MacMurray Wines: The California wine legacy of a Hollywood star

This is the story of a famous Hollywood star,  Fred MacMurray, his daughter, some gorgeous wines from a stunningly beautiful region and one of the world’s most famous wine brands. I’ve spent an amazing week in California, as a guest of Wines of California and wow, do I have lots to share with you.

Wines of California

My first story is one of a family, well two families in fact

In the 1940s Fred MacMurray was one of the most recognisable faces on the big screen.

The star of Double Indemnity, Fred spent much of his down time fly fishing. His father was from Paisley, his mother from Ireland, and the outdoors life was in his blood.

MacMurray’s friends had a ranch in the Russian River Valley in California. He took days away from the hubbub of the film world to enjoy his fishing hobby and fell in love with the ranch. 

Fred MacMurray bought the ranch in 1941 when his friends, the Porter family, retired and moved away. 

The wonderful climate of the Russian River Valley

The climate and the soils of the Russian River Valley help to create the most amazing “cool climate” pinot noir and pinot gris wines among others.

The Russian River Valley appellation sits in Sonoma County. California might be hot yet this region can grow these grape varieties to perfection.

The Pacific Ocean and the river (which was gushing when I was there on a wet April day) helps to cool the region.

In the growing season fog lingers in the trees and the grass, keeping the grapes cool.

It was here on the MacMurray Ranch that I sipped MacMurray Russian River Pinot Noir (£29.50, greatwesternwine.co.uk) and listened to Fred’s daughter Kate tell their story.

The pinot noir was sublime, with notes of raspberries, red fruits, cherry and vanilla and with a silky mouthfeel.

Fred MacMurray’s care of the soil and the land

Fred was keen on diversified farming and believed that soil held its history. Kate explained that he would let fruit from new trees drop into the soil and allow the goodness to sink low.

Kate remembers running barefoot across the fruit as a child, with bees buzzing around her.  She believes that those apples, plums and cherries from her childhood are now putting goodness into the land.  A land which now grows grapes.

I really believe dad’s thoughtfulness on how to treat the soil has had a lasting influence on the grapes that grow here,” said Kate.

Fred died in 1991 and the family began to think what to do next.

Kate and her mother June were determined about one thing. “Whoever purchased the ranch had to maintain it as it was. We wanted it to be family-owned and kept intact.”

Kate MacMurray raises a glass to her father, film actor Fred MacMurray California wines
Kate MacMurray raises a glass to her father, film actor Fred MacMurray
The family connections woven up with the land

Here’s where the second family comes in: the Gallo family. We may perceive Gallo wines as inexpensive, accessible and in every supermarket in our land.

Gallo also has a dynamic presence in the world of fine wines and has been investing in that sector for many years.

The ranch was sold to Gallo and in 1996 the first vineyards were planted.

Kate, the daughter of a Hollywood star, now works as an ambassador for the wine brand which bears his name.

She says: “Only three families have ever owned this ranch: The Porters, who were dad’s friends, our family the MacMurrays and now the Gallo family. All of the families are woven up by the thread of the land. Now we get to share this beautiful place.

“If I’d written a letter to God I couldn’t have come up with a better outcome for my land and my family.”

The story of the wine and where to buy it

I always take a little time to think about a wine’s story when I’m sipping it.  Many people have played a part crafting the liquid in my glass and I Iove finding out more.

I discovered this wine story when I met Kate and I’m pleased about that. 

You can find other MacMurray Wines at Great Western including Russian River Pinot Gris (£19.50) and Central Coast Pinot Noir (£22.50). 


A version of this story was first published in over 30 regional newspapers including:
Hull Daily Mail – Leicester Mercury – Cambridge News – Liverpool Echo South Wales Echo – Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner
– The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Gazette 
Birmingham Mail – Coventry Telegraph  – Paisley Daily Express 

Co-op Argentine Malbec San Juan: A red wine with the chillax factor

I’ve been trying to get my act together as I head towards some massive wine exams in about three weeks’ time.  I have loads of stuff in my head, and in a supporting role, a fair bit of wine in my glass (and occasionally an Argentine malbec).

Sometimes life shouts out “take a back seat” or “chillax” (well maybe not that exact term, I don’t know anyone who says that).

The reason why we’re here

I picked up this Co-op Argentine Malbec San Juan on the way to collect the doggie from the doggie minders (her second mum) the other day. It had been a LONG day.  I needed simplicity in my life. To be honest, I needed a b****y glass of wine.

Then, about 30 minutes later, as I was sipping away,  I remembered that I used to write these little snippety review things for you. Just a bottle of wine. The basics. And all that.

So that’s why we’re here.  I want to be organised and share the love again.

Co-op Argentine Malbec review
Co-op Argentine Malbec

Co-op Argentine Malbec San Juan 2018

What is it:

It’s an Argentine malbec, funnily enough! The clue is in the name.

Where’s it from: 

The San Juan region.

I’ll tell you some more: 

San Juan nestles in the shadow of the Andes, to the west of Argentina. Over on the other side of the mountains, Chile makes its linear stamp on the world.  The San Juan capital lies 90 miles north of Mendoza.

You can find out lots more here, at the Wines of Argentina website, but I’ll summarise.

San Juan is the second biggest grape and wine-producing region in the country; there are five valleys in the region, all growing vines. It is a region which many believe has the capability to produce world-class wines.

The grape: 

Malbec goes hand in hand with Argentina, even though its origins are  in Bordeaux. The grape was brought over to Argentina in the 1800s. It quickly established itself.  Malbec accounts for almost 40% of the planted red varieties in Argentina.

What it says on the vin

Ok then, the bottle notes. There’s lots going on here, not just on the colourful front label, but also the back.

We’ll stick with the front for now and …
“Intense and rich, bursting with flavours of raspberry and plum. The perfect partner with steak or spicy sausages.”

It’s a wine which has a lot to say for itself, because on the back the enthusiastic marketeers say:
“Dark, dense and polished, this sexy blend of depth and vivacity has a mix of sweet blackberry and boysenberry fruit laced with incense and cigar box. The long, intense mineral finish lets violets and lavander [sic] notes shine through.”

 All that packed into a bottle of wine and a spelling mistake thrown in.

A swivel and a swirl and a sniff and a sip … 

So does all that lavish praise stand up to scrutiny. There’s no doubt the label shouts out “vivacity”. To recap, I bought this as a weekday wine, as solace to help me relax. It did all of that.

The first night I tried this, I was having sausages (because the dog gave me that “I need sausages” look). She ate hers before the addition of gnocchi and spicy tomato sauce as she wouldn’t have been too enamoured with that combo. However, this wine was.

It is a full-bodied wine which tickles your nose with raspberry and pepper;  some plums too. I thought a bit harder and there’s some dense dark fruit down, down deep. It has a fair zap of acidity, dashed with pepper but not a huge amount of fruit. The spice is the lasting legacy in the mouth.

It’s such an easy sip to sip; I’ve dashed these words off while watching Manchester City thrash Watford in the FA Cup Final (only City fans will be happy about that).

The remaining wine will see me safely into the start of Eurovision.  I haven’t grumbled, I’ve just relished the pleasure of enjoying a glass of wine without having to concentrate too hard.

The small print

Co-op Argentine Malbec San Juan is 12.5% abv.  It’s available in many Co-op stores (tap your postcode in the link)  and I bought two bottles for £10 (in May 2019).   The wine is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.