With more than 30 years of winemaking experience, here were Art Finkelstein’s thoughts on his profession, “Creating music from an instrument, ceramics from a lump of clay, or a great meal from fresh foods all represent forms of art to me. But to take grape vines, farm them to produce the highest quality fruit and then turn them into wine . . . well, this process gets me closer to and more appreciative of whatever higher power there may be out there than anything else. It has to be the most complete and challenging of all art forms. I continue to be amazed by it.”
Art pursued a creative path all of his life, excelling in music, ceramics, cooking and architecture before discovering his true love of winemaking.
After a successful career as an architect in Los Angeles, Art began making wine at home in the early 1970s, and received top honors from every wine competition he entered including the LA and Orange County Fairs. His wines were getting better with each successive vintage and a trip to Napa Valley in 1971 marked the beginning of his pursuit of winemaking as a profession. In 1979, he purchased a vineyard south of St. Helena, where he designed and built Whitehall Lane Winery.
At Whitehall Lane, he continued as a commercial winemaker, releasing his first wine in 1980. Whitehall Lane became quite a success and as demand grew and production increased, Art found himself spending more time managing and less time making wine, which was not what he had set out to do. With the winery growing to well over 30,000 cases a year, he and his partner/brother, Alan Steen, decided to sell Whitehall Lane in 1988.
Believing that smaller is better, Art and his wife, Bunnie purchased a 14-acre hillside vineyard in the eastern hills of Napa Valley. Here he designed and built his second winery, Judd’s Hill. The idea was to produce no more than 3,000 cases of wine annually, an amount that would allow him to enjoy a hands-on approach to every aspect of wine production. His first release of Judd’s Hill wine was 1989 Cabernet Sauvignon.
Because of Art’s reputation as a fine winemaker, many grape growers began approaching Art to make small quantities of wine in order to showcase their fruit quality to prospective grape buyers. Soon enthusiasts from everywhere were retaining his services to produce small lots of ultra-premium wines. And so Custom MicroCrush was created and continues to thrive today under the stewardship of the Finkelstein family.
Art was an accomplished ceramicist and was also known for his culinary talents, having been featured in the San Francisco Chronicle as a master winemaker and chef. Art never boasted about his accomplishments. He was a humble and considerate person, and always listed kindness as being the most important human quality. He loved nothing more than celebrating life with friends and family.