Twenty-three years ago, Jason Woodbridge arrived in Napa. He had no winemaking education or experience, yet set out on a mission to make exceptional Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. He’s since built Hundred Acre Wines into a Cult Wine brand. Each bottle boasts a 4-digit price tag and 5-year waiting list. To date, Hundred Acre stands as one of the most gossip-ripe brands in the Valley. Jayson’s reputation pegs him as outspoken, contrarian, and driven. His wines garner acclaim for their opulence, grandeur, and seductiveness. Both are wildly successful.
Unveiling the Passion
Woodbridge’s path to winemaker vanguard started in Canada, where he was born in 1963. His family vacationed along the Niagara peninsula. Here, fond memories of his grandmother’s baking and philosophical reveries with his grandfather would carry through to his wines and labels. The dark horse’s young adulthood meandered from the Canadian Army, to waiting tables, and into a successful career in investment banking.
In banking, Woodbridge fostered a love for wine during his travels across Europe. He encountered the rich cultural tapestry woven by vineyards and winemakers. With his intrigue sparked, Woodbridge put aside a nest egg and set his sights on vineyard vistas of his own, leading him to Napa Valley.
A Commitment to Excellence
In 1999 Woodbridge moved to Napa and began Hundred Acre with a select group of investors. Armed with a prime vineyard site, the self-assigned mission to craft wines that “stands amongst the best or not at all” began in earnest. Woodbridge approached winemaking with meticulous attention to detail and an unrelenting pursuit of perfection.
The vines were pruned to 1 cluster per shoot. Harvest involved 5 separate passes through the vineyard. Individual berry sorting sent grapes to crush that more resembles caviar than grape must. The age and forestry of each barrel selected for its unique impact on Cabernet Sauvignon. Blending lots resembled a philosophical reverie. Each step of the winemaking process was executed with precision, resulting in wines that are consistently exceptional and reflect the unique terroir of Napa Valley.
The Art of Craftsmanship
Hundred Acre’s wild success as Napa’s pre-eminent cult wine represents the tip of the enological iceberg. Woodbridge’s success spans several labels. Cherry Pie and sister Cherry Tart named for grandmother’s delectable pies offered Pinot Noir and Chardonnay sourced across Napa and Sonoma. Layer Cake’s availability belies its complexity and international appeal. If You See Kay’s cheeky defiance of Napa’s stuffy pretense sated the glib side of wine. Fortunate Son brings us back to Napa’s grandeur with The Dreamer, The Diplomat, and The Warrior bottlings. And the recently released Summer Dreams frames Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from micro vineyard sites of Goldridge soils along the Western Sonoma Coast.
Woodbridge believes that winemaking is a true art form. His approach to crafting wines is akin to that of a master painter, carefully selecting the right colors (grape varieties), blending them harmoniously, and allowing each brushstroke (winemaking technique) to contribute to the final masterpiece. Regardless of the price, each bottle offers its genius vantage point by the glass.
A Portfolio of Perfection
The portfolio of Hundred Acre Wines showcases the personality of each vineyard. The Ark Vineyard shows off opulence. Few and Far Between offers the elegance of Cabernet Franc. Woodbridge works to deliver the best of Napa Valley.
Hundred Acre’s inaugural effort hails from the Kayli Morgan Vineyard. Kayli Morgan, now Morgan’s Way spans 9 acres along the base of Howell Mountain at the Silverado Trail. The flat site and pebbly clay soils are planted to 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.
Few & Far Between rubs shoulders with Araujo and Eisele vineyards. The rocky alluvial soils anchor 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc. The combined glamor makes for a delectable and otherworldly wine.
The Ark Vineyard is designed by Woodbridge himself. The 45 acres unfurl their vines along the red soils of Glass Mountain near St Helena. The rust red soils are dotted by volcanic glass and bear the full mark of its maker’s exacting standards.
Behind the Label
Known for its opulent, creamy texture and sweet noble tannins, Hundred Acre’s label features some literary clues to Woodbridge’s inner workings. The now iconic label features the first paragraph of Homer’s Odyssey beneath a reference to a woodland enclave of childhood comfort. Wholesomely, upon first visiting the Kayli Morgan vineyard, he finds the property reminiscent of The Hundred Acre Wood, the fictional forest from A.A. Milne’s “Winnie-the-Pooh” and so named it to evoke carefree whimsey. More seriously, is the opening paragraph of Homer’s Odyssey. It’s the story of a man’s “singular quest”, to which Woodbridge can certainly relate.
A Legacy of Recognition
Woodbridge’s dedication to producing exceptional wines has not gone unnoticed. Hundred Acre wines have received more than forty 100-point scores for Hundred Acre since its debut (more than any winery in history). From Wine Spectator to Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate, the wines of Hundred Acre have garnered praise for their complexity, depth, and age-worthiness, firmly establishing Woodbridge’s legacy.
Robert Parker proclaimed Hundred Acre “a terrific example of great Napa Cabernet Sauvignon” and its maker “the Howard Hughes of wine.” Lisa Perrotti-Brown, MW, further noted that Woodbridge, “thinks on another plane of existence,” elaborating that his unconventional ideas and ways of doing things clearly get the results only compounds the prevailing notions of a kind of mysterious, unseen, dark matter element that accounts for his success.
Beyond the Bottle
While Hundred Acre Wines are undoubtedly the centerpiece of Jayson Woodbridge’s winemaking career, his presence in Napa is felt well beyond the bottle. Woodbridge’s famed status as Napa’s contrarian stems from some well-known conflicts with Napa’s government. In 2005 it was cellar construction (which saw him vindicated). Insurance issues came to light in 2006. And the early 2020’s seems littered with replanting (or was it?) and post-2017 wildfires reconstruction. This seemingly contentious relationship stands balanced by Woodbridge’s support of local non-profits and zeal for the land.
“Describing Jayson Woodbridge requires a thesaurus. Passionate is a good word, along with driven, charismatic and hedonistic.
You could add exacting, arrogant and volatile.” – Tim Fish, Wine Spectator
Jayson Woodbridge stepped into Napa’s illustrious winemaking culture with a singular aim: to make the best possible expression of Cabernet Sauvignon. His odyssey carried him across continents and vineyards to the highly coveted Napa Cult Wine status and will surely see him as a noted and notorious figure in Napa Valley’s history and future.