Wine, women and stories

The story of a wine is the measure of the land and the people who call it home.

Credit: Hilary Henegar

The story of a wine is the measure of the land and the people who call it home

I love a good story. And, for me, besides the very real sensual experience, the story of a wine constitutes much of the enjoyment.

Tuesday evening’s Diva(s) at the Met event—hosted by the Wine Diva herself, Ms. Deanna Van Mulligan and held, appropriately at Diva at the Met as part of the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival—saw six women from wine regions around the globe sharing their own stories about how they came to their vocations and, more importantly, how they came to wine.

The Wine Diva, Deanna Van Mulligan

The Wine Diva, Deanna Van Mulligan

The Wine Diva, Deanna Van Mulligan

Oh, yes, we had seven wines and seven

nibblies (though only one was vegetarian…)

The Wine Diva, Deanna Van Mulligan

Kate MacMurray says, “My father’s greatest

gift to me is a love of the land.”

Each woman gave us a little piece of herself, taking us on a journey from when she first “came to wine” to a tasting of the wine she has come to represent—be it as winery owner, as marketing manager or through family ties—from swirl to swish to gurgle and finish. It was a beautiful concept for a wine tasting.

A highlight of the evening was hearing the stories of Kate MacMurray, the daughter of the famous silver screen actor Fred MacMurray (a beloved actor of mine), who told of her father’s commitment to the land.

Quoting that Gone With the Wind line, “This love of the land, there’s no gettin’ away from it if you’re Irish,” MacMurray told the story of how her (Irish) father came to buy his own ranch at the age of 32 on the Sonoma Coast. He kept it a diversified farm, eventually bringing Scottish black Angus cattle back from a trip to the “old country” and introducing the breed to California. When he died in 1991, he had three wishes for the land: that it stay in the family, that it stay in the agricultural trust and that the fence line remain contiguous. Five years later, the MacMurray family would join in partnership with the Gallo family of wine fame and go on to produce some incredible Pinot Noirs.

And indeed the Pinot Noir she shared with us—a rich, pulpy, strawberry-inflected sipping wine—tasted of a land worth getting to know. The Maritime weather of the Sonoma Coast, with its inclement weather systems, flinty air and cold nights, make for a thick grape skin, which gives the grapes a voluptuous berry quality and a velvet complexity not always found in a Pinot.

“He always believed that land defines character,” said MacMurray. And she wasn’t just speaking about grapes.

We here in BC’s Lower Mainland, just like the food we grow, are coloured and shaped by the land that supports us, with soil that is arguably some of the most fertile in the whole world. Conspiring together with the soil, the climate, the wind and, yes, rain, we are as much a part of this landscape as it a part of us.

Living in Vancouver, with the heavy influence of the sea, of those stalwart mountains and the lush, ever-giving earth beneath our feet, we are blessed with the richness of variety and the luxury of beauty. So who does that make us? What is the character we draw from such influences?