You might be in pinot noir land, but you will find no pinot here!
Flashback to 1979 – a much younger Lee Hudson purchased 2000 acres in the Napa Valley, for only a few hundred dollars per acre. The land spanned south to Highway 12 and north, past the mountains, to Henry Road, and it was nothing but vast wilderness. Mr. Hudson was a rancher by trade, specializing in pigs, sheep, and greens, but he knew that vines would overtake the valley eventually. He planted 200 acres of vines, 1/10th of his property, and true to his wild heart, he capped it there. Until 2004, he exclusively sold his grapes to other vintners, but after 20 plus years of developing a reputation for quality, he decided to try it out for himself. Well, not completely by himself. He did hire a winemaker.
But you will find no pinot here! Instead, a mishmash of French varietals grow side by side, unusual neighbors that only thrive together in the Napa Valley. Flagship Chardonnay shares soil with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Grenache, and Viognier, proving that the Carneros region isn’t a one-trick pony.
The Hudson experience today is a premier one. After rolling up the winding drive, you will feel like a pampered VIP, sequestered into a cozy, individual tasting room with a dedicated wine educator who hosts you from start to finish. There may only be one wine educator present in a day, and with such a small winery team, they also treat their guests like family. Weather permitting, you may also get a grounds tour before your tasting begins, and a hike to Milliken Peak with a bring-your-own picnic lunch can be scheduled ahead of time for only $20 extra. Flights include three reds and two chardonnays. Tasting fees are $95, and while purchasing wine will not waive the fee, it is well worth the entrance price for an elegant, yet unpretentious experience. (Note: Most of the tasting rooms do not include a fireplace. The image is of the actual VIP room.)
From the moment I pulled through the chain at the end of the unassuming drive, Hudson became one of my favorite wineries in the valley. I love a good jack-of-all-trades story, and that is exactly the story that Lee Hudson wrote for himself. His 2000 acres host livestock, vines, olive trees, bee boxes, and plenty of wildlife. Have I mentioned yet, that the property is home to an elusive pileated woodpecker? I didn’t get to see him during our visit, but the host, Jessie, told stories of sightings and hearing distant drumming. While enjoying the wine and the company, I spotted golden-crowned sparrows and black phoebes on fence posts, and heard a northern flicker squealing in the oak groves. This place is magical for bird and wine enthusiasts alike, and that is why I will be keeping Hudson on my short list!