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A Life in 5 Bottles

Kyle MacLachlan, the Movie Star Who Makes a Genuinely Good Wine

Most celebrities just put their name on the bottle. Kyle MacLachlan makes a sought-after wine

Aaron Goldfarb By July 26, 2022
Kyle MacLachlan with Pursued By Bear wine
Kyle MacLachlan with Pursued By Bear wine. Photo courtesy of Pursed By Bear. Artwork by Pix.

Send a note to the generic email address listed on wine brand Pursued by Bear’s website, and there’s a decent chance that Kyle MacLachlan, literally Kyle MacLachlan, star of “Twin Peaks,” “Sex and the City,” and other iconic film and television productions, will be the one actually who responds to you.

“Wine is pretty much my full-time job until acting kicks in,” he says. He explains that even when he’s on a film shoot — like for some upcoming work in Australia — he has to spend all his off time doing online stuff for the brand. “I don’t have a GM running things. It’s just me.”

And that’s exactly why he’s worth talking to. In this world where every celebrity now has their own celebrity wine, MacLachlan is one of the few with a passion for wine, who truly cares about the quality of his brand, not just grabbing cash from a willing marketplace.

Today, his Pursued by Bear, started in 2005 with a couple hundred cases of Cabernet Sauvignon, has four labels, including a Syrah and a Rosé. MacLachlan, who now works alongside winemaker Daniel Wampfler, claims there were a few reasons he finally decided to get into the wine business for himself. 

How it started

First and foremost, he was curious about what the process was like to actually make the wine he loved. He was likewise intrigued by the idea that good wine was being made in his home state and it would be a lot more economical than starting a wine brand in Napa; growing up in Yakima, Washington, on the site of a former orchard, his lawyer father had been what MacLachlan describes as a “gentleman farmer” who had a passion for wine.

“My rationale was it would give me a chance to get back home to visit family more frequently,” he says. “My dad was getting older and I thought, jeez, I’d like to see him more.”

Finally, he felt like his successful acting career had put him on a constant New York-to-Los Angeles cycle that he wanted to escape from for a bit.

For his premiere vintage, MacLachlan would use fruit from the same Yakima Valley vineyards used by Dunham Cellars, whose wines had made a big impact on him. He was so impressed, that he got the wines made at Dunham Cellars. The brand’s name would be a nod to Shakespeare’s most oddball stage direction, from the third act of The Winter’s Tale.

“It had really started off as a hobby. I was pretty innocent, pretty naive. I just wanted to make a few cases and not really think about it. But as I got into it, I kinda liked it. I enjoyed meeting people in the wine business,” says MacLachlan, who recalls his early days of traveling around Manhattan in a taxi with a case of wine and an invoice book, trying to get restaurants to bring in Pursued by Bear.

Luckily, many restaurateurs seemed to really like his wine in this era before every single celebrity had a wine. So MacLachlan submitted a bottle of his 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, its first vintage, to “Wine Spectator.” He kind of forgot about it until he was doing an event at Beaver Creek ski resort when he spied a copy of the latest issue. Thumbing through it, he was startled to see his wine had scored an impressive 91.

“I had a weird freak-out moment because that’s a pretty legitimate score!” he says. “I can’t tell you the reviews for any of my movies or TV shows. But I’ll never forget where I was when I read that.”

Later, when Dunham winemaker Daniel Wampfler went on to Abeja Winery, Pursued by Bear moved with them, where they are made today.

Here MacLachlan discusses the five wines that informed, inspired, and ignited his life along the way.

bottle of 2010 Château Lynch-Bages Pauillac de Lynch Bages, Pauillac

Château Lynch-Bages (~late-1970s vintage)

In 1982 MacLachlan graduated with a BFA in drama from the University of Washington, quickly landing a plum gig. While still at school, he had appeared in a Seattle-area production of Molière’s “Tartuffe.” Though he was only making $185 a week, his performance was strong enough to get the attention of the producers for the upcoming adaptation of Frank Herbert’s “Dune.”

Just 23 at the time, MacLachlan flew down to Los Angeles to meet with director David Lynch and immediately hit it off as they shared memories of growing up in the Pacific Northwest — Lynch is from Missoula, Montana. They also happened to chat about Lynch-Bages, a French wine that the enigmatic auteur favored in part because of his surname. Five days later, when MacLachlan returned to Los Angeles for his first-ever screen test, he entered his hotel room to find a bottle of Lynch-Bages sitting on the table.

“I don’t know how he got into my hotel room,” MacLachlan jokes. Forty years later, he doesn’t remember the exact vintage, either. Maybe a 1978 or ’79? But, he certainly recalls how it tasted. “It was probably the first really fine Bordeaux I had ever had.”

Over the years, the actor and director would continue to work together on what would be many other classics — “Blue Velvet,” “Twin Peaks” — and would likewise continue sharing bottles of Lynch-Bages.

bottle of Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Beaulieu Vineyards Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 1986

“You learn about wine by tasting it,” says MacLachlan.

After starring in “Dune,” the actor moved to Los Angeles full time. It was the mid-1980s and he suddenly had money, invites to nice restaurants, and close proximity to Napa Valley. He was eager to learn more about wine and still remembers his first trip to the mecca.

“I took my girlfriend up there and we did what newcomers do — drive around and pop into random tasting rooms,” he says.

MacLachlan was particularly taken with Beaulieu Vineyard and their private reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. So much so that he bought an entire case, a big expense for him at the time. He recalls it as an earnest attempt to begin his collection.

“You buy six bottles of wine, ‘Hey, we’re building a cellar!’” he jokes.

bottle of Colgin Cellars Herb Lamb Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

Colgin Cellars Herb Lamb Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 1999

When a writer at “InStyle magazine set up a conversation between an actor, winemaker, and restaurateur, MacLachlan first found himself in the same room as Ann Colgin, who would eventually become his industry mentor; restaurateur Bruce Marder of Santa Monica’s Capo would be the third part of the troika. Pioneering Napa winemaker Colgin had been key in showing how a model of sourcing grapes — which she began doing in 1992 — and utilizing a custom crush facility was enough to start a successful brand.

MacLachlan was quite impressed when he tasted her well-regarded Cabernet for the first time.

“I thought, ‘Holy smokes! This is at a whole ’nother level’” he recalls.

That started a great friendship and he started thinking maybe he should join the industry more formally. Maybe he should even start his own label. 

“Ann was instrumental in mentoring me with all my inane questions along the way,” says MacLachlan. “She showed me it was possible to put together all these elements to make wine.”

Current vintage: Colgin Cabernet Herb Lamb Vineyard (~$327)

Wineglass Cellars Elerding Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 1995

So MacLachlan now knew he wanted to make wine, but unfortunately, Napa was out of the budget — “ridiculously expensive,” says MacLachlan — so he turned his focus back to Washington.

He and his father, Kent, would drive through the Yakima Valley, trying many of the burgeoning producers. Admittedly, most weren’t great at the time. Then, one afternoon, the MacLachlans stumbled upon “little tiny” Wineglass Cellars. He instantly loved their Cabernet Sauvignon.

“I thought, this is so good, and it led me on a discovery of more Eastern Washington wine,” he says. “They finally had wine that was starting to get some respect.”

David and Linda Lowe, owners, sold their wine off in 2016, and retired.

Note: this wine is no longer produced.

bottle of 2018 Dunham Cellars Syrah

Dunham Cellars Syrah 1999

As MacLachlan tasted more wines in his home state, he particularly began to enjoy the wines coming out of the Walla Walla-based Dunham Cellars, one of the first in the region to receive national accolades.

In fact, when MacLachlan married producer Desiree Gruber in 2002, he put himself in charge of the event’s wine selection — and winemaker Eric Dunham’s Syrah was what he most wanted to serve.

“It was so sought after, though, that he didn’t have any left,” MacLachlan recalls. But his request allowed him to start a friendship with Dunham. A few years later, MacLachlan asked him if they could start making wine together.

And MacLachlan suddenly had a second job, as vintner.

Current vintage: 2018 Dunham Cellars Syrah (~$36)