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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 $38.00
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 with a cart subtotal of $325+

Gold 90 points 

sale price $42.00
Crafted from up to 40 individual small lots, our Russian River Valley Pinot Noir offers a classic example of this renowned region. Opening with rich, flavorful notes of dark cherry, plum and ripe raspberry, while hints of earth, cocoa and clove add depth and nuance to the smooth, layered palate. Elegant and balanced, soft tannins and lightly toasted oak give nice weight and structure to the wine. Pair this food -friendly wine alongside pork tenderloin stuffed with rosemary and spiced apple, topped with a plum reduction sauce. For a cheese pairing, try goat cheese with spiced cherry compote.
Ground shipping included on orders with a cart subtotal of $325+