Innovators | January 2012


A Cellar Full of Noise

Company Profile

Business: A Cellar Full of Noise
Industry: Wine
Founded: 2002
Region: Northern California
Company Size: 2 employees
Owners: James B. Judd and Eric R. Álvarez

Points of Interest:

  • Business ExtrAA® Customer
  • AAdvantage Members
  • Top 50 Finalist in American's 2011 "Flights. Camera. Action." contest
  • James and Eric are actively involved in the small business community

Why travel is important to the business:
"You can't taste wine on the Internet." – Eric
"Wine is truly a global product." – James

"Wine has been positioned as a luxury item requiring expert knowledge and a fat wallet," says James Judd, co-founder of A Cellar Full of Noise, a family-owned winery nestled in the Paso Robles appellation of central California. "For winemakers, undoing that culture of fear is a daunting challenge. The fear of looking foolish while ordering or buying wine is pervasive. People are afraid to put down a glass of wine they aren't enjoying because it'll make them look unsophisticated, like they don't get it."

Adds Judd's partner, Eric Álvarez: "When I tell people I'm in the wine business, they almost invariably say, 'I don't know anything about wine.' I always say to those people, 'You already know everything you'll ever need to know about wine. If you like it, it's good. If you don't like it, it's not good. Your opinion is the only opinion that matters.'"

Taking the stuffiness and intimidation factor out of wine is a major part of the pair's mission at A Cellar Full of Noise. "Wine should be a fun experience," insists Álvarez. "There is no right or wrong. Just keep tasting until you find what you like."

It was Álvarez and Judd's passion for spreading the word about wine that brought A Cellar Full of Noise to our attention this summer when they entered our "Flights.Camera.Action." video contest for small-business owners. "When the recession hit, our booming wine business came to a screeching halt," says Judd. "U.S. buyers simply stopped buying wine, and some of our distribution companies fell apart. We realized we had to get off the farm and find new markets or we weren't going to survive, so we threw ourselves into learning everything about exporting that we could. Our first trip abroad was to a Hong Kong wine show. It was a fantastic, game-changing experience, but we were also the only winery representing

Co-founders James Judd and Eric Álvarez at San Francisco's Saison restaurant.

the Paso Robles appellation. We've always maintained that what is good for our neighbors is good for us, so we started filming ourselves and our customers at foreign trade shows in the hope that we could convince others to do the same." The duo's efforts earned them a spot as a "Flights.Camera.Action." top-50 finalist out of the literally hundreds of video entries.

A Cellar Full of Noise produces seven wines - all reds - from six varieties of grapes grown on two 40-acre plots. Judd and his father planted their first vineyard in 1995, forming James Judd & Son Vineyards.

Eight years later they released a black currant- and olive-laced Cabernet Sauvignon. A Cellar Full of Noise has since acquired this initial venture and added another Cabernet Sauvignon, two Barberas, one Tempranillo, a Verdot Malbec and a Malbec Verdot to the lineup.

Customers can sample their award-winning vintages in the on-site tasting room and at various wine-club parties, food pairings, grape stomps, tours and other events held throughout the year at A Cellar Full of Noise.

"Taking people into the barrel room or leading them around the vineyards on golf carts or bicycles to give them an insight into a working vineyard is the best part of our jobs," says Judd, who, along with Álvarez, sees himself as a sort of ambassador of wine. The pair often travels to seminars and trade shows across the globe to share insights with fellow winemakers and to also act as advocates for the American wine industry.

"People debate U.S. wine regions the way they debate football teams,"says Judd. "But within the wine industry, it's unproductive. Paso Robles isn't in competition with Napa or Sonoma, Washington State or the Finger Lakes. We're in competition with France and Argentina and Australia. There's room at the table for every U.S. wine in the global market."

"Wine is a truly global product," says Judd. "A person in China or Quebec or Washington, D.C. may not have a chance to come to San Miguel, Calif., but a bottle of wine can bring a living part of the land to their table. The flavor of the wine is a connection to the country, the culture and the person who made it. Very few things in the world can do that."

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