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The Wine, Science, and People Behind MacRostie Winery & Vineyards

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By Sophie Brochu

MacRostie’s brand director Don Davis explains the importance of forming long-term relationships, staying true to one’s roots, and why cryptography is not so different than winemaking.

Describe MacRostie Winery & Vineyards in one sentence.

MacRostie has been a pioneer of cool climate winemaking in Sonoma since 1987, with a focus on creating a bright and medium bodied, yet complex series of wines.

Heidi Bridenhagen was named winemaker at the age of 29. She’s now been with MacRostie for a decade. What makes her approach to winemaking unique?

Our head winemaker, Heidi, is absolutely meticulous and very scientific in her approach to wine. She was actually a biochemistry major at the University of Colorado Boulder, so she is always experimenting and trying new things. She puts a lot of effort into everything she does—including literally hundreds of micro half ton fermentation each year—to give herself the maximum flexibility in the blending of her wines. But I would say, in summary, her meticulous attention to detail and curiosity to continue to push herself and her winemaking from year-to-year is what makes her unique.

Head winemaker Heidi Bridenhagen.

What should people know about MacRostie?

In 1970, Steve MacRostie was in the army stationed in northern Italy, near the border of then Yugoslavia, serving as a cryptologist. It was there that he developed his love for wine. That wine was on the table of every neighborhood trattoria.

When he got back from serving in the Army, he decided he was going to make wine for a living. He was one of the very early graduates of the UC Davis enology program, which quickly became one of the leading programs in the world.

So he started as a cryptologist, unveiling codes, and that’s a lot of what winemaking is about—unlocking the codes of the grapes, the weather, the soil, and when to pick, et cetera. There’s so many hundreds of decisions that a winemaker makes and it’s all about cracking a code with each vintage.

Founder Steve MacRostie circa 1975.

What misconceptions do people have about wine?

That good wine has to be expensive. I always say good wine is whatever the heck you like. And there’s great wine being made in many states throughout this country and literally dozens of countries around the world. I would encourage people to explore and try lots of different styles of wines.

“I always say good wine is whatever the heck you like.”

How does MacRostie stand out from other wineries or vineyards?

In addition to our commitment to a bright, balanced style of wine that is both wonderful with food and without, it’s all about the relationships we develop with our guests. The essence of our brand is about deep personal relationships. We want to get to know guests first and make sure we can be trusted guides in their wine journey. It’s important to develop long-term relationships and create new advocates for our wine all over the country.

What are you most proud of?

Since 1987, we’ve focused almost exclusively on pinot noir and chardonnay. We’ve never strayed from our focus. As a winery, we’ve grown stylistically, but we’ve stayed very true to our roots. 

What bottle does everyone need for the holiday season?

Our limited 2019 MacRostie sparkling brut. It’s absolutely perfect. Bubbly is really underrated for being a great wine all the time. It’s not just for celebrations or parties. It’s extremely food friendly and goes with a wide array of foods. In fact, one of my all-time favorite pairings is sparkling wine and French fries.

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