When I got my Vision Cellars wine shipment recently, I immediately jumped into a glass of the 2010 Sonoma County pinot noir, a grape winemaker Mac McDonald is looking to perfect into one of California’s best versions of the wine. In the 15 years that he’s been at it for his own winery, he’s won awards and accolades for the bright flavors and natural acidity he’s bottling. The 2010 Sonoma County version is no exception — and I wish I had not been so anxious to dig into it. Who knows what a few years in the cellar might have done to it.
It brought back the sweet memories of our sunny afternoon picnic — Mac’s fabulous at the grill too! — with Mac and his wife Lil last summer. Mac insists his father, a guy named Sue, was among the best moonshiners in all of Texas in The Day. He tells the story with pride and a bit of humor, laced with quips that only a true Southerner can come up with. And he fits the small-town boy part as well as he spins the yarns in his usual overalls and straw hat attire.
He also claims that his first taste of wine at the ripe of old age of 12 was a 1952 burgundy that put him on the path to winemaking. “I never tasted anything so good and I knew then that I wanted to make a wine as fine as that,” he said last summer.
That was in 1955 and why only a few short years later he went west to California and learned his craft from one of the best: the Wagner family, makers of the wine that put me on the path to wine drinking, Caymus. “Mr. Wagner was kind enough to help a black man with no winemaking experience at all become a winemaker,” he said.
He buys the best grapes he can find from some of California’s most notable growers, Garys’ Vineyard and Rosella’s Vineyard in Santa Lucia Highlands. Check out his website at VisionCellars.com for a list of wines. Wine club members only get access to Ms. Lil’s Vineyard, which Mac, naturally, named after his wife of 45 years.