Wine Tasting at MacLeod Family Vineyards
Many say a winery would like to tell you their story, but few can really spin a yarn the way they do at MacLeod Family Vineyards. Matter of fact, says founder George MacLeod while holding a glass of his estate-grown Sauvignon Blanc up to the autumn light, “Every one of these drops of wine wants to tell you it's story.”
El Patio de Patron
A visit to this family winery and vineyard often starts, or ends, with a conversation with founder George MacLeod at a picnic table on his patio, “El Patio de Patron.” At age 95, MacLeod doesn’t charge through the vineyard much anymore (daughter-in-law Marjorie often leads tours), but he’s happy to share the insights he’s gained over the years on the terroir of his vineyard.
MacLeod Family Vineyard is located in Kenwood, Sonoma Valley, on Indian Springs Ranch, which is a story in itself: noting that the name “Indian Springs” was ubiquitous across the American landscape, advisors advised that MacLeod stick with his family name, which is pronounced just like “McCloud.”
Once upon a time, George MacLeod was a newcomer to the valley, asking questions of winemakers and pestering local grape growers. Not yet retired from a career at Monsanto (in the electronic LED division, not agrochemical—if you were the operator of your pocket calculator in the 1970s or 1980s, thank George for his part), MacLeod purchased an abandoned, rocky ranch in the hills above Kenwood in 1974. Over the years, he planted grapes, listened to advice, and listened to advice to listen to listen to his grapes, and the land on which they grew.
“Hey vines, how are you doing?” he learned to ask of them each day. MacLeod has related the trials and tribulations of his grapes, personified as “Javier” for Zinfandel, and “Marie” for Sauvignon Blanc, for years in a column in the local newspaper, the Kenwood Press.
Holding up a cut cane of grapevine, MacLeod says, “Everybody on this ranch has got a job.” And each leaf, he explains, is responsible for producing two-tenths a gram of sugar for the grapes. Confused? “You can interrupt and ask questions,” MacLeod says. “You won’t hurt my feelings.”
The Story of Javier and Marie
MacLeod’s 2015 Sonoma Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($22) speaks to the grassy, but rocky terroir of this hillside vineyard, indeed, with dry hay notes and fruity lychee flavors.
Zinfandel would seem to be a natural in Sonoma Valley, but MacLeod will remind you that the hillside is cooled by wind and fog that comes from the coast. The 2014 Sonoma Valley Zinfandel ($28) is toasty, plush, and a little chocolaty and spicy, like Mexican chocolate.
For a nonalcoholic treat, ask about the apple juice—although MacLeod says they had to cut down apple trees because they were too productive, perhaps on account of the rich soil produced by years of Native American meadow burnings (one of MacLeod’s many musings about the land, about which he’s written several books), they also operate an apple press in the Indian Springs Ranch barn.
To better appreciate the land and the history about which George MacLeod is so fascinated, visit nearby Annadel State Park. As at the MacLeod property, basalt rock was taken from here and formed into paver stones for San Francisco in the late nineteenth century. MacLeod ponders whether decades of constant chipping of stones in the area affects the mineral content of the soil in which is Sauvignon Blanc grows today.
MacLeod Family Vineyard, Kenwood, CA. By appointment Monday–Saturday. Tours at 10:30am, $25; tastings at 2pm, $15. 707.833.4312.