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Napa wineries add some hip to their sip

  • In this photo taken Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012, people taste wine in the Red Room at Raymond Vineyards in St. Helena, Calif. Under the guidance of Jean-Charles Boisset, scion of a French winemaking family who is married to Gina Gallo of the American Gallo wine dynasty, this winery has undergone a major change in recent years. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

NAPA — The tiki tasting hut in the barrel room of the Judd's Hill winery is a tipoff: This isn't your old-school faux chateau.

Which is just the way Napa Valley winemaker Judd Finkelstein and his family want things.

"Much to my delight, one of the most common compliments is, 'This has been a lot of fun. We really like coming here; it's not stuffy,'" says Finkelstein. "That's music to my ears."

A few miles north, at Raymond Vineyards in St. Helena, owner Jean-Charles Boisset has been shaking up old winery paradigms. Visitors who sign up for the winemaker-for-a-day program don silver and red lab coats, with matching hats, naturally, and mix their own wine blends in a room decorated with a disco ball and black light.

The new approaches are quite a contrast to the traditional nature of wine country, points out Joe Roberts, founder of the popular website 1WineDude.com and wine columnist for Playboy.com. "The wine world's about eight years behind everything with the exception of bottling lines and production techniques," he says with a laugh.


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