Ukulele-Strumming Winemakers Descend On Oahu

Why Judd's Hill Winery May Be The Most Eclectic And "Hawaiian" Vintner

Ukulele-Strumming Winemakers Descend On Oahu

This story has so much cross-over with what I consider to be the key themes of B on Hawaii that it's hard to determine where to begin. Fine wine, Hawaiian music, Napa, tasting and dining events on Oahu...it's all in here. Read on and see what I mean.

Most likely because of the unique nature of B on Hawaii, a member of the Judd's Hill wine family from Napa contacted us regarding an upcoming tasting they have here in Honolulu. This Tuesday, April 24, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at HASR Wine Company on N. Pauahi Street in Chinatown, you can meet and chat with the maker's of Judd's Hill. Fresh, bottled grape in town, the vintners will also host a southern style BBQ paired with their wines at HASR, this event taking place on Saturday, April 28, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tickets are $75; go to www.hasr.com for more information.

In short, Judd's Hill Winery is owned and operated by two generations of the Finkelstein family: Art and Bunnie ("pop" and "mom", respectively) and Judd and Holly (winery namesake "son" and daughter-in-law). Their annual production of less than 3,000 cases of handcrafted wine dates back to the 1970s. The wines are very fruit-driven, which as we all know, tends to work very well with the culinary notes here in Hawaii.

What makes the Finkelstein's story so unique is their rather off-beat ties to Hawaii. After graduating from one the nation's top journalism schools with a degree in TV production, what else could Judd do for a living but head home to Napa and make wine with his parents? He could start a band. And that he did.

Judd Finkelstein had been noodling around with a ukulele for decades before entertaining the idea of making good use of his musical distractions. Upon returning to Napa, (and settling in to a winemaker's lifestyle), he formed the band "The Maikai Gents Featuring The Mysterious Miss Mauna Loa" (I wouldn't want to be their agent). What began as a fun project to play at a birthday luau, turned in to regular gigs, and finally a CD (2006's "The Wiki Wiki Grog Shop", find it at www.mkgents.com). The band and their permanent hula dancer (Judd's wife...so much for the "mystery") travels to gigs all over northern California (except during crush, of course), and have even made it out of state on occasion.

The response was so overwhelmingly fantastic throughout Napa with Hawaiian music, that Finkelstein formed a ukulele club, called "The Wine Country Flea Jumpers", whose members include local chefs, winemakers, designers and so forth.

Last fall, the KoAloha Ukulele Company in Hawaii presented Finkelstein with a limited edition, hand-made ukulele, called Pineapple Sunday, for his work as a promoter of Hawaiian music outside of Hawaii.

If you care to hear more tales of wine, women and song, head down to HASR Tuesday or Saturday this week, and meet the Finkelstein's and their wily band of winemakers.

www.juddshill.com

"Upon returning to Napa, Judd Finkelstein formed the band "The Maikai Gents Featuring The Mysterious Miss Mauna Loa"