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Mac McDonald is a wine country original, a man whose wines are inspiring and whose story is compelling. Son of a Texas Moonshine maker, Mac grew up around distilled spirits and fruit wines, but it was the taste of Burgundy wines offered by his Dad’s friends that made an impression. Later, Mac followed his passion for Pinot Noir, which he ultimately put into winemaking practice in the 1990’s. Today his awesome Pinots and other wines are offered in some of the finest establishments in the California wine country and around the USA, and deserve your attention!
In Texas, Mac’s basketball coach encouraged him to follow his dream, knowing that for wine, California was the place to be. Mac moved here, and while working in the utility industry for 32 years, pursued his wine passion in his spare time. He got to know legendary Italian winemakers in the wine country north of San Francisco Bay, who inspired and encouraged him. Before long, he started producing small lots of wine in his garage.
His wines were popular with his friends, and eventually Mac realized his ultimate dream, starting Vision Cellars with his wife Lil. Investing just $82,000 in savings, they released their first vintage in 1997. It is one thing for the wine industry to say that it wants to appeal to new markets, but it is most satisfying to hear that Mac, an African-American, credits a variety of well-known wine country names, such as Ash, Parducci, Caymus and Mazocco as having nurtured the career of this inimitable wine artisan in significant ways. Mac has repaid the industry many times over, traveling around the country frequently and taking his message of wine and enjoyment to unique places, for instance his now legendary annual pourings in Harlem.
Mac and Lil make their home in suburban Windsor, where they have what must be the largest lot in the subdivision. Rows of grapevines complement gorgeous gardens and decks to complete their backyard mini-estate. Here legendary barbeque events fill with movers and shakers from all walks of life, not just wine and food. Mac’s fans jockey for invitations and travel across the country to experience his passion. As always wine flows along with Mac’s engaging stories, with new ones in the making.
“It’s about sharing,” Mac says about his wines, and he excels at it! Mac started making a sweet Riesling to make his mother Elbessie happy, when he discovered that she was adding sugar to his elegant Pinot Noir! She now drinks Pinot too — perhaps the most personalized lesson in developing a new market that I’ve heard.
While Mac’s personality attracts new aficionados, anyone who loves wine and Pinot Noir in particular owes it to their self to explore his unique wines. Currently producing over 2000 cases of wine per year, Vision Cellars excels with these handmade, artisan wines.
The 2000 Pinot Noir ($35) uses fruit from Northern Petaluma, and recently received 90 points from the Wine Enthusiast. It has a lovely nose and wonderful fruit, which suggests much more Russian River character than Carneros. The soon to be released 2002 ($35) was richer and lingers mellifluously, and deservedly took a Gold Medal at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Mac also continues to produce a white wine each year, changing the blending as he explores the potential of different fruit sources—his 2003 wine is comprised of 65% St. Helena Sauvignon Blanc and 35% St. Lucia Pinot Gris. Mac’s wines consistently score highly in competition and reviews.
Vision Cellars wines are thinly distributed, but can be ordered direct from Mac and Lil. Visit the Vision Cellars web site at www.visioncellars.com.Mac is happy to make it and celebrates sharing it. You’ll want to take this jubilant man’s vision to heart as you enjoy his marvelous wines!
Article submitted by Taylor Poff
Family Friendly Fun in the Wine Country
Kid Tested Activities for Family Enjoyment – Part I
Looking to entertain the younger set when you visit Northern California wine country? Most of us know from experience that wine tasting just isn’t the right ticket to occupy the kids. Here is a series of kid-tested activities for family enjoyment:
A special favorite of the younger set, Sonoma Traintown is “the most well developed scale railroad in the Americas”. Set on ten acres, over a mile of tracks pass picturesque scale bridges, tunnels, and waterfalls. The petting zoo is also popular with the youngsters, and vintage amusement rides complete the package, with a carousel, restored Ferris wheel and airplane ride. Traintown is open 10-5 daily June 1 through Labor Day, Fri-Sun and most major holidays at 20264 Broadway - Highway 12, Sonoma, CA 95476, (707) 938-3912. The website is descriptive and offers a map and directions. www.sonomatraintown.com.
For those who like science and fossils, wine country abounds with flora, fauna and natural wonders. One of the remnants of the dramatic volcanic activity that occurred in the area over 3 million years ago is the Calistoga Geyser. This geyser is named "Old Faithful" because it steams exactly every 40 minutes. It is the most precise geyser in the world. (707) 942-6463 for more information. www.oldfaithfulgeyser.com.
Not far from the Calistoga Geyser, The Petrified Forest is also worth a visit. Millions of years ago, a forest of giant redwood trees became fixed in stone…the forest was literally blown down by a volcanic explosion. This touristic landmark was discovered in 1870, with a private park established in 1910, and is a registered California Historical Landmark. This legendary activity is remembered by one Winecountry.com staffer both in her youth, and taking her son years later as a mom.
The preserved trees visible are as long as 105 feet and 8 feet in diameter. A short hike will allow you to see all the major tree exposures in the park. A one-hour meadow hike, done most Sundays at 2 pm, leads to views of Mt St Helena and a white slope called the Ash Fall. Eight major and four minor displays are available on the main walk. An excellent walking tour of the forest is here: www.sonoma.edu/geology/wright/PFguide.html The Petrified Forest is located just 8 miles from the town of Santa Rosa, just outside the town of Calistoga, at 4100 Petrified Forest Road. Open daily 9 to 6, winter hours 9 to 5. (707) 942-6667.
In Napa, take a look at Napa River Adventures. Regularly scheduled two-hour cruises for present sweeping vistas of the mountains and vineyards of the Napa Valley, along with a brief narrative on various wildlife and local history. You can bring along a bottle of wine, and enjoy exploring nature in comfort. Along the river one can observe various forms of flora and fauna such as Great Blue Herons, Osprey, Egrets, Kingfishers, River Otters, Turtles and more. Enjoy a constantly changing and evolving scene as you travel through the vineyards in the valley or down to the saltwater marshes bird preserve.Canoe and kayak rentals are also available here for the older folks. Children must be at least 5 years of age to enjoy the standard cruise. www.napariveradventures.com (707) 224-9080.
If it is living redwood giants that appeal, Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve near Guerneville will please and overwhelm. The stand here is as magnificent as the better known (and more crowded) Muir Woods in Marin County.The majestic beauty of this Grove is a living reminder of the magnificent, primeval redwood forest that covered much of the area before logging operations began during the 19th century. Some of these trees have survived for over 2000 years and tower above 350 feet.
The reserve includes a visitor center, large outdoor amphitheater, self-guided nature trails, and a variety of picnic facilities. While you can drive into the park, the best way to experience the dramatic effect of the towering redwoods is to park in the lot at the entrance and walk in for free.
There is also a campground at Austin Creek State Recreation Area, adjacent to the park. The entrance is located at 17020 Armstrong Woods Road, just a few miles north from Guerneville, (707) 869-2015. Finally, Sonoma County has a rich and diverse offering of Sonoma County Parks and Recreation sites. An excellent listing is offered here: www.parks.sonoma.net/index.htm
There is certainly a lot to keep youngsters of all ages busy in wine country. Whatever you decide to do, enjoy!Stay tuned for Part Two of Family Friendly Fun in Wine Country!
Article submitted by Taylor PoffFeatured Sponsor
Wine Country Featured Destination
EOS Estate Winery in the premier winegrowing region of Paso Robles
In Greek mythology, “EOS” was the name given to the “Goddess of the dawn” and legend has it that every morning she lifted the sun over the horizon to begin a new day. EOS also serves as the inspiration for the winemaking philosophy of EOS Estate Winery.
Located in the premier winegrowing region of Paso Robles, the EOS Estate Winery has become a leading producer of award-winning varietal wines and a premier destination spot for travelers. The spectacular 104,000 square foot Romanesque facility was modeled after Montecassino, an Italian monastery, and is surrounded by 700 acres of beautiful estate vineyards.
All EOS Estate wines are handcrafted by Senior Winemaker Leslie Melendez. Leslie’s focus is on producing food-friendly wines that emphasize balance, elegance, and pure fruit flavor. These ideals guide every aspect of the wine’s production, from the planting and development of the vines, to the utilization of the most advanced winemaking equipment and techniques available, to the selection and use of the world’s finest French and American oak barrels for fermentation. The result has been that EOS has become one of California’s fastest growing wine brands. The Estate Bottled EOS portfolio includes Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Merlot, and two stunning dessert wines; a Late Harvest Moscato called “Tears of Dew”, and a vintage dated Estate Zinfandel Port, both with award-winning packaging.
Available since 1997, EOS wines have already garnered many significant awards. The 1997 EOS Paso Robles Zinfandel was named “Best Zinfandel of California,” earning 94 points and a Gold Medal at the1999 California State Fair. At the 2001 New World International Wine Competition, the 1998 EOS Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon received “Best of Class” and a Gold Medal. The 1997 Petite Sirah, 1997 Sauvignon Blanc, and 1999 “Tears of Dew” Moscato all took home Best of Region awards from the California State Fair. The 1999 EOS Reserve Petite Sirah won seven gold medals from prestigious competitions worldwide, and respected American wine critic Dan Berger has called the 2000 EOS Reserve Petite Sirah “Exceptional.”
Recently, the EOS line has expanded with the introduction of the EOS “Cupa Grandis” Grand Barrel Reserve program. Featuring grapes sourced from the top EOS Estate Chardonnay and Petite Sirah vineyard blocks, the wines are handcrafted using the world’s finest cooperage. The Cupa Grandis Chardonnay is fermented and aged in 100% new Louis-Latour French oak, considered the finest in the world, and the Petite Sirah uses a selection of barrels from specific forests in France. In addition to a bevy of 90 plus scores and accolades, the 2001 Cupa Grandis Petite Sirah was recently given a 92 point score in Wine Enthusiast magazine.All of these world-class wines can be tasted in the expansive EOS tasting room known as the “Mediterranean Marketplace.” Visitors can enjoy old world ambiance while surveying the unique, carefully selected collection of gourmet foods, fine gifts and a surprising racing car exhibit. Beyond the tasting room there are lovely rose gardens, stately Italian architecture, and lush picnic areas to explore, as well as fascinating, self-guided tours of the wine production facility.
Website: eosvintage.comFeatured Sponsor
Wine Country Recipe
Nocino – Italian Walnut Liqueur
31 green or immature walnuts, cut into quarters
1 liter 76 percent to 95 percent grain alcohol
600 to 800 grams of sugar, dissolved in 1/4 liter of
boiling water and cooled
Note: To clean a new oak barrel, fill with water and sodium percarbonate, available at wine or beer making supply stores. Repeat a couple of times, then rinse thoroughly.
Wine Country Featured Events
June 5 & 6 and June 12 & 13 -- Santa
Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Vintners'
Festival 2004 – A Taste of the Mountains
Fee: $20 in advance, $25 at the door Time: Saturday and Sunday both weekends Phone Number: For reservations or more information, contact the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association at (831) 479-WINE (9463) www.scmwa.com/VintnersFestival.htm
Enter to win, and see for yourself all Calistoga has to offer.
Enjoy a one-night's stay at Carlin Country Cottages. This Irish Inn will accommodate your individual needs from bungalows with private mineral spas for two to a one-bedroom suite just fitting for a family of four, all within walking distance of Calistoga’s many fine restaurants and world famous spas. www.carlincottages.com
Golden Haven Hot Springs Resort "Come and experience the magic of the healing mineral waters and rejuvenating spa treatments!" Enjoy either a Mud Bath for two persons at Golden Haven Spa or a Body Mud Treatment for two persons at Lincoln Avenue Spa, "where pampering is a way of life."(*some restrictions apply)
***No purchase necessary. Must be at least 21 years old to enter. Carlin Country Cottages gift certificates must be used Sunday through Thursday. Golden Haven Spa/Linconln Avenue Spa certificates valid everyday except Saturdays & Holiday periods. Expires 10/1/04. Only one entry per person permitted. Winner will be selected May 17, 2004 by random drawing. Winner will be notified by email. Employees of Freerun Technologies are ineligible. Void where prohibited by law.
Click here to enter this drawing! (Please note: If you are already subscribed to the newsletter, you are automatically entered in this drawing.)
The Winner of this Drawing will be announced on The Winner's Page after May 17.
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