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For the first time in its 14-year history, Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition has selected a Winemaker of the Year—and our very own Nicole Hitchcock has taken the top prize. The Winemaker Challenge is one of the only competitions that’s 100% judged by winemakers, with the top “slugging percentage” decided in a blind tasting—making this a truly distinct honor.


“There aren’t many winemakers that are able to successfully run the gamut from small production, vineyard-designated offerings to national market wines that deliver both quality and value.”

– Rich Cook, Competition Director

Winemaker Challenge

Nicole’s passion for wine was ignited while working alongside well-respected restaurant sommeliers. She earned a degree in Viticulture and Enology and a minor in Italian language, which took her around the world to an agriturismo in Todi, Umbria. She has since honed her craft in Northern California and has been J’s Winemaker for many years—overseeing all aspects of winemaking for our award-winning sparkling and varietal wines.  

Congratulations, Nicole! 

J Winemaker
J Winemakers


J Winery

Nicole isn’t the only member of the J family who came away with an award this year. Nicole’s winemaking peers awarded J Winery of the Year in addition to several gold medals. Enjoy a bottle of these award-winning wines for a taste of excellence. 

Gold 92 points,

Best Non-Vintage Brut 

sale price $40.00
Our J Cuvée 20 Brut opens with nuanced aromas of toasted almond, followed by notes of Braeburn apple, dried cranberry and ginger snap. A delicate dance of bubbles leads to a soft palate with flavors of lemon meringue pie, as the wine’s creaminess is whisked away by a lively finish.
Ground shipping included on orders of $325+

Gold 90 points 

2020 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

sale price $47.00
Thoughtfully crafted from up to 100 individual small lots, our 2020 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is a tunning vintage that captures the classic characteristics of this renowned region. Floral aromas of rose petal and violet are complemented on the velvet-smooth palate by generous fruit notes of cherry, ripe strawberry and baked plum. Deeper hints of gingerbread, forest floor, soft leather and slate add intriguing complexity to this appealing, beautifully balanced Pinot Noir.
Ground shipping included on orders of $325+