Most people envision a beautiful estate, a castle, or an identifiable landmark when they think of wineries, especially in the Napa Valley.Humanitas had a different vision. Founder and owner Judd Wallenbrock wanted to focus on the wine, not a building. “Winery owners often come from other industries with lots of money and big dreams to erect a beautiful edifice,” says Judd, “which is great. I didn’t. I came from humble beginnings and was a wine guy from day one. I only cared about making wines that honored great vineyards and were so good they could change the world.”
So Judd put his money into the best grapes he could find (not the building) and was able to direct that money from the sales of Humanitas to primary need charities. As a result, he built a shed for $600 in his backyard in the town of Napa – a whopping 120 square feet situated under a grove of redwoods on hard clay soils – ideal for making and barreling fine wines with little temperature changes. He outfitted the shed with 3.5” hard insulation on the walls and ceiling, plugged in a heater for the winter, and a 900 BTU air conditioner for the summer. Viola, the “Shed-Teau” was born. Like the Hewlett-Packard garage, the “Shed-Teau” in Judd’s backyard is symbolic of all that Humanitas stands for: focus on the wines and the cause, not the place. It’s what’s in the bottle and the heart that is most important. And though you no longer have to step over his kid’s skateboards and his wife’s flowers to get to his fine wines, now that Humanitas has joined The Good Life Wine Collective with Jessup Cellars and Handwritten Wines, you can still taste the handcrafted quality and passion in every sip.
In late summer 2002, Humanitas sent out an e-mail offer to roughly 200 people. The title of the e-mail was the “Humanitas IPO — Initial Pinot Offering” (we decided we could afford poking fun at some of the paradigms of ‘normal’ business). The letter asked the question “Wouldn’t it be great if every time you enjoyed a glass of wine you were doing something to better your community?” We told the recipients our story, asked them to buy wine, and encouraged them to forward the message on to others they thought might be interested. Within hours we had orders flooding in from people to whom we didn’t send the e-mail!! People not only embraced our concept, but clearly, a chord was struck and they ‘paid it forward’ by sharing the offer with others. Then the re-orders came and we knew poeple liked the wine!
Fast forward to 2014 and Humanitas has become part of the Good Life Wine Collective with sister wineries Jessup Cellars and Humanitas Wines, of which, Wallenbrock is President & CEO. Humanitas Wines has begun a renaissance with its new family and winemaker Rob Lloyd.