Contrary to popular opinion, making fine wine is not easy. It’s not the life of the gentleman (or woman) vintner relaxing on his veranda while each year’s wine garners high scores and rave reviews and then sells itself out in a few days at full retail price. It’s a world filled with sunshine and puppies, right?
To be fair, it does happen in a few cases, but the vast, vast majority of people I’ve met over the years who make fine wine work their butts off every day and never really achieve the success and recognition that they deserve.
So, it’s great to be able to write about a winemaker who has been a fixture here in the Sonoma Valley for decades who in the last five years or so has hit some truly high points on the “dreams realized” list.
Steve MacRostie has been making Pinot Noir in and around Sonoma and Carneros for more than four decades, starting his career just out of UC-Davis in 1974 at Hacienda Wine Cellars here in Sonoma. In 1987 he founded MacRostie Winery to focus on Chardonnay, Merlot and Pinot Noir from the Sonoma side of the Carneros region. In 1998 he planted his first estate vineyard on Wildcat Mountain at the southern end of the Sonoma Valley and the Carneros region.
During the ensuing 20-plus years he built a great reputation for his Pinot Noir and Chardonnay — they were mainstays on wine lists in California and beyond. The winery took up residence on Eighth Street East and became a fixture there.
Today MacRostie Winery produces Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Rose in a balanced, high-toned style. He has moved away from the Carneros appellation wines and is now more focused on the Sonoma Coast appellation. His appellation-blend Pinots in particular are terrific every year and widely available. The vineyard designate wines are deep and complex and develop nicely with some age.
In 2011, MacRostie sold the winery to the U.S. division of Australian beverage company Lion Nathan. That division is now called Distinguished Vineyards and Wine Partners, and in addition to MacRostie it owns Argyle Winery in Oregon, St. Hallett in Australia and Wither Hills in New Zealand.
Steve had worked hard and was ready to retire, but with the burden of ownership removed and working as a consultant to the new owners of MacRostie, he was able to raise his head, look around and see that there were still some things he wanted to do.
Steve’s love for Pinot was pushing him further north and west to the coastal-influenced vineyards of the Petaluma Gap and western Russian River Valley. He wanted to explore those areas and incorporate more fruit sourced there into his wines. He also wanted to create a new home for the winery that was a statement of what he and the wines really stood for.
Just this month, the winery unveiled its MacRostie Estate House on Westside Road in the Russian River Valley just south of Healdsburg. The 20-acre property includes the new 13-acre Thale’s Vineyard, named for Steve’s wife and planted to Pinot Noir, and a winery focused on small-lot Pinot production. The Estate House is open daily to the public and features beautiful venues for indoor and outdoor tastings.
I am thrilled for Steve and the rest of the MacRostie team and can’t wait to get up there and check it out. I’d recommend you all do the same too.
For more information on MacRostie Winery, visit macrostiewinery.com. As always, you can email me with questions or comments at [email protected]
Greg Walter, a Sonoma resident for more than 25 years, has been in wine and food publishing for more than 35 years, 15 of which were spent as a senior editor and later president of Wine Spectator magazine. Today he writes the PinotReport newsletter (pinotreport.com) and publishes books through his Carneros Press imprint (carnerospress.com).