Monday, November 3, 2008

MacMurray Ranch

Through Les Dames d'Escoffier Jennifer was recently invited to visit with actress and producer Kate MacMurray on MacMurray Ranch in Sonoma County, and she invited me along. We spent several days prior tasting many of the region's wines, collecting knowledge and bottles as we sipped. The visit to this illustrious and very private ranch was the highlight of the trip. This story will enchant you with the notion of a vineyard wedding, I promise.Here is the original homestead from 1846, owned by one family until 1941 when Fred MacMurray, one of Hollywood's best-loved actors, bought the ranch. He raised cattle in the valley, but now it is home to some of Sonoma's finest vineyards.
A pretty view of the valley bed and some of the vineyards.
The Oregon trail crossed the property. We were lucky to see some original wagons which are removed from their protective storage once a year for a private event.
Jennifer and I tasting some delicious MacMurray pinot noir, overlooking the Russian River. Heaven!
Ernest & Julio Gallo purchased the ranch from the MacMurray family in the 70's and have been committed to restoring and maintaining the beauty of the property.
Some of the impressive trees on the property are said to be over 300 years old. The Gallos work to preserve these, the homestead and the property. One precious remnant from Fred MacMurray's time is the split rail fence he made himself with good friend, John Wayne.
Here is the table set for us in the original part of the homestead. What a beautiful and simple table. It set the stage for the delicious dinner to follow.
Every detail of our meal and visit was attended to. We had several bottles of reserve wine -- each paired to the dishes we were served.
The chef cooked in the original, albeit improved kitchen.
Before dinner we sat on the porch which Fred MacMurray had built-on to the original house. We were served shrimp cooked on an open fire in rock salt in a cast-iron pot. The salt is heated to 450 degrees before the shrimp is added. This would be an impressive wedding first course or hors d'oeuvres station! Notice the grape vine place mat.
Some of the vines on the hillsides. Harvest had just occurred, with picking done before dawn with spotlights to get chilly, dew-covered grapes. If they are picked hot from the sun they begin to ferment, affecting the taste of the wine.
A great shot of the Russian River Valley. We're about 70 miles from San Francisco, a short distance from our home base of Healdsburg.
Here you see the original barn. Every part of the ranch is in impeccable condition. We were greeted by a Ernest & Julio Gallo wine "Ambassador", who gave us the grand tour of the property and vineyard. That's a job I would like in another lifetime...
The entrance to the ranch. The Gallo company has worked to preserve the 1500 acre property, and it truly shows. MacMurray Ranch produces Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris crafted by their Australian winemaker, Susan Doyle. If you are intrigued by these wines, or just want to imagine being in Sonoma, they can be purchased at many New York City wine shops.

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