The Clever Root

Spring 2018

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s p r i n g 2 0 1 8 | 5 9 Woodbridge explains. "He provided a lot of guid- ing light in terms of logistics and also offered his perspective on winemaking—which isn't mine. We have totally different styles. But he respects what I do and I respect what he does." Rest assured that respect isn't something Woodbridge grants easily. "I don't really pay attention to what anyone else is doing with wine—I only pay attention what I'm doing," he says. "That doesn't mean I don't encounter other people's wines and go, 'Very well done.' But it's rare. And sometimes I encounter another winemaker's work and go, 'That person should be in prison for life.' I mean it." That said, there's someone else Woodbridge does hold in high regard: famed critic Robert Parker. "His knowledge is vast," Woodbridge says. "It's like having a Library of Congress of wine walking around, which is pretty cool." It certainly doesn't hurt that Parker has given 14 100-point scores—and counting—to Hundred Acre's wines over the years. In one breath, Woodbridge is all too happy to chalk up such kudos to his own winemaking talent. "I have a gift. It's as simple as that," he says. Consider Hardesty's remarks on Woodbridge's approach to blending: "He does it mostly from smell and then just confirms it with tasting. When you see it, you can't quite believe it." But while he's not one to shy away from some playful self-congratulation, Woodbridge is also the first to admit that his genius—to paraphrase Edi- son—is 99 percent blood, sweat, and sheer guts. Take the 2009 Ancient Way Deep Time, which he aged in new French oak for five years: "Nobody in their right mind financially would do such a thing," he concedes gaily. The same could be said of Fortification, Hundred Acre's Port-style wine. Woodbridge produces his own brandy to incorporate into the wine, double-distilling it in alembic pot stills before it ages in Hundred Acre barrels for a minimum of five years—and up to 15— before blending. Doubts also surrounded the launch of his wildly-successful value brands Layer Cake, Cherry Pie, and If You See Kay, which people initially cautioned might tarnish the image of his flagship. But Woodbridge says he was de- termined to prove he could "make a $15 wine taste like $50," giving "everybody the chance they deserve to afford a great bottle of wine." Pushing the "Style Envelope" Layer Cake, Cherry Pie, and If You See Kay were sold in late 2017 ("They were getting to a size that they could be better managed by a larger company," Woodbridge says), but if you think this indicates Woodbridge will start sit- ting back and taking it easy, you haven't been reading very carefully. He's already at work on his next brand, consist- ing of two wines he says will 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," he adds. "Suffice it to say Cabernet will play a big role." Never one to shy away from hyperbole, Woodbridge previewed a separate Pinot Noir project by saying it "will be very, very high-end in a way that's never been done before in the Western Hemisphere." This desire to "push the envelope" extends far beyond the world of wine. For the past decade, Woodbridge has been working on a line of Hundred Acre cigars that will age for three to five years in a separate pressurized section of the cave adjacent to the winery. "Just pic- ture it," he persuades: "It's pouring rain. You're sitting in front of the fire. You can have a cigar, drink some beautiful Fortification, and relax." Preliminary plans are also underway for a range of "wonderful, unique, ultra–high luxury accoutrements—just beautiful handmade ob- jects that I really dig," Woodbridge says. "Over the next five years, you'll see them unfolding." Naturally, Woodbridge is writing a book as well, though details for now are scant. Remem- ber, this is a man who swears that "the only things I'm not interested in are box wines and frozen food." But you could bet that if he were, he'd make the best damn boxed wine and frozen food around. For the past decade, Woodbridge has been working on a line of Hundred Acre cigars, which he'll age for three to five years in their own pressurized section of the cave adjacent to the winery. PHOTO COURTESY OF HUNDRED ACRE PHOTO COURTESY OF HUNDRED ACRE "I look at the clusters, I taste the fruit, and the vines give me a feeling," Hundred Acre Founder Jayson Woodbridge says. "They're like young children—they can't speak, but they're trying to tell you something. You've got to be open to it." ■cr

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