Saturday, May 25, 2013

Chris Munsell and Fred Mac Murray--an 'Odd Couple' in the Wine World by Philip S. Kampe




As a kid I used to watch ‘My Three Sons’ and always liked the character Ernie on the television program. I never thought that I would write an article that encompassed the star of the series, Fred Mac Murray. 

The truth is Fred Mac Murray passed away in 1991 and ‘My Three Sons’ ended their successful twelve year television run in 1972.

‘My Three Sons’ chronicles the life of a widower and aeronautical engineer named Stephen Douglas (Fred Mac Murray).raising three sons. His real life mirrors a similar image—married and the father of twin daughters.

Starring in over 100 movies in his career leaves little time for one’s family and oneself.
Fred needed an escape for his family from the Hollywood world and decided to purchase a ranch in the Russian River Valley as a getaway and a working farm.

The Russian River Valley is in the center of Sonoma, an area rich in wine traditions. His wine neighbors include Rochioli and Gary Farrell, both well known vintners. Following Fred’s death, his family put Mac Murray Ranch up ‘For Sale’.

Fred’s rules were simple: Sell the farm only to a family who would promise to keep the land in agriculture and his fence line intact. His wishes were answered when the Gallo family purchased the farm from the family and agreed to Fred’s conditions.

The farm was sold in 1996 and in 2000 the first vines were planted.  The winery was born. Gina Gallo headed the operation and focused as making Mac Murray Ranch a home for Pinot Noir lovers.

Today, over 450 acres are planted, mostly with Pinot Noir. The winery encompasses five vineyards throughout Sonoma County and the Central Coast.

Kate Mac Murray, daughter of Fred Mac Murray is the brand ambassador for Mac Murray farm.

She lives at the Ranch and focuses her life as the spokesperson for the Award-Winning Pinot Noir that is produced under the wings of veteran winemaker Chris Munsell.

I spent an afternoon with Chris recently and learned about his 20 year wine career, his family and how he got into wine scene as a youngster spending his summers at his Grandmothers winery in Solano County. Those were his formative years leading him into wine internships at wineries in France and California before graduating from UC Davis. Chris majored in Fermentation Science, specializing in Viticulture and Enology.

It did not take very long for Chris to step-up to the plate and educate me about Mac Murray Ranch and the day to day operations of a master winemaker. He has worked his way to a prestigious career, capped by the quality of wines he produces at Mac Murray Ranch.

Chris honed his career at Geyser Peak, Beam Wine Estates and Domaine Chandon before being selected as the Mac Murray Ranch winemaker.

I sampled four Mac Murray Ranch Pinot Noirs and was overly impressed by their balance, complexity, fruit concentration and oak and vanilla integration.  The wines I will recommend are readily available at your local wine merchant, nationwide.

For further information on Mac Murray Ranch wines, visit their website at: www.macmurrayranch.com .

My recommendations include:
2011 Russian River Valley Sonoma County Pinot Noir   
^^ cool vintage, subtle oak, dark fruit, 13.6% alcohol ^^ 90 points pk

2010 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir  
^^ complex flavors due to longer ripening, new & old oak, 15.4% ^^  92 points pk

2010 Russian River Valley Reserve Sonoma County Pinot Noir  
^^ cold weather foggy vintage until September sun, acidity, 15.2% ^^ 90 points pk

2010Russian River Valley Winemaker’s Block Pinot Noir 
^^ rainy May (20 days), sun in August, balanced, complex, 13.8% ^^ 93 points pk

PHILIP S. KAMPE
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