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Calif. wineries uncork the cool factor

  • Winemaker Judd Finkelstein of Judd's Hill winery, makes a toast before playing his ukulele with his band during a winery luau March 23 at Trader Vic's...

    Associated Press

    Winemaker Judd Finkelstein of Judd's Hill winery, makes a toast before playing his ukulele with his band during a winery luau March 23 at Trader Vic's restaurant in Emeryville, Calif.

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By Michelle Locke
Associated Press
Published:
  • Winemaker Judd Finkelstein of Judd's Hill winery, makes a toast before playing his ukulele with his band during a winery luau March 23 at Trader Vic's...

    Associated Press

    Winemaker Judd Finkelstein of Judd's Hill winery, makes a toast before playing his ukulele with his band during a winery luau March 23 at Trader Vic's restaurant in Emeryville, Calif.

NAPA, Calif. -- The tiki tasting hut in the barrel room of the Judd's Hill winery is a tipoff: This isn't your old-school faux chateau.
Which is just the way Napa Valley winemaker Judd Finkelstein and his family want things.
"Much to my delight, one of the most common compliments is, 'This has been a lot of fun. We really like coming here; it's not stuffy,'" Finkelstein said. "That's music to my ears."
A few miles north, at Raymond Vineyards in St. Helena, owner Jean-Charles Boisset has been shaking up old winery paradigms.
Visitors who sign up for the winemaker-for-a-day program don silver and red lab coats, with matching hats, naturally, and mix their own wine blends in a room decorated with a disco ball and black light.
The new approaches are quite a contrast to the traditional nature of wine country, said Joe Roberts, founder of the popular website 1WineDude.com and wine columnist for Playboy.com.
"The wine world's about eight years behind everything with the exception of bottling lines and production techniques," he said with a laugh.
That can mean ornate tasting rooms where "you walk in and you feel like you can't move any of the furniture, that kind of thing doesn't really sit well with the younger generation, particularly Millennials," Roberts said.
Both Judd's Hill and Raymond have popular blending camps in which visitors make their own custom blends and take home a bottle or more.
Raymond Vineyards
849 Zinfandel Lane, St. Helena, Calif., www.raymondvineyards.com or 707-963-3141. Open daily 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Judd's Hill Winery
2332 Silverado Trail, Napa, Calif., www.juddshill.com or 707-255-2332. Visits by appointment only. Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

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