When my wife told her father we were visiting California, he said he would look into a vineyard tour for us. My father-in-law owns a wine shop in Cherry Hill, NJ called Kress Wine(yes that is cheap plug). Because he a nice guy, his distributors went the extra mile and set us up with a private tour of MacMurray Ranch, at the time I had no idea how special this was.
MacMurray Ranch was owned by Fred MacMurray, probably best known for the television show “My Three Sons”. Needing a reprieve from the Hollywood scene, Fred purchased the ranch in 1941 from the Porter family, who owned the property since the 1850’s. After some additional land acquisitions, MacMurry owned over 1200 acres of Sonoma farm land. Fred didn’t grow grapes on his land, instead he raised cattle and was one of the first people to bring Angus beef to California.
After Fred’s death, his family sold the property to the Gallo Brothers, with the condition that the land continued to be used as a working farm. This was not an issue since Fred’s property was sitting in prime grape growing territory. The property itself has three different climate zones and those conditions allow the grapes being grown there to develop more complexity and flavor. Of course, I didn’t know any of this until after the tour of the grounds.
My wife and I were welcomed by the small staff with a glass of their 2010 Pinot Gris. It was a very crisp wine with hints of sweetness and surprising sour. Very nice on an October afternoon. After a few other guests arrived, we were given a tour of the former MacMurray home. The house was modest and welcoming. MacMurray kept the original 1850’s Porter farm house and combined it with small home that was originally built for the oldest Porter son when he was married. Our hosts informed us that the house no longer had occupants besides the small security team and was used for special functions for the Gallo company. I have to admit I envisioned an awesome Christmas party by the main room’s fireplace, drinking wine and listening to stories about the farm.
While in the main room we were offered a glass of the Russian River Pinot Noir. This wine had the complexity that our guides had discussed earlier. The wine had an earthy flavor but teased hints of fruit. It was definitely one of those wines you have to let roll around in your mouth for a few seconds to get all the flavors. Once we were finished with the wines, we were allowed to walk around the rest of the property, taking in the vastness of the mountains and the vineyards that surrounded the house. After a few minutes our guide told us to pack up because we were in for a surprise: a visit the Frei Brothers vineyard, which was also closed to the public and much bigger than MacMurray Farm….
… To be continued.