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Obituary,Wine,Winemaker,Winery

Remembering renaissance man and winemaker Art Finkelstein

As the song goes, “Only the good die young.”

A more kind and gentle man can not be found, as Art Finkelstein was the quintessential prototype.

Art died on Friday, May 28, 2010 in Napa Valley. His family was by his side, and I can’t imagine it any other way. Art’s wife, Bunny, their son, Judd, daughter-in-law, Holly, and Art’s two grandchildren, Talulah and Ruby K., are one of the dearest families that I’ve had the honor to meet in wine country.

I began working with Art, when the two of us shared a wine client… He the winemaker, we the marketing company. I got to write his bio for that company, which I’m going to share below, because it was a joy to write it with him. Our phone conversations were lovely.

We continued our friendship at another level, also, when he and his family became members of PS I Love You. Over the years, I’ve brought people to his winery, because Judd’s Hill offers such a unique experience. Here are two of my favorite stories that involve his Judd’s Hill Utopian world.

It’s always sad to lose a friend. My heart goes out to his family, because they’re one of the most closely knit units that I know; singing, loving, wining and dining in wine country, living the most joyous and respectful of lives.

Good bye, dear friend… You’ll be greatly missed.

Art Finkelstein ~ Winemaker

Born February 20, 1942 (Chicago) ~ Died May 28, 2010 (Napa)

In 1979, Art Finkelstein, who was a practicing architect at the time, moved with his family from Los Angeles to St. Helena. “I gave up my architectural practice in the late ’70s and, together with my brother Alan, built Whitehall Lane Winery ( located about halfway between Rutherford and St. Helena on Hwy 29). I was a home winemaker beginning in the early 1970s. During the 70s, I continually took extension classes from UC Davis, until I was ready for the big time.” In 1988, Alan wanted to retire, and Art decided that a smaller winery would be more to his liking. Art, his wife Bunny, and his son Judd moved from a 30,000 case-a-year facility to his new winery site, on a beautiful eastern-sloped, hillside vineyard that he had purchased in 1985.

Perfectly positioned to do so, Art set about designing and building his home and winery. He decided that a two-story winery plus a home would mean removing too many vines. So, Art designed a one-story building; the winery is on the first floor, and his family lives on the second. Together, Art and Bunny named their new business “Judd’s Hill,” in honor of their son, and the beautiful Napa Valley property that was to become their new home-based winery. In his first year (1989), Art produced about 400 cases of artisan wine.

Judd’s Hill is a small family winery that produces red Bordeaux wines (Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot). Finkelstein grows Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc on his estate vineyard property. Not only does he technically and artistically understand winemaking practices and procedures, but he also is a first-hand viticulturist; consequently, Finkelstein is closely connected to his source grapes, understands the passionate expression of his fruit, and intuitively grasps all winemaking procedures.

Art Finkelstein
Winemaker

In 1979, Art Finkelstein, who was a practicing architect at the time, moved with his family from Los Angeles to St. Helena. “I gave up my architectural practice in the late ’70s and, together with my brother Alan, built Whitehall Lane Winery ( located about halfway between Rutherford and St. Helena on Hwy 29). I was a home winemaker beginning in the early 1970’s. During the 70’s, I continually took extension classes from UC Davis, until I was ready for the big time.” In 1988, Alan wanted to retire, and Art decided that a smaller winery would be more to his liking. Art, his wife Bunny, and his son Judd moved from a 30,000 case-a-year facility to his new winery site, on a beautiful eastern-sloped, hillside vineyard that he had purchased in 1985.

Perfectly positioned to do so, Art set about designing and building his home and winery. He decided that a two-story structure would mean removing too many vines. So, Art designed a one-story building; the winery is on the first floor, and his family lives on the second. Together, Art and Bunny named their new business “Judd’s Hill,” in honor of their son, and the beautiful Napa Valley property that was to become their new home-based winery. In his first year (1989), Art produced about 400 cases of artisan wine.

Judd’s Hill is a small family winery that exclusively produces red Bordeaux wines; namely, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Finkelstein grows Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc on his estate vineyard property. Not only does he technically and artistically understand winemaking practices and procedures, but he also is a first-hand viticulturist; consequently, Finkelstein is closely connected to his source grapes, understands the passionate expression of his fruit, and intuitively grasps all winemaking procedures.

Since Cabernet Sauvignon is Art Finkelstein’s area of expertise, Bates Creek is extremely fortunate to have his winemaking talents. He consulted on the debut 1998 Bates Creek Cabernet Sauvignon. Then, Finkelstein was totally “hands on” for the 1999 vintage, and is also responsible for the newly released

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4 Responses to “Remembering renaissance man and winemaker Art Finkelstein”

  1. Loweeel says:

    My condolences to Bunny, Judd, and the rest of the Finkelstein family.

  2. Jo Diaz says:

    Thanks, Lowell. I’ll be passing a hard copy of this blog posting to the family and also include your (and any other) condolences that develop here.

    I’ve found that this type of blog is a gathering place for those just finding out.

    A service is happening on Saturday, June 13th in Napa, at Congregation Beth Sholom: all are welcome. Burial was private.

  3. Jean DeLuca says:

    Thank you for the personal notes, Jo. I too have found the Finkelsteins to be among the kindest, most creative, gracious, down-to-earth family I’ve known. I am genuinely grateful to have known Art and will continue to gather strength and inspiration from my memories of him.

  4. […] learned to love wine in the early 90s, tasting in the kitchen of Art and Bunny Finklestein in their then tiny, hand-built Judd’s Hill Winery in […]

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