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 Sonoma CountyView a map of Sonoma County wineries
Twice as large as Napa in size, Sonoma County only makes about a half the amount of wine as her northeasterly neighbor. But Sonoma, with her size, is able to vouch for more diversity within her borders, including sub-AVAs that are climatically varied. The atmosphere of Sonoma is decidedly laid back and down home country style. But in wines, they are keeping up with the Joneses, or Napa-ites if you will. Grape varieties are more varied here, from Pinot Noir and Zinfandel to Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.
Notable FactsThe largest sub-AVAs of Sonoma include Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley and Sonoma Valley. Each sub-AVA, with its own micro-climate, is unique in its grape varieties and styles of wine. Dry Creek makes a mean Zinfandel while Russian River produces stand up Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The Alexander Valley makes some of the better Cabernet Sauvignons in the county and Sonoma Valley creates excellent wines from all the above varieties. Other grapes found throughout Sonoma include Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and 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.