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Wine Talk: Kyle MacLachlan

Versatile actor, whose roles have ranged from Dune to Desperate Housewives, takes the stage with a Washington red

Laurie Woolever
Posted: September 16, 2008

Kyle MacLachlan, 49, is an actor and native of Yakima, Wash. MacLachlan is well-known for his collaborations with acclaimed director David Lynch (the films Dune and Blue Velvet and the television series Twin Peaks), spent two seasons on the HBO series Sex and the City, currently appears on ABC's Desperate Housewives and just finished shooting the film Mao's Last Dancer, slated for 2009 release. The actor recently spoke to Wine Spectator about his northwest roots and his first attempt, with the guidance of a Walla Walla veteran, at winemaking.

Wine Spectator: Growing up in Washington, were you introduced to wine at an early age, and did growing up there contribute to your love of wine?
Kyle MacLachlan: Well I grew up in Yakima, and there wasn't much of a wine community there, at least that I was aware of, back in the '70s, which was when I was first starting to understand and be interested in wine. My first real experience with wine was dining with my girlfriend's family at their house. We were allowed a glass of wine at dinner, which made me appreciate the idea of pairing wine with food, and the concept of slowing down to have a conversation around the dinner table.

WS: I understand you have an ongoing wine exchange with [director] David Lynch. Did that begin when you starred in his film Dune?
KM: Yes, this would have been in 1983. We'd actually discussed wine the first time we met. At the time of the screen test, David had just learned of Lynch-Bages, and it was fun for him because of the name. So after my first screen test for Dune, David sent me over a bottle of Lynch-Bages. I drank it and, again, my palate still had not really developed at all, but drinking this wine caused me to re-evaluate everything I knew about wine. And I started to collect Lynch-Bages, and I still trade it with David.

WS: What else is in your collection?
KM: I'm not that much of a collector, but several years ago I did buy a bunch of '95 Bordeaux futures, about 20 cases that I've been working my way through. I've got some Château Haut-Bages-Avérous, a case of the Lynch-Bages, which is really nice, and some Calon Ségur in large-format bottles. The vintage is holding on very nicely. In the mid- or maybe late '90s I also bought some Washington wines that I'm really enjoying now—Leonetti, Dunham and L'Ecole No. 41, where Eric Dunham actually did some of his early work.

WS: How did you and Dunham come to collaborate on your new wine project?
KM: It was sort of unexpected. I was married in 2002—everything is marked by these dates for me—so a little prior to that, I was becoming interested in what was happening in Walla Walla. When I would go home to visit my dad and his wife in Yakima, we'd play golf, in the summer we'd go visit these fantastic fruit and vegetable stands in the Lower Valley, and we'd take a trip from Yakima to Walla Walla. I didn't know anyone there, just did the tourist thing and popped into the wineries I could see from the road. I was in charge of putting together the wines for my wedding, and I wanted a couple of wines from Washington state to be represented, so that's when I made my first contact with Eric. In the spring of 2005 I approached him with the idea of collaborating, and he didn't hesitate. Through Ann Colgin —I'd become good friends with her when we met on a photo shoot back in '98 or '99—I had a connection at Mel Knox barrels in San Francisco, so I took them up to Washington and put some of Eric's juice in there.

WS: Were you involved with choosing the blend?
KM: Yes. For the first vintage, we went pretty simple. It's Cabernet from [Washington's] Lewis Vineyard, with some Syrah, also from Lewis, and there's a touch of Merlot as well. What was surprising was that the barrel age was quite long. We were tasting and tasting and the oak was not strongly present so we just kept it in the barrel, knowing that it would be ready when it told us it was ready. It had 25 months barrel age, total, and the oak is still very minimal.

WS: Where does the name "Pursued by Bear" come from?
KM: We were having dinner one night, my wife and some friends, including Steve Martin, who was saying maybe it should be something to do with acting, and something popped into my head. There's this wonderful Shakespearean stage direction that I've always loved: "Exit, pursued by a bear," from The Winter's Tale. It's whimsical and comes from a place you don't expect, kind of like how I got involved in wine. I blurted it out and Steve said, "That's it!" The only problem with it is that I have to say it twice and tell the back-story a lot. (Laughing.)

WS: What are your impressions of the 2005 Pursued by Bear?
KM: I find it, and the reds from Washington and Walla Walla in particular, to be very distinct. It's fruit-forward in the way that the bigger wines of California are, with some blackberry jam and a cherry cola component, but there are other elements in there, too. There's a mineral element, and I would say it's highly structured. Some of the grapes came from Red Mountain, which provides lot of backbone, while the grapes from Lewis contribute the fruit component.

WS: Having now gone through the process of collaborating on a wine, do you have any advice for first-time or would-be winemakers?
KM: Well the greatest thing I did was to team up with somebody who knows what they're doing. There's a lot that goes into it, apart from just growing the grapes the way you want them, so for me it was amazing to learn all the little steps that you have to go through. They say a lot of beer goes into making wine, and a lot of hot water. A lot of cleaning—barrels, facilities, the tanks. … I'm very fortunate that Eric has all that in place, and he's been incredibly generous. So my advice is to find a good mentor.

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