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Vintage Performances
From Jeffrey Beaumont and Special Agent Cooper to Orson Hodge and Josef K, Kyle MacLachlan’s career has enjoyed a rich variety of mysterious characters which, as he explains to Richard Middleton, is why he is keen for his wine to be of a similar ilk.

Growing up in a pretty backwater town in Washington State, there was little to link a youthful wannabe actor to any sort of oenophile pursuits.

‘Yakima wasn’t much of a wine town back then,’ MacLachlan says, talking from his Manhattan home where he spends much of his time now.

‘There were keggers, I think they were called. They’d get hold of a keg of beer, open it up, and then we’d all get plastic cups and fill up and sit around, as you did back then. But I’d just be stuck with this one beer getting warmer all night long; one glass would last that long.’

‘But Yakima was a lovely little place to grow up in, and it was where I probably had my first real connection with wine.

‘I’d go over to my girlfriend’s at the time and we’d have dinner. We’d get a small glass of wine and it seemed grown up, it was where I kind of understood what the point of it was.’

New world
After finishing school, his drinking habits settled on new horizons. MacLachlan moved to study at college in Seattle, where his dislike of beer continued to push his desire for wine, particularly of the more robust red variety.

As he moved further south to set up shop among the aspiring writers and down-and-out actors in Hollywood, his career continued a steady trajectory and resulted in several minor film and stage parts.

And then the break came, and his future received the giant shot in the arm it required. Aged just 25, he met director extraordinaire David Lynch. ‘I first met David when auditioning for Dune,’ he explains. ‘I did my screen tests and afterwards we found we both had an interest in wine.

‘I’d done my audition and once I’d finished he sent me a bottle of Lynch Bages as his sign of saying I’d got the part, which was a very nice thing to do.

‘We still trade a bottle every so often, for a birthday or some celebration perhaps,’ he says. ‘And the 1995 is drinking nicely now,’ he adds reflectively. ‘It really is very good.’

Although his appearance as Paul Atreides in Lynch’s Dune was wellreceived, it now simply acts as the precursor to a character who many still believe defines his career.

His appearance as special agent Dale Cooper in Twin Peaks, another Lynch masterpiece, packaged up as a TV series which has gone on to achieve cult status despite consisting of only two series, projected MacLachlan to the masses as a talented actor with a canny ability to play complex characters. And his passion for wines of a similar nature was beginning to develop.

‘My interest in wine led me to start exploring the Napa Valley during the mid-1980s,’ he says. ‘We’d take trips out and spend time on the vineyards tasting the wines. And then we got to know some of the growers and producers and the production side became more interesting to me.’

Mysterious characters continued to be handed to MacLachlan throughout the 1990s, including that of Josef in Franz Kafka’s The Trial, though perhaps less so with his ill-fated decision to star in Paul Verhoeven’s Showgirls. But elsewhere the versatile actor continued to impress, expanding his expertise on Broadway in The Caretaker and more recently in Sex and the City and Desperate Housewives, with roles that ensured his fame for a new, post-Lynch generation.

As MacLachlan’s career ballooned on an international scale, his work took him further and further from home, and his visits home became less frequent.

Good legs
That was until his wedding to producer Desiree Gruber. Burdened with the task of finding wines for the upcoming celebration, he headed back home where his father still lived, and in nearby Walla Walla he found that a small revolution had begun. Vineyards had sprung up, with surprisingly good results

‘It was around the early 2000s when I first noticed that each time I’d return home I’d find my sleepy little home state had all these new people and a new interest in wine,’ he says. One of the most respected vineyards was to be found at Eric Dunham’s set-up and, after picking a desert wine for the wedding meal from Dunham’s Cellars, he proceeded to tie the knot and to produce his own wine.

‘I met Eric and immediately liked his personality and the fact that he could make very good wines and knew what he was doing,’ MacLachlan explains.

‘It also felt like I was returning home, and it was a reason to go back and visit my father and involve him. Both my brothers live in Seattle so I’d swing by and say hello to them too. ‘I also liked Eric’s family. I felt very comfortable there.

It just seemed like the place to go. And it’s by no means a one-man project, Eric is the wine maker. It is definitely a collaboration between us.’ MacLachlan set out on his project with a blend of Cabernet and Merlot grapes from the Lewis vineyard, a touch of Syrah, a steady rest in oak barrels and an increasing sense of enthusiasm.

Dunham’s expertise and the MacLachlan’s increasing confidence in his abilities ensured the project got off to a good start, and resulted in regular visits to see how the product was coming together.

Bear essentials
After a meal with friends inspired the brand’s name, ...pursued by bear, was born. Named after a Shakespeare stage direction in The Winter’s Tale, MacLachlan’s wine hit the shelves in September 2008 and was immediately well received, receiving a 91 from Wine Enthusiast.

‘I still go up there every couple of months, certainly for harvest, sorting the grapes and the crush. I also go for the tasting, blending and bottling. I’m absolutely involved in the process.

‘And it’s a great wine. It’s got the qualities that Washington State wines are famed for: blackberry, blueberry and cherry components, a bit of minerality and that brightness and slight acidity, which is so important.

‘The structure is also a very distinguishing factor I think; it all hangs on those tannins, nothing harsh and not flabby. It’s not too oaked and not too sweet either,’ he says, his enthusiasm infectious.

MacLachlan still tries to immerse himself in his oenophile pursuits, with ...pursued by bear now offering three separate years, albeit still in equally small quantities of around 300 cases.

‘We’ll keep the project going for as long as we can,’ he adds. ‘The 2007 is in the bottle, I’d like to leave it there for another year but you know how it is. Then there’s the 2008 still in the barrel, which we’ll probably bottle this fall, or perhaps early winter.’

MacLachlan will return to his roots again in the autumn, when the year’s grapes are ready for harvest. Despite his highprofile city life in Los Angeles and New York, he can still visit Walla Walla with minimum fuss, and this is extended to the wine brand of his creation; precious little suggests MacLachlan's involvement with ...pursued by bear, unlike many celebritybacked consumer products.

‘The promotion side of things has been easier for me, that’s true,’ MacLachlan adds. ‘But I wanted it to be something that was definitely not a vanity project.

I wanted people to buy it for the quality of the product, and perhaps afterwards, they might discover who’s behind it.’

 

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