2005 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
California: Napa Valley
What We Say
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Mission Codename: If you’ve got it, flaunt it!
Operative: Agent White
Objective: Revisit Napa’s Judd’s Hill to acquire their superb Cabernet Sauvignon
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Judd’s Hill
Wine Subject: 2005 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Winemaker: Art Finkelstein
Our Operatives we so enamored with the Judd’s Hill wine we featured here a little while back, that they have been demanding that we send an Agent to retrieve another wine. With over 30 years of wine-making experience and a dedication to handcrafted wines, Art Finkelstein’s wines represent the values that us wine spies love.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deep and concentrated purple with garnet reflexes and a dark, almost black and barely clear core and a slight viscous surface texture. Along the edges, this wine’s deep color fades ever so slightly to a lighter shade of purple. When swirled two distinct rings of tears hang on the edge of the glass, the lower sit extremely low, just above the surface with clusters of fat legs. On the upper ring, the legs hang for a few seconds before streaking down the glass.
Smell – Medium bold in intensity with well defined aromas of oak, licorice and ripe black fruit and plum. A touch of spice, pepper and floral lavender round out the complex and redolent nose of this wine.
Feel – Full bodied, dry and medium acidity with an initial kick of spice, minerality and tanginess that immediately softens and reveals a firm and finely grained tannins that supports the flavors long into the wine’s finish.
Taste – Sweet, ripe and concentrated dark fruit, including blackberry, plum and other wild berries backed by herbal bramble brush and black licorice, notes of oak and fresh cut cedar, exotic spice and pepper and a hint of floral lavender.
Finish – This wine’s rich fruit, complex herbal and spice and its oak linger long into the clean finish that is supported by this wine’s structure and minerality.
Conclusion – The 2005 Judd’s Hill Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is an opulently delicious wine and fully representative of the exceptional 2005 vintage. Solid, bold and powerful but with an elegance touch and a texture that’s both inviting and interesting. With classic Cabernet Sauvignon aromas and flavors enjoy this wine with braised short ribs, grilled red meat or simply enjoy this wine by itself. Its that good! Cheers.
Agent Red had the good fortune to catch up with Judd Finklestein, winemaker for Judd’s Hill. He conducted the following interview with Judd:
AGENT RED: Greetings, Judd. We are thrilled to be working with Judd’s Hill again, this time bringing our Operatives your great Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is great. Thanks so much for the wine, and for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
JUDD FINKELSTEIN: Thanks to you, Agent Red!
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
JUDD: Being born into a winemaking family had something to do with it. To be honest, I’ve been enjoying wine for so long, I can’t recall a single moment that inspired my love of the drink. I wish I could, that’d be exciting (and would give you a better story!). Oh, I just remembered… it was a 1959 Margaux that someone splashed into my baby bottle. The subtle earth tones playing against that elegant Bordeaux fruit really paired exquisitely with my Pablum. Yup, that was it alright!
RED: And where did you learn the most about winemaking?
JUDD: Right in the cellar with my father, Art.
RED: What is your winemaking style or philosophy?
JUDD: We’re in Napa Valley, where the grapes are divine. That being said, my style is to really let the fruit be the showcase. The Cab does have a bit of wood, but it’s much more of a nuance than a major characteristic. I love to eat and I find that oaky wines with heavy wood tannins just fight with my meals… and I can’t have that!
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
JUDD: My father. My college degree is in something completely unrelated to winemaking (Television Production, see www.juddsenormouswineshow.com) and although I have since gone and taken some courses at U.C. Davis and Napa College, I credit my dad with teaching me just about everything I know about wine.
RED: How long have you been making wine?
JUDD: Since the time I could stand upright to stomp on a grape!
RED: Who do you make wine for?
JUDD: That’s a good question that may not have a simple answer, but I’ll try. The bottom line is that I’m making wine for myself, in the respect that I can’t put something out there that I don’t like. I wouldn’t even know how to do that on purpose! We’re very fortunate that throughout our 30 years in Napa Valley, we’ve been able to attract a core of fans who appreciate the style of wines we make.
RED: Tell me, what makes the Napa Valley so special?
JUDD: It’s all here. The climate, the soil, the grape-growing know-how, the winemaking knowledge, the technology, the right attitudes, the love. This is home. This is where it happens.
RED: What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone that is considering a career as a winemaker?
JUDD: Spend some time interning or temping at a winery on a production crew. It’s not as romantic a lifestyle as many seem to believe. It’s hard and demanding work with long and sometimes unpredictable hours. If your physical stamina and tolerance for stress can match your passion for wine… then go, baby go!
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
JUDD: We’re putting the blend together for our 2007 Cab. Blending is really one of my favorite parts of the whole winemaking process. Discovering the secrets that lie within each of our barrels and how the play together with the others is just too exciting for words.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today
JUDD: As my grandmother says, “Just try it, you’ll like it.” But seriously, without getting too technical, we’ve brought together several vineyard sources including our St. Helena eastern hillside estate fruit, Stags Leap fruit and Oakville fruit. This really gives the wine some great depth and complexity. A bit of Merlot and Cabernet Franc in the blend rounds it all out and the mild oak is a delicate layer that puts this wine solidly in the “food friendly” category.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
JUDD: As I said, I love to eat! Just put a plate (or a box or a stick) of good food in front of me and I’ll be very happy to drink this Cab with it. Really, because of the fruit character and subtle wood, this Cab is quite versatile. No artichokes, please. We do have some of our favorite recipes on our www.juddshill.com website.
RED: Please share one thing about yourself that few people know
JUDD: If I’m at a party and there’s a bouncy-house, look out kiddies!
RED: What is your favorite ‘everyday’ or table wine?
JUDD: Well, out of convenience, I’ve been drinking our 2005 Judd’s Hill Cabernet at home with great regularity. I know it’s not really an “everyday” wine, but for lucky me, it is!
RED: How would you recommend that people approach your wines, or wine in general?
JUDD: I’m not sure I know what you mean by “approach,” so I’ll just say fearlessly. Don’t get caught up in winespeak or preconceived notions about anything. Have a sip and see what you think. It’s as simple as that.
RED: If you could choose any one wine to drink (regardless of price or availability), what would it be?
JUDD: 1975 Oak Pass Wines Zinfandel. This is the first wine that I vividly remember stomping the grapes for. We had a party in our garage and all my little friends and their parents washed their feet and then jumped on in. What a blast it was and how fun it would be to revisit that wine.
RED: What is the one question that I should have asked you, and what is your answer to that question?
JUDD: Q: How did you do that? A: Magic!
RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and about your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!
JUDD: You’re very welcome. Thanks for the support, Agent Red. Watch out!
What follows is our original mission report, in which Agent Red first comes to meet Judd’s Hill Winery
It was the end of a very long day – and I was dog tired. I had been on a mission in Napa Valley that took way longer that I had anticipated and I still had to drive to Monterey County for an early morning surveillance.
I decided to stop in San Francisco for dinner and parked near my favorite Thai restaurant, only to find that it had closed for remodeling. Just great.
It was dark, I was feeling glum and I had no idea where to eat. I moped back toward my car and, as I was getting in, heard the thin sound of music coming from a nearby alley. Even though I could not quite make it out over the sounds of the street, it had a lively feel to it and I found myself drawn toward it.
As I neared the building that the sweet sounds emanated from , the music became clearer. It was Hawaiian music. Hapa haole Hawaiian music, actually. A great vintage sound, with ukulele and steel guitar and happy vocals. My spirits lifted. That is, until a wall of a man blocked me from entering the building. I looked up… and up… and up some more. A very serious looking Polynesian stared down at me.
“Private party, sir, sorry”, he siad in the deepest voice I had ever heard.
Before I could answer, a voice from behind me in the alleyway called out, “Its okay, Pea, he’s with me.”
I turned to see a cardboard box being thrust into my arms. Obviously a case of wine, I went along with this young stranger and followed him inside. He motioned me to set the case down among several other cases of wine. Each box was labeled with “Judd’s Hill”.
I set the box down and the smiling stranger extended his hand and said, “Hi, I’m Judd.”
Judd’s Hill. Judd.
He saw me looking from the wine to him and said, “Yup, my family’s winery! You like wine?”
Needless to say, the rest of the evening was filled with frivolity, great wine, cool music, fantastic food and great people.
After watching Judd (grape grower, winemaker, musician, performer and artist) and his group, The Maikai Gents Featuring The Mysterious Miss Mauna Loa, perform, Judd told me all about his winemaking family and their artisanal ways.
The evening was just what the Spy Doctor ordered and the wine struck me as one of the best I had tasted all year. Right there at the party, Judd agreed to devoting an allocation to our Operatives. My bad-day-turned-great-evening is your reward, dear Operative. Today’s wine is sweet music to your lips!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Judd’s Hill in Napa Valley can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
Awards & Accolades:
GOLD MEDAL WINNER – Hilton Head Island Wine Competition
EXCEPTIONAL by Dan Berger – “Attractive herb, black cherry/cassis character, good handling of tannins and classy finish. Best decanted or aged three to five more years.”
About This Wine:
Decadence… In moderation. In this wine, you will experience the fruit forward power and concentration that has made Napa synonymous with Cabernet. We balance this new world fruit with old world wine making, using mostly neutral French oak barrels and minimal oxygenation. This results in a wine full of ripe plum and cassis, with hints of caramel and vanilla. The finish is long, and supported by smooth, fine-grained tannins.
Vineyard Notes: The Judd’s Hill Estate vineyard continues to provide half of the fruit for our Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. This steeply terraced, hillside vineyard produces clusters with intense fruit flavors, concentrated aromas and a deep extraction of color. Our estate fruit is supported and enhanced by fruit harvested from two amazing vineyards in the Stags Leap District and Oakville.
Vintage Notes: From 2004 to 2005, we went from strength to strength, with two world-class Cabernets in a row. In 2005, the long and cool growing season helped to slowly ripen the grapes, resulting in good quality fruit with mature flavors and less sugar than warmer years. Our balanced and even-handed approach to winemaking is well suited to these kinds of growing conditions.
About The Winery:
Artisanal. Small. Hands on. Family. Nestled in the Napa Valley. These are the hallmarks of Judd’s Hill Winery, the life work of Art and Bunnie Finkelstein and their son Judd and his wife Holly.
Art has been a winemaker for more than 30 years, beginning in his garage in Los Angeles when he worked as an architect during the day. He rethought his life and brought his family to the Napa Valley in the 1970s to found Whitehall Lane Winery in St. Helena. When that grew too large, they built Judd’s Hill, where the family focuses on making less than 3,000 cases a year of hand-crafted, ultra-premium Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Petite Sirah and Syrah.
Napa Valley visitors and friends know the Finkelsteins’ domain to overflow with a hugely personal mix of interests and talents, from Judd’s ukulele playing to Holly’s hula dancing to Art’s pottery and cooking and Bunnie’s love of poetry, tuba-playing and knitting. This array of art and the arts may be unique among Napa Valley winemaking families. “The process of winemaking is extraordinary in my experience,” Art says. “It has to be the most complex and challenging of all art forms. I am amazed by it.”
Appellation: Napa Valley
Sub-Appellation: Napa Valley
Bottling Date: July 11, 2007
Harvest Date: September 23 – November 2
Months in Barrel: 20 Months
Release Date: February 14, 2009
Time In Oak: 20 Months
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon