Jayson Woodbridge was born in Toronto to a “very middle class” family, his father a radio broadcaster, his mother a nurse. He was a jock, “playing every sport I could, feeling like Superman.” Later, after he’d made his money as an investment banker, he moved to Napa Valley and started Hundred Acre, the superluxury Cabernet Sauvignon ($300 a bottle) that made him famous. He also owns Cherry Pie (Carneros Pinot Noir) and Layer Cake, a midpriced range of varietal wines. Wine Enthusiast chatted with the complex, driven winemaker, who, despite revelling in his bad-boy image, has been known to turn out a mean Thai curry.
WINE ENTHUSIAST: You’ve had a pretty colorful past. How did you get where you are?
JAYSON WOODBRIDGE: I wouldn’t be where I am today if not for the Canadian infantry, parachute regiment. I was wild before that, undisciplined. I had tons of energy, but I didn’t have the organization in my mind to focus it. I’d probably be in jail, or a biker gang.
W.E.: You came face-to-face with death several times.
JW: When I was 18, I was diagnosed with cancer. It was a superrare, superlethal kind. I was loving life, and all of a sudden, you’re in the hospital, they’re telling you there’s a big problem here, you could die. It kind of connects you with yourself, and to God. I’m not an overly religious guy, but you realize, “Hey, there’s gonna come a time when it’s all over.”
W.E.: You were an investment banker in Vancouver before starting Hundred Acre. How did that happen?
JW: Back in 1990, I’d walked into a vineyard, in the Okanagan, and thought, “I’ve gotta be here.” It was like being in church. I don’t like churches, but if you can imagine [this from] a guy who’s not religious, it was an epiphany. I just needed to save some money. So by 1998, at 36, I decided to get out [of finance]. A friend said I had to go down [to Napa] and look at property.
W.E.: Why Napa Valley?
JW: If you want to discover oil, drill in an oil field! My partner and I bought [what is now] the Kayli Morgan Vineyard, at the base of Howell Mountain, in 2000. The vineyard property reminded me of The Hundred Acre Wood, from Winnie-the-Pooh.
W.E.: Tell me about your YouTube videos, especially the cooking ones. They’re very professionally done.
JW: I just want people to understand what it is I like to do: cooking, making things from scratch. It’s about old-fashioned ways of cooking, where you don’t buy the Thai green curry, you make it from the beginning. It’s more an ideology than anything else.
W.E.: How do you decide which foods to feature in the videos?
JW: If I happen to be drinking enough, and I have the right, fresh ingredients, that’s what I cook! It’s the stuff I like having fun with. Like Thai green curry—it’s one of the most amazing foods in the world. Most people buy it as canned crap, but when you have it fresh, it’s fabulous. True, the ingredients can be hard to find. But if a person can’t find galangal, they’re not motivated enough to make Thai green curry, and should stick to Chef Boyardee.
W.E.: Finally, what’s your advice to a winemaker just starting out?
JW: Start drinking wine! Go out to the wineries of the world and drink every wine you can lay your hands on. I’ll go to Austria and taste 100 Grüners, or to a restaurant and order every single bottle on the list. They’re like, “What’s going on here?” and I’m like, “I just want to taste everything!”