In 2002, James launched his own brand: MacPhail Family Wines. The wine business satisfies James' interest in the land, his penchant for the artistic and his pledge to service. He selects and works with growers who share his commitment to sustainable farming and understand the significance of terroir-based, singular quality wine. "My dream has been to make something from the earth that I can share with others," he says.
After making wine for six vintages in rented space, James took a step few small producers take — he built his own winery — in his back yard. Reflecting James' respect for the environment, the understated building takes advantage of natural light and night-cooling fans. The winery recycles all wastewater in a constructed wetlands. James makes wine – naturally, in small batches, by hand. He is a believer in traditional, old world techniques and minimal intervention.
Grower/winemaker James MacPhail is also the sales and marketing director. His business model is based on maintaining personal relationships with the individuals who purchase his wine as well as the restaurants and wine shops that sell his MacPhail Pinot Noir. "I take very seriously the honor of being a part of people’s tables."
With a group of dedicated growers under contract, a winery just steps from his kitchen and delicious wines in the cellar, James has made Healdsburg home for both business and family. In this small community, wine brings people together every day, enhancing both food and friendship. "This home matches my vision," says James. "It is located in a winegrowing region with a long history of agriculture and small family farming." View all MacPhail Wines
About North CoastView a map of North Coast wineries
Beyond Napa and Sonoma in the north you find a couple of other counties producing great wine. Among these are Mendocino and Lake County. The northernmost California winegrowing regions, these two counties are right above Napa and Sonoma, geographically. Yet, wine-wise they are very different – both from their southern neighbors and from each other.
Notable FactsMendocino has a high amount of organic vintners and vines. The first winery to settle here was Fetzer, which practices organic viticulture and holds some of the most vineyard land in the area. Mendocino has many pockets of micro-climates while Lake County, being smaller in size, is less diverse climactically. As for the grapes, Chardonnay is the most popular in both counties, but there are also some excellent Sauvignon Blancs, particularly in the Lake County. In red wine, Zinfandel leads the way, followed by Rhone Blends and Petite Sirah. The reds in both counties are complex and sumptuous. Anderson Valley is a sub-AVA of Mendicino and is quite well known for its excellent cool climate, producing the delicious Roederer Estate sparkling wines and some wonderful cool-climate Syrah.
The most famous of the California wine regions is Napa Valley, and these wines are certainly outstanding – but it's not as broad and diverse as its larger neighbor, Sonoma County. Down south, Santa Barbara's Santa Maria Valley is well-known for its Rhône blends, as well as cool-climate varieties like Pinot and Chardonnay. The Central Coast, the largest California AVA, has many different microclimates that lead to a wide range of wines with many sub-AVAs.