October 6, 2005
Wine, Women, Song
As the daylight hours dwindle down to a precious few, and hurricanes, fires and floods give the distinct feeling that the world is indeed coming to an end, let's turn our thoughts to two of the things that make so many Jews so happy: wine and Hawaii.
That's where Judd and Holly Finkelstein come in. The Journal sat with the young couple over coffee at downtown's Angelique Café, and tried to keep track of their interests and projects.
Judd's parents, Art and Bunnie, have been making wine in Napa Valley for 25 years, first creating the Whitehall Lane label, then Judd's Hill. After training as a journalist, that same Judd recognized maybe there's a reason people dream of retiring to the place he grew up, and he moved back to join the family business.
The family has numerous ties to Los Angeles, and Judd met Holly, a former program officer for the Steven Spielberg Righteous Persons Foundation, on a 2003 visit here.
Now the two form the center of a Jewish-winemaking-experimental-entrepreneurial-Hawaiian music-making community in Napa.
Along with expanding and marketing the critically acclaimed Judd Hill line, the two are marketing Napa Valley Custom MicroCrush. Customers pay to make their own wines, selecting grapes and overseeing the process from picking to labeling.
"Crushing grapes is nasty, grungy work," Judd said. "It's barely pleasant."
MicroCrush customers can have others do this part, but otherwise, for about $20 per bottle, make their oenophiliac dreams come true. The idea sounds prime for a nonprofit group to use as a fundraiser -- anyone for a case of '06 Jewish Family Service Pinot Noir?
When not promoting wine, Holly and Judd perform in a Hawaiian lounge band they created, The Maikai Gents, featuring the Mysterious Miss Mauna Loa. Holly, a trained hula dancer (a.k.a. Miss Mauna Loa), and Judd, an expert on the ukelele, perform at clubs, parties and the rare bar mitzvah in the wine country.
Their new CD, "Wiki Wiki Grog Shop," will take you back -- to somewhere between Kapalua and Trader Vics.
These days, that's a good place to be.
For more information, visit www.juddshill.com.