A day at the Hudson Winery

A day at the Hudson Winery

Friday of last week was a very nice sunny winter morning in the Bay Area, sadly too sunny and too warm for this time of year – it should be cold and raining…

I decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather by going on a day trip. I drove up from San Francisco to the Carneros region of the Napa Valley for a visit with Lee Hudson and his crew at Hudson Ranch.

The property is just four miles north of the San Pablo tidal estuary’s tangle of saltwater sloughs, Hudson Ranch stretches languidly across 2,000 acres of the Carneros region of the Napa Valley. From its aquaphilic southern hem to its northeastern reaches—which stray perilously into the Carneros fault zone—this land defies categorization. Across its expanse, it represents at least ten distinct geological zones; it’s no wonder such a diverse array of flora and fauna call Hudson Ranch home.

The site of their 2000-acre ranch was originally known as Talcoa Vineyards, an Indian name meaning ‘laughing land.’ It was on these lands in the 1880’s that the first successful, American scientific experiments were performed to overcome phylloxera, the pest that devastated the vineyards of Europe. Over time the land became neglected.

Lee stumbled onto this piece property in the early 1980’s. In 1964 an absentee group of investors purchased the property hoping to develop it, but it wasn’t until 1979 when they applied to the city to subdivide the property. This outraged neighbors who objected and so the property went on the market.

“Everything was falling apart,” said Lee. “But I like work.  It keeps me happy, it’s what gives me pleasure.”

And work he did, as Lee planted his first vineyard, built roads and put in all the infrastructures on a property that hadn’t seen anything of significance grown in a long time.  Even the creek barely flowed and the fish had disappeared.

Lee has 200 of the 2000 acres under vine, and told me that he prefers to leave the rest up to the wild.  Aside from 200 acres of wine varietals, Lee and his crew have a variety of fruit and vegetables they grow too – table grapes, asparagus, tomatoes, olives (for their amazing olive oil), artichokes, pumpkins, etc. They also raise bees in their hives for their honey. In addition to fruit and veggies you’ll encounter a working farm full of chickens, pigs, sheep and lamb.

About 90% of the grapes Lee grows for other wineries such as Kongsgaard, Kistler, Aubert, Arietta, etc.  

I got to tour a large part of the estate and was overwhelmed by its beauty and expansive nature.  

After the “road trip” of the estate, we settled into one of the tasting suites and tasted the 2019 and 2020 Estate Chardonnay, 2019 Little Bet Chardonnay, 2018 Phoenix Red Blend and 2016 Old Master – All five were winners.

The 2020 Chardonnay will not be released for a while and the 2019 is showing amazingly well (I still have some inventory). The 2018 Phoenix was off the chart good!  Clayton Kirchoff, his winemaker, shared some great info as well, which I will share with you once the 2020 vintage is released.

This was a Friday I will not forget soon.

Thank you Lee, Peter and Elisabeth for your gracious hospitality


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As always, don’t hesitate to call us at 415-337-4083 or email frank@goldengatewinecellars.com for selection advice or assistance!