Posts Tagged ‘wine’

Nov 28, 2012

Judd’s Hill

In an industry that prides itself on reverence — for the land, for grapes, for the hallowed process of winemaking — Judd Finkelstein (owner and namesake of Judd’s Hill Winery) is a man who is decidedly irreverent. From his ukelele-playing Hawaiian band, The Maikai Gents Featuring The Mysterious Miss Mauna Loa, to his pirate-themed Napa-centric talk show, “Wine Booty!”, Judd is an innovator in making wine promotion more… well, fun!

Judd Finkelstein

Judd Finkelstein

Combining his background in film production with his winemaking talents, Judd originally created “Judd’s Enormous Wine Show,” a fully scripted tongue-in-cheek video series that gave viewers an insider’s look into Napa’s wine industry through Finkelstein’s self-described “foggy goggles”. When that ran its course, “Wine Booty!” was birthed, a high-seas vino-centric video series showcasing Napa Valley’s saltiest characters.

Wine Booty

Watch the 1st episode of Wine Booty!

Pirate-themed hijinks don’t distract Judd from his craft, however. Judd’s Hill Winery was founded by Judd’s father, Art Finkelstein, who sold the successful Whitehall Lane Winery (producing over 30,000 cases a year) and bought the 14 hillside acres off the Silverado Trail that would become Judd’s Hill. “Smaller is better” was his belief and today, two generations of the Finkelstein family – Art, Bunnie, Judd, and his wife Holly – take an intimate approach to winemaking. They focus on making food friendly, small production wines at a reasonable price, limiting  annual production to less than 3,000 cases.

Judd’s Hill sells most of their wine directly to consumers, maintaining a close relationship with the people who are drinking the results of their efforts. Utah in particular is a special market for them — the State Stores carry a wider selection than the majority of Judd’s Hill outlets.

Heirloom Group is excited to welcome Judd’s colorful company next week at a Judd’s Hill Wine Dinner at Communal Restaurant. We hope you’ll join us for a night that’s sure to leave an impression. Ahoy!

Judd’s Hill Wine Dinner (December 3 | 6:30 PM | Communal Restaurant). $30 Food | $30 Optional Wine Pairing. Email for reservations.

Sep 05, 2012

Wine 101: Wine secrets from the pros

We’ll let you in on a secret – restaurants don’t know everything. We are constantly and eagerly learning about food, wine, and customer service. We have wonderful opportunities to learn the real story from passionate professionals; even better, we get to share that information with everyone who walks through our doors.

Recently, the Heirloom Group took a wine education course to demystify a subject that many love, but few feel comfortable discussing. Chris Neidiger, General Manager of Communal Restaurant, shares a little of what we learned from Wine 101:

For many, wine education can seem like an intimidating subject to tackle, but it’s actually just a few simple tips on gardening, using your senses, and enjoying what you’re drinking. Heirloom called upon friend and wine broker Francis Fecteau (Libation Inc. of Salt Lake City, UT) to provide insight into the world of wine. We met on P712’s patio for an afternoon of smelling, tasting, and learning about viticulture. We learned about everything – from planting to harvesting, barreling, bottling, and eventually, consuming.

As with winemaking, our education began with the planting and harvesting season. In January and February, bud swellings appear on vines as they awaken from their winter slumber. These swellings grow into leaves and flower clusters, which eventually turn into fruit. Full blooms don’t typically appear until May. Grape flowers are self-pollinating, so these blooms look significantly different from most fruit plants since they aren’t trying to attract bids and bees for pollination. Grapes begin to appear in June and continue to grow and expand until they are fully ripe at the end of July.

Throughout this process, winemakers are constantly inspecting, pruning, cleaning, protecting and carefully guiding the growth of their plants. Timing is crucial. Leave the grapes on the vine too long and your wine will be affected; take them off too soon, your final product will be different. If you don’t prune your vines throughout the growing season (resulting in too many shoots/grapes per plant), you run the risk of producing a lower quality product. Every decision affects both profitability and quality.

The harvest season generally begins in September or October, and it involves more than just picking the fruit off the vine. Harvest is the stage when fruit is picked, pressed, barreled, fermented (sometimes multiple times and in different ways), aged (in some cases) and eventually bottled or stored for later use. Once bottled, some wines will stay in the bottle for an indefinite period and are not available for sale until the winemaker believes the wine is properly aged to achieve tasting goals. Being a winemaker is a full-time job, every month of the year. It’s a continuous cycle of planting, harvesting, bottling, and aging. Many winemakers don’t see the profits from their wine until years after the work was done.

The next part of our wine course taught us about the importance of smell. Francis provided a kit with smells in tiny bottles. Yes, smells in a bottle! These are used to train us how to identify certain characteristics often found in wine. It was also a way to discover that each person interprets odors differently.

The “White Wine” smells were first. The bottles were labeled lemon, pineapple, honey and vanilla. However, our answers varied wildly on each of these. Some guessed pine, others described the smells as Flintstone Vitamins, butter, and many more. “Red Wine” smells were next – strawberry, black currant, black pepper, and smoke. Our answers were even better this time around: gummy bears, olives, oak, and the best: “fake cough syrup.”

Tasting came last. With our newfound knowledge, we were able to identify smells and tastes in each glass of wine that were easy to pick up now that we had trained our noses and minds to pay close attention to the subtleties. The best part was comparing wines side by side. Identifying the differences between the Aquinas Cabernet versus the Bucklin Zinfandel or between the oaked Louis Latour Chardonnay and the unoaked Mer Soleil Silver Chardonnay (in a classy ceramic bottle) was an eye opening experience. The other two wines we tried (to compare sweetness) were the Atrea Rose and a very sweet (but very good) Riesling. All of the wines we tasted are on our wine lists.

With Francis’ help we are now better equipped to handle all those tough (or not so tough) wine questions you can throw at us. We learned about important food pairings, what labels can tell you, how small local producers (yes!) benefit the state of Utah and wine drinkers everywhere, and many more fun factoids about wine production and enjoyment. We hope you’ll visit Communal or P712 soon and see what else we can tell you when you come in for dinner!

Jun 27, 2012

Wine Spotlight: Honig

At Heirloom, we support businesses that not only produce an amazing product, but do so in a sustainable, environmentally conscious way.

Honig Winery is one of those businesses. They are on the Communal wine list as much for their sustainable practices as they are for the quality of their wines. Their motto is “Doing well while doing good.”

In 1964, Louis Honig purchased a 68-acre ranch in the heart of the Napa Valley and planted it with Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. He sold the fruit to neighboring wineries with the dream of retiring one day from his San Francisco advertising business and making wine from his vineyard in Rutherford. Before he could realize his dream, Louis passed away, leaving the estate to his children and grandchildren. In 1981, as a tribute to his legacy, the family rallied together to produce several hundred cases of Louis Honig Sauvignon Blanc in the vineyard’s old tractor barn. The wine won a Gold Medal at the Orange County Fair, and thus, the winery was born.

At the age of 22, Michael Honig took the reins of his struggling, family vineyard and winery. With an old meat locker for an office, a shoebox marked “miscellaneous” for an accounting system and no training, he began canvassing the streets of San Francisco, selling wine and delivering it himself. As president of the winery, he has built a strong team and transformed the business into a success.

A leader in sustainable farming, he chaired the first California initiative to develop a “Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Practices,” a voluntary program establishing statewide guidelines for sustainable farming and winemaking. He is also involved in an innovative pilot program that trains yellow lab puppies to detect vine mealy bugs in the vineyard.

Honig’s sustainable practices include:

  • Solar power – their photovoltaic system generates enough power to run the winery, including cooling and bottling
  • Planting cover crops to provide nutrients and soil microorganisms
  • Installing owl, bluebird, and bat houses tor natural pest and rodent
  • Mechanically tilling rather than spraying herbicides
  • Installing blue bird nesting boxes
  • Using bio diesel in our tractors
  • Using drip irrigation to minimize water use
  • Improving habitat along the edge of the vineyard
  • Replant vineyard border with native species
  • Certified in Fish Friendly Farming
  • Compost grape skins, seeds, stems
  • Recycle glass, cardboard, metal, paper and plastics,
  • Bottle wine in lighter weight glass

Join us at Communal on July 7 at 6:00PM for a Honig Wine Dinner. Meet Honig winemaker Kristin Belair and enjoy a 3 course meal with tastings of 5 Honig wines. Call (801) 373-8000 to ask questions or sign up.

Find out more about Honig at