Celebrity wines aren’t exactly a new trend: From Francis Ford Coppola to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, to Jon Bon Jovi, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Sting, many a famous name has placed itself behind a wine brand. The rarity is to find a celebrity as involved in their winemaking business as acclaimed actor Kyle MacLachlan of “Twin Peaks” fame.
As part of VinePair’s Great Drinks Experience, MacLachlan and Pursued by Bear winemaker Dan Wampfler joined VinePair CEO Adam Teeter and co-host Zach Geballe for a live recording of the VinePair podcast last week. During the episode, we discuss how MacLachlan and Wampfler became connected to the Washington wine world; why the state can compete with any other growing region on the planet; and how MachLachlan got his start acting — and wine drinking — to impress a girl.
From blending to barrel selection, MacLachlan and Wampfler work hand-in-hand to ensure each of their wines is exactly what they intend it to be: a reflection of Washington State’s great vineyards, and a diligent winemaking approach.
Or Check Out Our Conversation Here
Adam: My name is Adam. I’m one of the co-founders of VinePair. On your screen you’ll also see Zach, one of my co-hosts. Erica could not be with us tonight, our third co-host. We have Dan and Kyle who are on to talk to us about their wines. We’re going to record the podcast live. What that means for all of you out there is that you’re going to hear how it all happens. We’re going to do a quick intro to the podcast like we normally would, Zach and I will have some banter, then we’re going to go straight to Kyle and Dan. Until then, they’re just going to sit awkwardly on the screen, and that’s fine because at least Kyle has a cool background.
Zach: Dan, show them where you are!
Kyle: Dan has a light! Dan’s in a nice setting.
Dan: Hey, you guys!
A: We’re going to talk through all of these wines. There’s going to be time at the end for you to submit your questions. They can be submitted on your Q&A tab on your screen. With that in mind, Zach, are you ready to go?
Z: Let’s do it.
A: All right cool, we’re recording. From Brooklyn, New York, I’m Adam Teeter.
Z: And in Seattle, Washington, I’m Zach Geballe.
A: And this is the VinePair Podcast. Zach, what’s going on man?
Z: You look great. I’m jealous. We’re doing this one live, and I can see you. You’ve gotten a haircut. For those of you who are watching this live can tell perhaps, that I did not.
A: I had to commit, finally. It’s receding, so it’s done.
Z: It’s a good look. I might have to do the same.
A: Thank you very much! It’s funny that we’re doing a live podcast because it’s now 9 p.m. in New York and it’s only 6 p.m. on the West Coast. We’ve already had two of these sessions tonight. I just had a great session talking with Marc Farrell, the founder of Ten to One Rum, so I’ve had some rum.
Kyle: I’m jealous!
A: We’ve already heard from one of our guests, who I’m super excited to welcome on the podcast. Without further ado, I want to welcome Kyle MacLachlan of Pursued by Bear Wine and Dan Wampfler of Pursued by Bear and Abeja. Did I say that right, Dan?
Dan: Yes, you did. You nailed it. Abeja, which is Spanish for “honeybee.”
A: Awesome. Kyle and Dan, thank you for joining us. We appreciate it.
K: Great to be here. Thanks for having us on, Adam and Zach. This is great.
A: As many know, I tease Zach about living in Washington.
K: That’s fine with me.
A: I would love to know from both of you, initially, what makes Washington wine so special. A lot of people who are wine drinkers in the United States mostly think about California when it comes to wine. But Zach especially has been pushing me for years that the wines from Washington State are amazing. Kyle, I know you had friends encourage you to start a winery. So why Washington State? What is it about Washington State that draws people to wines?
K: I grew up on the east side. I’m from Yakima originally. Eastern Washington runs in my blood. Growing up there — it was the kind of place where you grow up and want to leave, to go seek your fortune, so to speak. It was surprising to me that I found myself back there, really enchanted with what was happening in the wine world. I learned about it simply by tasting wines, and my eyes were opened. I thought, no one seems to be talking about them. I realized, this is a legitimate place to make stuff that’s world-class. That started me thinking about how I might get involved. Through a circuitous route, I met up with Dan, and he’s been involved since 2005 or 2006, when I first started.
A: Dan, what about you? Are you from Washington State originally?
D: No, I’m from Michigan originally. I moved out to Washington in 2000 or 2001. I have an undergrad and masters degree in wine production from Michigan State. I moved out to Washington to take a job as the research winemaker for Ste. Michelle Wines Estates back when it went under a different name.
D: I moved from research through production, large to small to family-operated.
A: If you were to synthesize Washington State wines, could you both do it? When we think of Napa, we think of Cab. When we think of Oregon, we go to Willamette and we say Pinot. What should we think about as consumers, when it comes to Washington?
D: We can do anything. Maybe not Pinot yet, but we’re still planting. When I moved out 20 years ago, it wasn’t a mature industry. It was a maturing industry that still had critical mass of quality producers and scale. It wasn’t agri-tourism. It was a wine industry. That was exciting to me. Since I’ve been a part of the industry, the fruit quality in the vineyards, the vineyard management, and wine production has continued to raise the bar. What sets us apart from any other industry that I’ve witnessed, is the camaraderie. A high tide raises all boats. With that comes a high tide and a high bar of wine and fruit quality.
K: I completely agree. As Dan said, we can do anything there and anything well. We take inspiration from Bordeaux. We take inspiration from Napa, but we’re not imitating. We have our own flavor profile in Washington state, and it’s a good one. As I got involved in it, I was as surprised as anyone to learn that you really can grow anything there, apart from Pinot as Dan mentioned, but that’s still to come. It’s amazing. You can find anything in abundance and in quality.
Z: I want to ask about one of my favorite varieties here in Washington, Syrah. We have a Syrah here, the Baby Bear from Pursued by Bear. I know Dan, you also make a Syrah at Abeja. Syrah is the variety that I point to a lot when trying to explain what’s possible here in Washington, but our viewers and listeners are probably sick of me saying it. Why don’t you guys say it? And talk about Syrah in particular. We’ll come back to the Baby Bear that I’m drinking right now. What is it about Syrah in Washington that makes for really amazing wine?
D: Syrah is a winemaker’s wine. I’ll explain that. I’ll pick on Chardonnay for a second. Chardonnay, we can steer as winemakers in so many different directions. It’s not that we can overcome terroir, but we can push it one direction or another with so many different winemaking techniques using barrels and yeast. We can do the same thing with Syrah. It’s a very diverse grape in its flavor profile. It’s also sexy in every single one of those categories, whether it’s Old World or New World. It’s a sexy variety from bookend to bookend.
K: I was just drinking some, and I felt very sexy there.
A: Can you go back to the beginning of the creation of Pursued by Bear and tell us a little bit about the name of the winery? It’s a famous direction from a play in Shakespeare. What was the real desire to create a winery? There are a lot of wineries out there that are owned by celebrities, but you’re very hands on. That’s different.
K: I spend a lot of time there, in Dan’s guest bedroom downstairs. It started with a desire to get home more frequently. My career keeps me between New York and Los Angeles a lot, and my dad was still living at the time, in Yakima. I thought this would be something that we could share together, embarking on a journey. I entered into it with no expectations, not thinking it takes three years before your harvest is actually ready to drink, minimum. I just wanted to jump in with both feet without much thinking. That was made possible by my former winemaker Eric Dunham, as Dunham Cellars. He was my introduction into wine in Washington and the community. It really is a community of like-minded people. Crazy, but all like-minded. We do support each other and revel in each other’s differences. We all strive to create world-class wine. We share this common passion and goal. “Pursued by bear” is a smaller portion of a longer stage direction that goes “Exit, pursued by a bear,” which happens in Act III, Scene III of Shakespeare’s play, “The Winter’s Tale.” It’s the most specific, strange, esoteric stage direction he ever wrote. It made me laugh, the idea that the actor gets chased off stage by a bear. It seemed so appropriate to what I was trying to do. It also harkened back to my day job, working as an actor. I grew up going to school in Washington. I was in the theater department there. I graduated in 1982 and was going to go seek my fortune as a repertory theater actor. It all seemed to make sense to me. It was more cohesive when I started. Just jumping in, I met Eric and this idea of making wine was something that had been on my mind for a while. When I finally asked him, I asked if he would partner with me. He said, “Yeah, what do you like to drink?” I said Cabernet, and he said let’s make Cabernet. It was really just that casual, handshake kind of deal. For those of us who knew Eric remember him as being completely like that. Your word is your word. Shake hands and have some fun. Dan came into that family shortly after I met Eric. We were a band of brothers there for a while.
D: I don’t think we shook hands. It was more like shots and hugs at that point, throwing back bottles of Cabernet and Syrah.
K: That’s how we roll in Washington.
Z: Shots and hugs is what Adam and I do when we hang out in person.
A: Which is never. You do live on the other side of the country.
Z: It happens.
D: You guys have cheap shots you can take. That’s the shots and the hugs that you have.
A: Did you buy land? Did you think about that? How much are you taking from growers? How much was it a real trial by fire? There’s a lot of people that think they can start a wine label and figure it out.
K: I was totally way in over my head. I partnered with some really smart people that knew what they were doing. I just jumped in with the idea that this could be a fun adventure. I liked the people I was meeting. I enjoyed the community. When you’re from the east side, whether Yakima or Walla Walla, and there’s some similarities there, when families get together they don’t talk about the east side as much. We’re the black sheep. I had terrific guidance, and I was genuinely interested in learning. I didn’t sit back. I wanted to know where the grapes were being sourced from. I wanted to learn about the AVAs and the sites. I found the process fascinating. It kept me going. It was also a great excuse to grab my dad, jump in the car, drive to Walla Walla, hang out with the Dunhams, taste wine, and have a great time. That was a big part of it in the beginning. I had considered Napa for about 30 seconds, until I started thinking about how much it was going to cost to buy a ton of grapes. It was way outside of my range.
A: Now it costs even more.
K: Washington made much more sense. To be honest, it was the story. My wife reminds me: She says, you’re from Washington. That’s the story right there. One thing my wife really understands is how to tell a story. All signs were pointing in that direction.
Z: You guys have both talked about the experience of making a wine. There’s a whole component of the industry in Washington that’s maturing that has to do with wine tourism. Dan, I know that at Abeja that’s a big part of what goes on. Can you guys talk about what the experience is like to visit Walla Walla? Right now, we’re in a period of time where people traveling to visit isn’t happening so much. In whatever normal times will be, what is that experience like?
D: Walla Walla is four hours from Portland, Boise, and Seattle. We operate a country inn, a luxury inn on our 30-acre parcel. We have the ability to accommodate 28 people. There are weekends where we are booked 100 percent from people outside of the country. Not now. Everyone that’s coming now is driving, and we are still fully booked: This weekend, last weekend, this coming weekend. We’re in Phase Two. Walla Walla is magical because when you head over from Seattle, for example, you go over the mountains and the trees fade away right around Ellensburg. You roll into Walla Walla and it’s lush and filled with vineyards. It’s filled with good people and a quaint downtown. We have some of the best wines and accommodations, but it’s our people that make us stand above, with the best areas of the world.
A: Talk about the relationship you two have. Kyle, you’re very involved with the wine, but Dan you’re the winemaker. How does that work? There’s always the curiosity wondering how it works when someone is the owner-proprietor and not the winemaker, but they’re very involved in the winemaking process. Kyle, how often are you at the winery? Are you helping crush? What are you doing with blending and tasting? Dan, how much are you agreeing with him or not?
D: I will say on Kyle’s behalf, this is by far and away, not a vanity project. Kyle comes to town, less so now, but quite often. We pick vineyard sites together. We pick barrels. We do barrel trials together. We blend every single blend together. Now, we’re sending samples his way. He and I will taste back and forth with samples that were pulled from the same barrels at the same time. We’ll go through and compare notes. We’ve got our beakers and our graduated cylinders and our pipets. We’re doing the blends, and we’re sharing spreadsheets. Kyle’s very involved. That’s the exciting part. He’s inquisitive. He knows what he likes, and he has a phenomenal palate. He knows what he doesn’t like. We agree on most things, but we steer together. Kyle?
K: I feel like I’ve got my brother here next to me when we do our blending and our tasting. We really get along. We see the direction of the brand headed in the same way. I love going up as much as I can get there: participating in the blending, visiting the vineyard sites, talking about the barrels and what we’ll use each year, how much neutral and new, and new sites coming up. Dan was a member of the Washington Wine Commission, and I think you still are. He knows everybody there. He knows all the growers. He’s got great relationships with so many of them. I bring a little bit from my side, like getting introduced to these French oak barrels that we use which are just phenomenal. They work so well with the big red fruits that we get from Washington State. It just pairs beautifully. That was my contribution in coming into the relationship when I first started. There were sources that Dunham was using that I used as well. Then I began to branch out from that as I began to explore. One of the sites that I love is Hugh Shiel’s place, Dubrul. He’s got a wonderful site in Washington. The fruit that comes off of there is very special. You get more and more involved. I lean on Dan for so much. He’s got a terrific palate and his wife has an extraordinary palate. We both rely on her. It really is a partnership. We’re in this together. I’m really flexible and open. I know what direction we want to go in. I feel like I get the same response from Dan. We’re both heading in the same way. We really work well together.
Z: Adam, we should talk about these wines.
A: Yes fine, Zach. We can.
A: The first one I want to talk about is Blushing Bear. It was one of our top rosés two years ago. It’s a phenomenal wine. I’d love Kyle, if you talked with us about it. How long have you made a rosé for?
K: Not long: 2015 was the first vintage. It was more like: Everyone is making a rosé, we should make a rosé. Hey Dan! Let’s make a rosé. I wanted to copy the French. There’s a rosé that comes out of the Bandol region. It’s some of my favorite. I was clueless. I didn’t know if we could get the varietals for it in Washington.
D: Mind you, he asked in August. “Hey, can we get this?” I said, “I’ll see what I can do.”
K: Which is why we came up with 75 cases for that first vintage. When we did it, it was phenomenal. When you blend Grenache and Mourvèdre, at the time we had Cinsault as well, you put those varietals together in the right combination and you get that same sort of acid and bright quality that comes with Washington. You have yourself a really fantastic rosé that’s got bite and mineral and flavors and aromas. 2015 was our first, and we’ve made it every year since then. We’ve upped our production higher than 75 cases. We’re still under 500, I think.
A: How much are you producing total?
K: This year we’re right around 2,000 cases.
A: Can you find the wine in all 50 states?
K: We distribute in roughly 18 states, the U.K., and Japan.
A: Oh, Japan! It’s pursuedbybearwine.com, right?
A: I love this wine. The fruit is really present. It’s insanely refreshing. There’s a nice quality of lemon and strawberry. It’s everything you want in a rosé.
K: Yes. There’s a little grapefruit and guava in there. We’re both going for something that’s light and refreshing, but it has a little bit of a mouthfeel. It has a nice finish. It’s great chilled. It’s also nice slightly below room temperature. If it gets up to cellar temp, or even a little more, the aromatics come out. You can enjoy it on that level as well.
D: We don’t saignée. Everything is farmed and brought in as rosé. Everything is brought in and we whole- cluster press. We leave it in the press long, we go to our fermentation vessels, we ferment everything in separate lots, then we blend at the end. It’s a true rosé wine, in that it’s not an afterthought. It’s start to finish, our outcome goal.
A: Dan, for our listeners and viewers who don’t understand what saignée is, can you explain that?
K: He’s a singer from… never mind.
D: Saignée is French, meaning “to bleed.” If you have a tank full of red fruit, you open a valve and you bleed off some of the free run. 99 percent of all red skin grapes produce white juice. It’s that skin contact time that extracts the pigments, colors, and tannins. Intentionally, we bring in the fruit for rosé, we keep the fruit in contact in the press, as opposed to just bleeding off from a Cabernet Franc or a Mourvedre, or whatever the varietal is. That’s a much more challenging circumstance to get the color and the aromas. When you nail it, it’s so much more pure, less tannic, sexy, and elegant.
Z: Don’t you have the benefit that the grapes are grown to make rosé? The wine is not a bi-product of making the red wine.
D: Exactly right.
Z: I wanted to ask Dan really quickly about this Chardonnay that I’m drinking. I’ve always been a big fan of the Abeja Chardonnay. On the label here, it just says “Washington State.” Why is that?
D: Great question. First, I want to mention, as the winemaker at Abeja, I’m not the only one. My wife is my co-winemaker. We make all winemaking decisions together. We’re on family vacation, so she has taken the kids in the other room, so there’s no dogs barking or kids interrupting. We’ve been on multiple Zoom calls … anyway.
A: That’s what life is. That’s normal now.
D: It is. To answer your question: Washington State for two reasons. One, we have three different styles of Chardonnay. This is Washingtonian in style. You can help me answer how we make that Washingtonian style, but it’s the acidity, the ripeness, and the character. Second of all, a significant portion of the fruit comes from the Celilo Vineyard outside of the Columbia Valley AVA, from the Columbia Gorge AVA. Because of the percentage difference, it’s also Washington State, as opposed to the Gorge or Walla Walla or Columbia Valley.
Z: You guys can tune in later for my Celilo Vineyards seminar that will only be attended by me and Dan. Dan, can you talk about the winemaking approach? You said Washingtonian, and you nailed the key points here of an expression of ripe fruit with still a lot of acid. What is it in the winemaking process or the thought process that allows you to find this balance of generosity of fruit while still preserving acidity?
D: Fruit source, fermentation style: Is it cool? Are we whole-cluster pressing? What juice are we choosing? Are we new oak? Are we stainless? Are we a balance? All of those decisions play into the steering. Like I led with, Chardonnay can be manipulated as a winemaker in so many different styles and directions. We’re not trying to push it respectfully in a Burgundian way. We’re not trying to push it respectfully in a Chablis way. We’re trying to keep it not tone deaf from where the fruit comes from, which is a blend of several different vineyards. Solilo, our estate vineyard in Walla Walla, and a vineyard based in the Columbia Valley Central. It has the blend of fruit, acidity, and ripeness. It has the blend of texture. My wife and I are all about texture in the wine. We use 100 percent French oak in this wine, although not 100 percent new. There’s a significant percentage of experienced oak. We’re not trying to create “Chateaux Two by Four.” We’re trying to get oak and toast levels to frame the fruit and give it lift and celebrate what those vineyards have to offer.
A: Zach, you opened Baby Bear. I did not.
Z: I did! Adam’s saving that for a more important night than this, apparently.
K: I’ll send you some more.
A: Do you want to talk about that wine as well?
Z: Yeah! Before I give my thoughts, let’s hear from Kyle and Dan. What’s the approach here? You were talking before about Syrah from Washington, that it can go in a lot of different directions. What direction is this trying to go? What do you see as being the guiding principle behind this wine?
K: The Syrah was born in 2008, the same year my son was born. That’s why we called it Baby Bear. I already had Pursued by Bear, so I was stuck with Baby Bear, and off we went. If you can’t make a good Syrah in Washington, you should probably just get out of the business. It’s just the grape that works. I was attracted to the Dunham brand initially because of Eric’s Syrah, his single vineyard Syrah. When I got into the world and we were making Cabernet, I wanted to make a Syrah as well, which we did. But, I wanted to distinguish it from what Eric was doing. In order to make the difference, we brought in special barrels. We were using the same vineyard sources as Eric, from the Columbia AVA and Horse Heaven AVA , which is a fantastic AVA, closer to the Columbia River. There’s still wild mustangs up on that plateau, so they say. Pretty cool spot. We decided to use a large-format barrel to age this. We got a 600-liter puncheon barrel. They’re just beautiful. They’re gigantic. They hold 50 cases of wine. The idea is that you’ve got more liquid in the vessel and less contact with the staves.
D: The surface area to volume ratio is more generous.
K: Chemist right there talking: That’s exactly right. I started to experiment with aging. We started off as a traditional 22 month, 24 months the first few vintages. 26 months, then I started pushing to 28 months, 30 months, 32 months. I held back before we got to 34 months. This is almost three years in barrel. I would taste it and think it was phenomenal. As Dan says, the barrel gives you its oak, and then it stops. Then it’s basically holding the wine. It’s softening, and the tannins are refining. It’s so cool. I could do this because I didn’t need to move it to market as quickly as some wineries. This is not the way I’m making a living, thank god. My living is paying for this experience. It allowed me to be a little more experimental. The blending hasn’t changed much. It’s these two vineyards. The ratio varies sometimes depending on how much comes in: 60/40, 50/50. We do a little bit sur lie. One of the barrels, sometimes we’ll let that just add to the mouthfeel of the wine. Whatever we set in motion from the very beginning, that’s how we’ve kept it from the get-go. No Viognier in sight, this is just 100 percent pure Syrah.
D: We’ve tried to blend different fruit sources almost every year, almost. We keep coming back to this. It works. The two components on their own are great. We’ve had other components on their own that are better. There’s been no better blend between the two. As Kyle said: 60/40, sur lie aging. When we first started doing the sur lie, the cellar crew and even Kyle said it was rough. I said, “Hold on.” We kept it in the barrels, and a couple months later, the chocolate fudge brownie of red wines evolved. Egad! We’ve got it. Let’s do this. Between the puncheons, between the sur lie, and between those two 50/50 blends, we’ve created a unique blend that’s magical.
Z: You mentioned earlier, Dan, texture. That’s a really important thing for understanding these kinds of wines. The flavor in Syrah is important for sure, but when you get a well-made Syrah, which this certainly is, you get that really beautiful, smooth wine. There’s enough that grabs on that almost velcro-y, but it’s not abrasive.
A: You’re making me regret that I should’ve opened the bottle. Not cool.
Z: Adam, it’s not that late. It’s only 9:30 in New York. You can still open the bottle.
A: Now I’m actually glad I’m saving it, though. You guys are making it sound like it’s absolutely incredible, but I’m also missing out a lot. I’m sure people at home or listening on the podcast are feeling that way as well. You should buy some at pursuedbybearwine.com. In terms of the Cabernet, which is the last wine we have from Abeja, I am curious. I’ve had a lot of winemakers say to me that Washington is going to be the next Napa. It’s the future, because of climate change. We’re getting questions that I’m watching come in during the Q&A that are asking about that as well. Is Washington the next Napa because of climate change? Will there be better Cabernet made in Washington than in Napa. I’m curious to hear your thoughts. What happens to Cabernet in Napa? Both of you? What do you think Cabernet can do in Washington? Are these people correct? Will climate change really move up how we think about Washington as the country’s premier growing site? As we all know, Cabernet being the most popular grape in America is not changing any time soon. What does that mean?
D: Wait a minute. You’re saying that Washington isn’t already the most premier Cabernet area?
K: My thoughts exactly, Dan.
A: Fine, fine.
D: I was going to go with my standard Zoom joke where I just mouth the words, and people say you’re on mute. I realized this is not the time for it. I appreciate you teeing that up for me. I’m not a climatologist, but I do believe the global warming trend is continuing to show itself. We are intentionally planting at higher and higher elevations. We are watching crop loads throughout the season each year. In some of the hottest years, like 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008, and some of the coolest years that we’ve experienced in 2010 and 2011, crop load is a huge thing. You get the ripeness of the grapes across the finish line, but you have to get them there at the right time. We work with our grower intimately to make sure that we’re pacing with what’s going on in the growing season, as well as being connected to the site specificity. We are making as good a Cabernet as anyone in the world already. We’ve been doing so for over a decade, different than, but as well as. As more attention is drawn to Washington State, more and more people fall in love with it, then we’re able to over-deliver on quality at the price points because our farming costs are less, and our labor costs are less. Our water costs are less. All these things are being pressured, so it’ll start going up, too, but we’re nowhere near in the economic stresses of Napa. There’s some amazing Cabernets, that are world class, that are coming out of Washington. It’s not a new thing.
A: This wine’s amazing.
D: Well, we have a good team.
K: The Cab is great. You know, Washington is hot. Time will tell as to whether global warming, because it’s impacting different parts of the world in different ways, how much of an impact it’s going to have. It remains to be seen. As Dan mentioned, higher elevations are a little bit cooler. It’s been hot here though. We fight that. Canopy management becomes really important. Washington is a different fall-off. When we get to fall and temperatures begin to change, they don’t drop gradually and nicely like in California. They go along and then they drop off the edge of a cliff. As Dan said, you’ve got to know when to bring your fruit in and harvest. That’s a critical time. Fortunately, Dan is good at anticipating that and knowing when the fruit needs to come off and when it needs to be sheltered.
D: We have a couple of advantages as well. One, we don’t have the fog rolling in. We’ve got cool nights. We don’t have the humidity stresses. Yes, we have mildew pressure like any growing region, but we don’t have it to the extreme that other regions do. We also have the diurnal shift that everyone talks about when they nerd out about wine. It can be 100 degrees at night during an August growing day. It can cool down to 58 degrees, like in Arizona. That diurnal shift allows the ripeness and intensity during the day, then it cools down and lets the vines rest at night.
Z: The other thing that Dan mentioned that’s important here is that there’s a lot of opportunity in Washington to add additional plantings to go up on hillsides. Napa is pretty much planted out at this point. A lot of those warmer vineyard sights, valley floor, are stuck. For now and in the past, it worked to their benefit. If we continue to see more heat and less cooling influence from fog and airflow, that becomes more of a problem because there’s nowhere else to plant grapes. Washington has a lot of land under vine, but only a tiny fraction of what the potential is here in the state. That’s a good resource, although planting vineyards is expensive. It takes a while for them to be usable, but at least it’s a longer-term possibility.
K: Zach, correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure there are less acres planted in the state of Washington than in Napa.
A: Zach, you’re the somm. Come on!
Z: I’m not a walking encyclopedia.
A: You are.
Z: I would bet that it’s relatively comparable. Washington might have a little more land under vine than Napa at this point. That’s just an educated guess. All of you listening can Google that and tell me how wrong I am.
D: Anybody from the Washington Wine Commission could answer that.
A: The wines are amazing, but I’m seeing a lot of questions come in from viewers. And I have some myself that might not be related to wine. But let’s be honest, they’re also related to some of the characters you’ve played, Kyle. I’ve got to ask one first. Are you a Cosmo drinker?
K: Any port in the storm, I say.
A: Another one from viewers: If Agent Cooper was a wine, what wine would he be?
K: That’s a good question. Let me see. He’d be a Bordeaux. He’d be something classic. The reason I say Bordeaux is because when I met David Lynch in 1983, and I screen tested for “Dune,” which is the first thing David and I worked on together, when I finished my screen test, I came back to my hotel room, no idea how I’d done, and there was a bottle of Lynch Bages sitting on the table in my little hotel room. It was a gift from David, his way of saying thank you. He wasn’t making all of the decisions about the cast, but it was a really nice gesture. Since then, we’ve traded Lynch Bages all the time. It’s our thing. Cooper is a big part of David, obviously, so I would go with a Bordeaux, even a great vintage of Lynch Bages, like 1990 or 1996. We’ll call him that.
A: Okay. Another one that’s pretty good: If a great wine script came to you that highlighted Washington wines like “Sideways” or “Bottleshock,” would you consider acting in it or helping produce it? Can you think of a movie that would be that movie?
K: Sounds like a writer or a producer. I consider everything. I look at everything. I love to read. I love stories. It comes down to quality. Is it a good story?
A: That’s a fair point.
D: Washington wine is a good story, so I would encourage him to take the role or direct it.
K: That’s what we want to hear!
A: In terms of Pursued by Bear, you don’t make any white wines, correct?
K: We do not. Rosé is as close as we get.
A: Are there plans to make white?
K: No plans, although Dan and his wife make a Semillon that I had six months or a year ago when I was there.
K: Was it? Are you sure? It wasn’t Semillon?
D: We don’t make a Semillon. Pretty sure.
K: Must’ve been a different Dan, then.
D: Respectfully. Respectfully, we don’t. Well, maybe we will now.
K: That’s how much I’d had to drink. Anyway, it was extraordinary. No real plans at the moment. It’s tough. Although if I were to make one, Dan and his wife are extraordinary winemakers. We would come up with something fantastic. The idea of a label is so exciting, white wine and what we can do with that. I have five wines now: Pursued by Bear; Baby Bear Syrah, and rosé; the Bear Cub which is a new, lower price point wine which actually goes back to the original blend of the Pursued by Bear. Cab, Merlot, and Syrah. After 15 years, we go back to the original blend because the Pursued by Bear is moving more towards a traditional Bordeaux style. Then I have a single vineyard that I do out of the Walla Walla AVA that’s just been labeled and bottled, called “Twin Bear.” It’s super-small production at 93 cases. It’s a fun little thing to do. It’s beautiful: Cabernet, single vineyard, really elegant. I’ve got my hands full.
A: This one’s not the most fair question, but it’s to both of you. If you were to pick a favorite wine you make, which one?
K: What do you think, Dan?
D: Favorite wine that we make? Whatever’s in my glass right now, so I’ve got four. Favorite wine is like picking your favorite child. We all have one, you just don’t tell your spouse. Just kidding, both of our children are amazing. We don’t bottle anything that we don’t already have a great deal of pride and love for. I love all of these wines, otherwise they wouldn’t make it to the bottle. It depends on the season. If I’m in the middle of a winter night in a hot tub, I’m going to reach for a Cabernet. If I’m on the porch in the summer drinking a Chardonnay, I’m a happy camper. Right now, the rosé is singing. That’s a challenging question to answer. It depends on what I’m eating and what I’m doing.
K: I’m really in love with the Bear Cub right now. We just did it in 2016. It has a difficult past. 2016 in Washington was a big year. It was a year that I decided to up production a little bit. I went a little crazy with my wish list. We sourced from a lot of places. Suddenly, instead of producing 500 cases of Pursued by Bear, I had up to 1,500 cases of Pursued by Bear. I said, that’s not going to work. We’ve got to do something with this extra wine. We made the Pursued by Bear. We picked the best lots. Then we picked lots that were almost as good. We turned them into Bear Cub. It gave me a chance to go back to the original blend, at 6 and 7 percent of Syrah in the Bear Cub blend. That was really fun. It was nice to be able to go back and made the wine like we made Pursued by Bear. The Syrah gives it an immediacy. It’s immediately friendly. It’s available. It’s got beautiful aromatics. Because it’s a little unexpected, I’m really digging the Bear Cub right now.
A: Final question: Can both of you think of the first wine you had in your lives that was interesting? That you wanted to know more about? Either in order to make wine or because it was fun to drink. Whatever that was for you, do you have that?
D: I’ll go first. I started brewing beer when I was in high school. I fell in love with fermentation science. Beer led me to wine because I didn’t want to brew beer. You can do that in two weeks. I didn’t want to do distillation because I don’t have 15 years of patience.
K: You’re making it sound so scientific. You were in high school, man! You were making stuff so you could get trashed. Come on.
D: I was really popular in college being the fermentation guy, for sure. My dad, who’s not a traditional wine drinker, he’s a “Miller-Light-after-mowing-the-lawn” kind of guy, he was out at a business dinner, and everyone was around the table discussing what they had brought or what was on the menu or what the most expensive wine was that they’d ever consumed. My dad listened to everyone’s story, and they said, how about you, Dave? He said, “As a matter of fact, I have a case of wine in my basement that was 40 grand.” Everybody was shocked. It was wine that’s a varietal from northern Minnesota. I figured my son’s college tuition was about 40 grand, and this was his senior project, so he gave me a case of it, and it was like, “All right, you win.”
K: I love that story. Mine isn’t quite the same, although admit it, Dan. You were making alcohol so you could get girls. That’s why I got into acting. It’s all about that. In high school, I had a girlfriend, Heidi. I would go over to her house with her family for dinner. We would sit at the table, a proper dinner, the whole family was there. We each got to drink a glass of wine with dinner. I didn’t even know what it was, but it made me feel super grown up. It was a nice wine. That started me thinking in the wine world. That’s my story.
A: Awesome. Dan, Kyle, thank you both so much for joining us today. I really appreciate it. This has been amazing. Kyle, if you do want to send more Baby Bear, or other wines, feel free. I’ll send you my address. This has been amazing. The wines are great. We’ll share with everyone how you can buy both of these wines, both in the chat here as well as in the credits of the show. We really appreciate both of you.
Z: Thank you guys.
D: Thank you very much.
K: Loved it. Thanks for having us on.
A: Take care.
K: Be good. Cheers.
A: Thanks so much for listening to the VinePair podcast. If you enjoy listening to us every week please leave us a review or rating on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever it is that you get your podcasts. It really helps everyone else discover the show. Now for the credits: VinePair is produced and hosted by Zach Geballe, Erica Duecy, and me: Adam Teeter. Our engineer is Nick Patri and Keith Beavers. I’d also like to give a special shout out to my VinePair co-founder Josh Malin and the rest of the VinePair team for their support. Thanks so much for listening and we’ll see you again right here next week.
Ed. note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Published: June 30, 2020