James MacPhail breaks out his Sonoma Pinot Noirs in NYC

We were lucky enough to be invited to join James MacPhail, proprietor, grower, and winemaker at MacPhail Family Winery, for a dinner at The Lion in NYC Wednesday night. The lineup of wines included a Rose of Pinot Noir, the 2011 Gap’s Crown Chardonnay, and five different Sonoma Pinot Noirs from the 2010 and 2011 vintages.

A small family winery in Sonoma, MacPhail also sources fruit from vineyards in the Sonoma Coast, Russian River, and Anderson Valley appellations. Picking and sorting is done by hand and minimal intervention is used in the eco-friendly winery. 

James Macphail grew up in Marine County and, in the 1990s began working in wineries in Sonoma.  It was during that time that he fell for the charms of Pinot Noir, specifically from the cooler coastal areas of Sonoma Coast and Anderson Valley. He introduced MacPhail Family Wines in 2002 after having worked at various wineries including Merry Edwards.

MacPhail sold to the Hess Collection in 2011 to spend more time making the wine and less time on the sales aspect of the business. Generally people are under the impression that when a bigger company steps in, the wines will change and the “small family winery” aspect will all but disappear. But James is still the guy in the vineyards and the winery, making the decision and applying his non-interventionist approach. By the enthusiasm of his long-time fans and supporters (some of whom came in from Pittsburgh to attend the dinner!) it’s all working out just fine.   

There was passionate interest in all the wines we tasted but the favorite of the majority of guests was the 2010 The Flyer Pinot Noir. The first vintage of this Russian River Pinot Noir, which is reserved for special vineyards not in the regular program, is from Kathleen Inman’s Olivet Grange Vineyard. Whether it was the silky smooth, red fruited character with gentle vanilla notes, the fact that it was announced as the most limited of the wines on the menu, or because it was the last wine of the night we’ll never know. Let’s just say it was in high demand.

My personal favorite was the 2010 Pratt Vineyard Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast., a more delicate, high-toned Pinot Noir and very flavorful and charming.  The other wines tasted included the 2010 Rose of Pinot Noir (still fresh!), 2011 Gap’s Crown Chardonnay, 2011 Dutton Ranch Pinot Noir, 2011 Sundawg Ridge Pinot Noir, and 2010 Gap’s Crown Pinot Noir. We just received the wines at the shop, as evidenced in the photo below, and what was not claimed at the dinner will be on sale starting on Monday 5/19.

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