|take our survey • site index • event calendar • do business with us|
Wine Country Personality — Kate MacMurray
Brand New Branding As Two Classics Morph Together
It is often said that there must be a great story behind every great wine. To visit with Kate MacMurray, spokesperson for the emerging brand of MacMurray Ranch Wines, is to be enchanted by a great story and storyteller. As a partnership between new generations of two legendary names—one from Hollywood and one from Wine Country—unfolds, all eyes, ears and palates are focused on this beguiling new star of our wine country.
Baby Boomers and their parents alike remember Fred MacMurray, Kate’s father. Whether as one of TV’s greatest Dads on My Three Sons or as one of Hollywood’s premiere leading men, generations were richly entertained by this popular actor. Fred chose an isolated ranch in Sonoma County to enjoy a private life raising his family and running his large 1500-acre ranch. His daughter Kate spent an idyllic childhood on this property near the Russian River, today known as MacMurray Ranch.
After Fred passed it became clear that another steward would be needed to manage this magnificent resource. His wishes made it clear that the ranch should remain intact, in a protected agricultural use. Kate speaks proudly of the confluence of interests that lead to the purchase of the ranch by Gallo of Sonoma in the mid-1990s.
The Gallo Family planted vines where Fred’s cattle had run. Half of the property, including pristine woods and delicate hillsides, has been preserved and restored as habitat for birds and other indigenous wildlife. In the vineyards, low-impact farming methods maintain soil health and attract beneficial insects. The picture perfect ranch looks much as it did a century ago, surrounded by rail fences and trees, with the addition of some of Sonoma County's finest vineyards.
MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noirs reflect the characteristic brightness of classic Russian River fruit, and the stunning Pinot Gris, which touched oak just briefly, is at once refreshing and complex. Both wines exemplify the quality outcomes from this new generation partnership. They also offer excellent value, and are widely available.
Nowadays, Kate again lives on the property. Originally a screenwriter
who worked in film production in Los Angeles, she speaks with an engaging,
authentic voice about the place, the vines and the people who have
carried us across a century. At the forefront of a new breed
of wine communicators, she champions MacMurray Ranch Wines with passion
and aplomb. Charming cowgirl, historian and wine sophisticate
in one, Kate MacMurray enlivens a combined sense of history and progress—uncommon,
like the wines.
Editor Pick — Ceágo Vinegarden
Ceágo is an interesting new winery in a beautiful location. Take a browse around their website and consider a visit to this new Mendocino County gem.
Wine Country Holiday Events
Something Fun for Everyone
The holiday season is a terrific time to enjoy a slightly different take on wine country lifestyle. In December, most wineries are a little less crowded than at other times of the year. As a result, you might receive a little more special attention as you sample and choose wine gems to enjoy with your holidays. Certainly you can choose from loads of special events designed to lure you away from the malls!
Here on WineCountry.com, each region has its own event calendar. To discover more of what is happening near you, go to your region of interest, and click on Events. You’ll be amazed at all of the special pourings and memorable happenings scheduled to help make your holidays special. Here is a selection that we especially recommend.
Central Virginia—A special favorite holiday event in this area is the Virginia Dare Flotilla Boat Parade held Saturday December 11 starting at 7pm. This is an incredible nighttime parade of boats all decked out with dazzling lights reflected on Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia's second largest lake. Spectators will be delighted with the view from the park - - or you might book passage on the lead boat, the side-wheel paddle boat Virginia Dare itself and enjoy. Viewers are asked to bring an unwrapped toy donation.
Northern Virginia—The Carols
in the Cave Holiday Open House event is sure to please. Live
Christmas carols will reverberate through the winery, with mulled
wine and a roaring outdoor fire to warm your heart, hands and toes. Start
your holiday shopping with unique event for the wine lovers on
your list. Located just 60 miles west of Washington, DC at
the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Farfelu Winery offers
premium, handcrafted wines in a one-of-a-kind rustic setting. Saturday & Sunday,
December 4-5, $5.
Florida—Visiting the Tampa Bay or Orlando areas? Not too far away, a special holiday celebration will be held at Florida Estates Winery to kick off of the holiday season Friday December 10th, from 6:00-9:00 pm. The event will include an educational tasting of selected wines, a commemorative Florida Estates Winery logo wine glass, hors d'oeuvres, live music and prizes. Tickets are $8 per person in advance and $10 at the door.
Walla Walla, Washington— Matching the character of an eclectic group of wineries in the Walla Walla Valley, for the Holiday Barrel Tasting, each winery participates in their own special way. Offering a variety of entertainment including music, art exhibits, wine dinners, cooking demonstrations, poetry readings and of course food pairings, all within the festive atmosphere of the season. Didn’t you always want to know what wine to pair with emu? Find out at Colvin Vineyards during this event. December 4-5, Walla Walla, Wash. New this year, the Backstage Pass offers exclusive access and discounts.
Livermore, Northern California—The Holidays in the Vineyards Event celebrates the season by sharing the joy of special wines, crafts, music and more! In the Livermore Valley, old-time brands and larger wineries mingle with newer, small production artisans for a stellar array of tastings and special holiday offerings. Located a short drive from any Bay Area location, this weekend Open House is Saturday & Sunday, December 4th & 5th, free.
Wine Country Featured Destination
Whether you visit specifically to enjoy this spectacular wine country, or for a diversion from other famous tourist attractions like the Wharf and Aquarium, Monterey offers a wealth of extraordinary wine experiences that will please with variety, quality and value.
Climate is everything. Monterey’s vineyards enjoy plenty of warm days, a short frost season and a low chance of damaging rains. A major influence is the cooling, moisture-laden air that flows inland from Monterey Bay, tempering the morning warmth as afternoon approaches. The result is a perfect setting for development of Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir and Syrah. Generally, the fruit here remains on the vine a full month longer than in other regions, with slow, gentle ripening resulting in California’s longest hang time. Intense varietal flavors develop along with ideal sugar-acid balance, hallmarks of Monterey County's fine wines.
Within the designation of Monterey County, this diverse region has seven American Viticultural Areas (AVA’s) that have been identified as one-of-a-kind winegrowing districts. In this article, we cover the areas from Salinas to Greenfield along Highway 101. Other Monterey areas and wineries will be covered in January. The stops are merely a quick jaunt from the highway, and offer an ideal break if you are in the middle of a long trans-California trek.
If you are traveling south from San Jose, it takes about an hour to reach Salinas. In Oldtown Salinas, the Taste of Monterey Wine Cellar & Tasting Room offers a great overview of the region. Known for their stunning ocean view, this very pleasant room features more than 40 local wineries. Located next to the National Steinbeck Center, they also offer a wine country themed gift store.
Industry superstar Blackstone Winery in Gonzales offers a wide variety of interesting, consumer-friendly wines. This is the home of Blackstone's California Merlot, a “Best in Market” recommendation by the Wine Spectator. Not far away, Pavona Wines is an alluring attraction…check out the 1995(!) Paso Robles Old Vine Zinfandel.
Perched in the Gavilan Mountains to the east, Chalone Vineyard sits at the base of an extinct volcano bordering the Pinnacles National Monument. Including the oldest producing vineyard in the county, Chalone Vineyard is the only winery in the Chalone AVA. It is also one of the few wineries in America growing grapes in limestone-based soils, the same as in Burgundy. The thin, well-drained ground, limited rainfall and low crop levels produce exceptional wines.
The Hahn Estates Winery, which also includes the Smith & Hook brand, offers a spectacular setting. Nestled in a gorgeous corner of the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA, the freeway is far off in the distance, a miniscule part of the expansive, picturesque view. The Blue House here is an ideal setting for weddings or other events. This winery is best known for its highly awarded red wines, offering outstanding value. The stunning, value-laden 2002 Meritage (at only $18) won not only Double Gold Medal at the 2004 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, but also Best of Show at the 2004 West Coast Wine Competition…the best red wine of the competition! Their Smith & Hook wines focus on fruit from the original family estate.
Nearby, Paraiso Vineyards also offers stunning views from its own position on an elevated flat benchland area, where 400 acres of vineyards anchor the southern end of the Santa Lucia Highlands. Highly awarded and widely distributed, they also offer two dessert wines exclusive to the winery--the captivating Late Harvest Pinot Noir and the long-time favorite Souzao Port. The Home Décor and Gift Boutique features a fun Canine Corner, and a wide variety of items for every room in the house.
Want an adventurous break from your tastings? The Vision Quest Ranch offers one of wine country’s most unique encounters. The impressive menagerie of trained animals was assembled for work in the movie industry. Safari tours are offered daily at 1pm, only $10/$8 children. And if you are looking for an exciting accommodation experience like no other, spend a wild night with the cheetahs and elephants in a fun, African Bungalow Bed and Breakfast accommodation (adults only).
Next month we will cover the rest of Monterey Wine Country; the idyllic Carmel Valley and the Greater Monterey area, where tasting rooms mingle with history and aquatic creatures.
Wine Country Recipe
Unusual as it may sound this Red Wine Ice Cream is a delicious ending to any holiday meal. I was served this at a private party in New York City...and have kept the recipe ever since. Give it a try...and let us know what you think.
Red Wine Ice Cream
2 bottles full-bodied red wine, like a cabernet sauvignon
1. Pour wine into a large pot and bring to a simmer. Add cinnamon
sticks and peppercorns. Simmer until the wine is reduced to 1 cup (this
should take about 1 hour)
Editor Pick — McEvoy Ranch Olive Oil
Olive Oil does not get much better than this
wonderful example from McEvoy Ranch, produced in Petaluma,
California, which is considered by many to be one of the
finest Estate Grown olive oils in the world. Treat yourself
to some and see if you agree with the critics. Visit www.mcevoyranch.com for
January 15-17, 2005 – 13th Annual Winter Wineland
The Russian River Wine Road is hosting another winter wine tasting extravaganza! Don’t miss a wonderful opportunity to visit wineries generally not open to the public, meet their winemakers and taste limited production wines. 93 Wineries and 16 Lodgings will participate in this year’s event and offer special treats and generous hospitality to all attendees. Advance ONLINE ticket sales end January 9th, so order your tickets today!
Fee: $30 per person, weekend; $24 RoadRunner Members;
$5 Designated Drivers
Pick — Onion Soup at Boon Fly Cafe
Sample premier Napa and Sonoma wines from Robert Mondavi Winery and Kendall Jackson Winery! Let the Culinary Institute of America show off their fabulous cooking talents with two Cooking Demo Tickets. Live cooking demonstrations are one hour in length, feature a recipe and a tasting of the dish demonstrated. Finally, spend a relaxing evening dining at the spectacular Greystone Restaurant also located at the Culinary Institute of America.
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 February 21, 2005.
(*some restrictions apply)
***No purchase necessary. Must be at least 21 years old to enter. Only one entry per person permitted. Winner will be selected February 21, 2005 by random drawing. Winner will be notified by email. Employees of Freerun Technologies are ineligible. Void where prohibited by law.