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Fred Macmurray's Wine Legacy - My Three Wines

by Darryl Beeson

"In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing,"
reads the opening of Norman Maclean's novello, "A River Runs Through It,"
painting an evocative portrait of the sons of a small-town Montana minister.
Actor Fred MacMurray, grandson of a horseback traveling Presbyterian
minister in Scotland could have written an equally to-the-heart story.
In the late 1930's, MacMurray discovered approximately 900 acres of perfect
Sonoma land, with the Russian River running through it, perfect for his love
of fly fishing. He bought it. He ranched it. In the mid 1950's, he brought
his new bride, June Haver, to his beloved retreat. Haver, groomed by Fox to
be the next Betty Grable, left the film industry wanting, and later with
their children embraced this more simple life.

""Being in Los Angeles was work, meaning daddy was in a film," remembers
daughter Kate MacMurray. "When we were back in Sonoma, as a family, we were
home." A successful screenwriter with a long career in film production in
Los Angeles, Kate MacMurray has retained a spiritual home in a quiet corner
of Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley. “Our family wanted to keep the
property in agriculture, so the idea of preserving the ranch as open space
was an immediate conversation between ourselves and the Gallos. We knew this
family takes a long-term view of the care and management of their land. They
wanted the trees, the streams, and the vineyards to be a part of the land
for many generations to come. They are a thoughtful and careful family who
appreciate the beauty of this landscape and are devoted to the history of
this ranch.”

"I joined Park Cities News publisher Marge Waters in a corner booth at the
important Dallas area restaurant, Sevy's, in the heart of the Park Cities,
with Kate MacMurray, as we both evaluated the current release wines form
MacMurray Ranch. The wines are well crafted and capture the distinctive
influence of the soil. It is hard to select what we enjoyed most- the wines,
or Kate's endearing stories about her father and life on a cattle ranch now
planted with vines.

"The old homestead still stands in the meadow. The wrought iron gate that
Fred MacMurray built still swings out onto Westside Road. Most of the
neighbors are winemakers, but a few farmers still graze cattle along the
road, signposts to a past when land was everything and the future was
measured not by ROI, i.e. return on investment, but by return from

"Kate proudly speaks about the MacMurray Ranch. "The wines honor my father
and our family who loved the land and enjoyed its bounty for over 50 years.
When I taste these wines, I have a chance to share what the ranch means to
me with people who have never had the opportunity to see its beauty and know
its history."

"The Russian River begins far to the north of Sonoma, flowing South through
a dramatic, rock-rimmed path. Near Healdsburg, the river suddenly turns
West, toward the ocean, and on its way, washes the edges of MacMurray Ranch
vineyards. The first winegrapes were brought to this region near
California’s Sonoma Coast by Russian fur traders who arrived at the start of
the 19th Century and established their base on a bluff near the mouth of the
river. This was a region rich in wild game, known for its towering redwood
groves and fertile meadows. The beauty and productiveness of the land
attracted early settlers who built homesteads in sheltered spots between the
river and the hills. Farmers raised apples, plums, grains and hops, and
always, grapes for wine. By the start of the 20th century the Russian River
Valley was already famous for its wines, which were said to have a special
character, a depth and brilliance in their flavors that come, not with ease,
from the land, the climate and very careful farming.

"Here is a quick tasting rundown. These wines should be available at most
serious wine shops. If they are not stocked, request that your source does
so. And if you are lucky, watch the movie "Where Do We Go From Here?"
(1945), the only movie in which June Haver and Fred MacMurray appeared,
while you sip the wine.

MacMurray Ranch Pinot Gris, Russian River Valley 2002
Price $23
Rating 93
Aromas of cashew butter and fresh herbs, then flavors of tropical lime,
cashew and delicate citrus floral.

Mac Murray Ranch Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast 2001
Price $20
Rating 90
A concentrated nose of brier fruit and freshly tilled earth, then crisp red
fruit with flavors of cherry and delicate earth.

MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley 2001
Price $32
Rating 92
A complex nose of black cherry with a hint of Asian spice and fresh earth,
then flavors of black cherry, subtle earth and herbal nuances.

About the Author

Darryl Beeson - Over the past decade, as sommelier or cellar master of restaurants such as The Mansion on Turtle Creek and the Adolphus Hotel's French Room, Beeson helped garner awards such as the Wine Spectator's Grand Award, Food & Wine Magazine's Best Wine List Awa