Who doesn’t remember that iconic television show from the ‘60’s and ‘70’s? Fred MacMurray played Steven Douglas, a widower and aeronautical engineer raising three exuberant young sons… Interestingly, the series was the second longest-running live action situation comedy – The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet was first…

Anyway, Fred MacMurray, born in 1908 in Kankakee, IL was quite the accomplished performer, with turns as a big band vocalist, Broadway actor and ultimately, Hollywood movie star. Personally, my favorite performance was his role as the cynical and duplicitous Lieutenant Thomas Keefer in The Caine Mutiny (1954). MacMurray became a multimillionaire acting in Hollywood and in 1941 he purchased land in the Russian River Valley in Northern California and established MacMurray Ranch. The ranch had been a homestead since the mid-19th century and possessed breathtaking views with lush, rolling hills. MacMurray spent time at the ranch when not making films, engaging in many activities, including raising prize-winning Aberdeen Angus cattle and Shorthorn Romeldale Sheep. MacMurray passed away in 1991 after a long battle with cancer and wanted the property’s agricultural heritage preserved. In 1996 the property was sold to Gallo Wines, which planted the present vineyards and started producing wine under the MacMurray Ranch label. Maintaining a connection to the history of the property, Kate MacMurray, daughter of MacMurray with renowned actress June Haver, now lives on the property (in a cabin built by her father), and, from the MacMurray Ranch website (www.macmurrayranch.com), she is “actively engaged in Sonoma’s thriving wine community, carrying on her family’s legacy and the heritage of MacMurray Ranch.”

My first experience with MacMurray ranch was back at the end of the 1990’s, early 2000’s. At the time I was impressed with the quality of the wine and the very modest price tag. If I recall correctly, the wine was produced at Gallo’s Dry Creek facility from fruit sourced from the MacMurray Ranch property, as well as other supplemental vineyards. I also recall that one year, after buying a case of the MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir, most of the bottles had a strong presence of TCA or “cork taint.” Turns out, Gallo had an issue with TCA at their Dry Creek facility, which cost them quite a bit in lost wine and winery clean-up. It was one of the first published accounts of TCA infecting wine as a result of problems at the wine making facility, as opposed to TCA infection as a result of problems with cork sterilization. Big boon to cork producers, who were taking it on the chin as a result of escalating TCA problems in wine…

I shied away from the label for a while and recently picked up a few bottles to “re-acquaint” myself with the brand. Happily, I found the wines to be quite nice, albeit a bit more expensive than when I first tried them. I tried both the Russian River Valley and Central Coast Pinot Noirs and both were classic west coast Pinot – expressive, lively fruit with good mid-palate weight and supple, well-integrated tannins. Not terribly complex, but decidedly approachable and seductive.

My tasting notes:

MacMurray Ranch 2010 Central Coast

2011 MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir Central Coast (Average Bottle Price: $26.99)

Bright, fresh and fruity nose with red berry, red currant and lavender hints. Pretty. Medium-bodied with moderate acidity and smooth, supple tannin – good balance. Youthful and fresh – bright cherry with raspberry jam notes. Moderate length – smooth and seductive – very nice. Drinking well now – not for aging.

MacMurray Ranch 2010 R. River Valley-Sonoma County

2010 MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Sonoma Coast (Average Bottle Price: $36.99)

Lush nose with deep cherry, currant and violet hints – lovely. Medium-bodied with moderate acidity and supple tannin – very well balanced. Fruity palate with a dark fruit core – black cherry and rose attar notes. Long finish – smooth and seductive – really pretty. Drinking well now and should continue to improve with 2 to 3 years in bottle.

I found both locally, comfortably discounted…