The Clever Root

Spring 2018

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5 8 | t h e c l e v e r r o o t He's lived life on his terms, to the fullest, ever since. After serving as a commissioned infantry officer of Queen Elizabeth II, Wood- bridge embarked on a career as an investment banker and has developed a passion for, well, almost everything. "I'm interested in history. I'm interested in genealogy. I'm interested in fast cars and planes and submarines. I'm interested in the fabric of blue jeans and tapes- tries," Woodbridge says. "I'm interested in how a sewing machine works and how a satellite works. Dark matter. Gravitational ripples. You name it, I'm interested in it." But due to his upbringing around good cooks (his grandfather owned a pizza parlor), food and wine always held special fascination. Woodbridge says he can trace the origins of Hundred Acre to a fateful moment in 1990: "I walked into a vineyard—I don't recall where, but it was not in France, I can tell you that—and I looked around and went, 'OK,'" he explains. "It was an epiphany—I just knew." Woodbridge im- mediately began saving so he could put "every single cent" aside for his own winery. Risks notwithstanding, he swears that he "wasn't at all nervous." "I felt that I was preordained," Wood- bridge adds. "I wanted to stand among the very best in the world, that's all." Hundred Acre Past and Present True to form, Woodbridge has taken no prison- ers en route to professional glory. His vineyard investments are the stuff of industry legend, from the purchase of Kayli Morgan at 70 per- cent over the market value in 2000 ("People said I was crazy," he quips) to the acquisition of Few and Far Between for $1.2 million per acre. He says the latter acquisition was then "the highest price ever [paid] in the Western Hemisphere, but [he] had to have it." Woodbridge has an explanation for what Hundred Acre Wine Group CEO John Hardesty calls his "sixth sense for ground": "First of all, I get a feeling that I can't really describe. It's a sense of rightness that comes over me. And second, it's essential that the place is beautiful. The way the hills are. The way the trees are. The way the light is. The way the soil smells. I look at the clusters, I taste the fruit, and the vines give me a feeling. They're like young chil- dren—they can't speak, but they're trying to tell you something. You've got to be open to it." Then there's the St. Helena winery: While it was built in the mid-2000s, Woodbridge describes the extensive construction process in a manner that still seems awestruck. "It's like a fortress. It's a giant ring underground—385 feet of solid rock," he says. "Caves are inherently stable, but they're particularly solid when they have an enormous amount of curved steel I-beams bolted into concrete into rock 30 feet deep. The winery's designed to take a magnitude 10 [earthquake]. I build things to withstand time." Because Woodbridge's approach to his craft is as uncompromising as it is toward everything else, this statement applies not only to his winemaking facilities, but the wines them- selves. Since he lacked formal training when he launched Hundred Acre, Woodbridge hired renowned consultant Philippe Melka to assist with the first few releases. "I needed a starting point, and Philippe was very easy to work with," CREDIT: PHOTO: MONA SHIELD PAYNE Woodbridge is already working on his next brand, which he says will consist of two wines that aim to "push the style envelope further. If Hundred Acre is like being in a Rolls Royce, this is going to be like being in a Formula One car."

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