill. That sounds like a perfect reason to stop by for a taste every 3 months. They also throw events throughout the year including wine pick up parties. If you’re lucky, winery namesake Judd Finkelstein’s Ukulele band will be playing.

So whether you’re in Napa Valley looking to taste wine or you want to bottle some of your own, Judd’s Hill is a place to keep in mind. Their friendly, welcoming atmosphere as well as eclectic artistry and tastes guarantee you’ll have spent time at a special and distinct place when you eventually walk out their door. Call them at 707-255-2332 to schedule a visit; you’ll be glad you did.