MacPhail Family Winery: Primal Pinot Passion

By Glen Frederiksen

Since the release of the movie “Sideways,” the wine-buying public has become aware of the uniquely seductive grape varietal from Burgundy known as Pinot Noir.

Cabernet Sauvignon may be known as the king of red wines, but Pinot Noir is surely the queen. No other grape varietal is described in such feminine terms — lithe… slinky… silky… seductive.

It is no surprise that, after years of sweet Rieslings, opulent Chardonnays, brash Zinfandels, mellow Merlots and spicy Shirazes, wizened winos return to the ephemeral elegance of Pinot Noir in their dotage.

This is not lost on winemaker James MacPhail, who openly refers to his Pinot Noir bottlings as females.

The road to becoming a North Coast winemaker and winery owner was long and winding for MacPhail. He grew up in Marin County, where his ancestors have lived for over a century. A true Renaissance man, he traveled the world, became an accomplished classical pianist, swam competitively, and developed an appreciation for fine art.

He graduated from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas in 1994 with degrees in Business and Hotel Administration. After a stint with Ritz-Carlton, he realized that the work-a-day world would keep him away from family too much. He redirected his life path toward his passion: wine.

Working with winemakers and grape growers, he became fascinated by the seductive Pinot Noirs produced in California’s cooler North Coast regions: Anderson Valley and the Sonoma Coast.

By 2002, he was able to launch his own brand — MacPhail Family Wines. Working with growers from select areas of the North Coast, he began producing small batches of single-vineyard wines.

MacPhail embraces a minimalist approach in his winemaking. He uses natural yeasts for fermentation, and he never fines nor filters his wines. The end result: bottlings of Pinot Noir that are complex, elegant, balanced and under-stated.

At the end of 2008, MacPhail opened the doors to his new winery. While not open to the public, patrons are welcome to visit the facility with ample notice, as MacPhail likes to make himself available to visitors.

Now that you know a bit about the man, allow us to introduce you to his wines…

2009 MacPhail Family Winery Ferrington Vineyard Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley

2009 MacPhail Family Winery Sangiacomo Vineyard Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast

2009 MacPhail Family Winery Wildcat Vineyard Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast

2009 MacPhail Family Winery Frattey Shams Vineyard Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley

To contact the winery, or to set up a personal tour:

MacPhail Family Winery
851 Magnolia Drive
Healdsburg, CA 95448
(707) 433-4780

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One Response to MacPhail Family Winery: Primal Pinot Passion

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