On the Trail with Kyle MacLachlan
When David Lynch announced that Twin Peaks would return for a third season on Showtime, I think many of us Peakies about lost our minds, especially knowing that we would get to see our beloved Kyle MacLachlan return to the role of Special Agent Dale Cooper one more time. It was while searching for news about the project that I discovered Kyle was into wine. Not just into wine, mind you, but actually the owner of a successful private label called Pursued by Bear made in conjunction with renowned Washington producer Dunham Cellars. I tracked down a bottle of his Columbia Valley Cabernet for the big Twin Peaks premier earlier this summer and, after fully enjoying every sip, I decided I would reach out to Kyle and see if he wanted to work with us at K&L on selling the wine. By the end of August, we had worked out a deal not only to bring his Pursued by Bear Cabernet and Baby Bear Syrah into the stores, but also his very limited rose for those final summer evenings when a glass of something cool and refreshing still hits the spot.
Perhaps more exciting, however, is that Kyle has volunteered to pour the wines in our Hollywood store one week from today on Friday, September 22nd. For a small five dollar tasting fee, you can taste all three wines and meet Cooper himself, while learning more about the varietals of Washington. I plan on flying down to help, so while I'm running back and forth filling glasses, Kyle should be freed up to answer as many of your questions as possible. Watch our website and tasting schedule for more details about that event (I'm expecting a 5 PM start). I recently caught up with Kyle to learn more about the Pursued by Bear project and how it came about, while of course getting in a few burning questions about the new Twin Peaks season and drinking with David Lynch. Our conversation is below:
David: Let’s start with an easy one: how long have you been interested in wine?
Kyle: I started in high school with a glass of wine at the dinner table with the girl I was seeing at that time. Her family had the ritual of a sit-down dinner with everyone—she had two older sisters, so it was a large group and they would have their boyfriends there, too. I was dating the youngest one. When I joined for dinner, I had a glass of white wine—that’s what you did. That started it. From then it was a very slow progression getting to the point where I could actually decipher between a good wine and a not-so-good wine. I drank a lot of not-so-good wine in the beginning (laughs).
David: This is back in Yakima, I’m guessing?
Kyle: Yeah, this was in Yakima. It was before any real wine presence in the valley. Leonetti bonded in Walla Walla in 1977, the first winery to do so in Eastern Washington. Prior to that you had the big guys—Chateau St. Michelle, Columbia Winery and Columbia Crest…behemoths like that making wine.
David: When did you get to the point where you actually wanted to start making wine and not just drinking it?
Kyle: It was the culmination of a friendship with Ann Colgin, who was and still is a mentor of mine, recognizing the quality of wine coming out of Washington state, being from Yakima originally, and then a desire to learn more and the feeling that the best path to do that was to actually get my feet wet. Taking the jump into making wine was only possible after meeting Eric Dunham from Dunham Cellars and having him agree to partner with me.
David: How did you two meet? Were you originally looking at Washington when thinking about a potential wine project?
Kyle: No, it started with an eye on Napa and a little bit of research, which quickly turned into dismay because it was incredibly expensive and just felt impossible. It was my wife who said, “Why don’t you look into Washington?” She was aware already of the possible story about the business going on in my backyard, so to speak. It made sense to me on another level because I would be able to get back home to visit my dad who was still alive at the time, as well as my brothers. It gave me a reason to go back a few times a year, as opposed to just Christmas vacation. He was getting older and I wanted to spend more time with him, so this was a great thing we were able to do together.
David: What developments have you seen with the Washington wine industry since you started? Are you surprised by how much it’s growing?
Kyle: It’s growing quickly, the number of wineries. From the beginning, as I mentioned with Leonetti in 1977, it took a while before more serious wineries were established. Dunham opened in the mid-nineties. Before that, you had Woodward Canyon and L’École 41. In fact, I think Eric originally did his internship at L’École and learned to make wine there. Then it just exploded, even from when I started back in 2005. What’s interesting is how the quality is getting better as more people are figuring it out, not only with the winemaking, but also with the growing. The growers have learned pretty quickly which varietals make good wine and which ones don’t. Prior to grapes, it was all apples and cherries up there and in that world of farming more is better. If you’re growing apples, you want to grow as many as you possibly can, so the idea of planting grapes and then thinning down the crop on behalf of better quality wasn’t inherent. Then there’s the question of what are the best sites; where do the vines work best and with what varietal? So that’s coming along pretty quickly, too.
David: You’re pretty heavily involved with the actual winemaking, too, am I right? I know when customers look at celebrity booze projects they tend to think most of it is marketing, but that’s not the case here at all from what I understand.
Kyle: I’m in charge of selecting the fruit and then I’m there for all the blending trials. I consult with Dan Wampfler who’s my winemaker, as well—he now works over at Abeja, but he still makes my wine. Dan and I talk about specific sites and we try to be proactive when certain fruit comes online. In fact, I’m really excited because this year for the first time I’ve got some fruit coming in from Champoux Vineyard, which is really hard to get and very expensive, but it’s such a quality site. I’m also involved in making barrel choices, sampling the wine from barrel, blending, let’s see what else…
David: I think that’s a lot more than George Clooney has ever contributed to Casa Amigos Tequila.
Kyle: (laughs) I was intent on learning, so I wanted to be hands on. I’m continuing to become more involved and the most recent shift involves moving out of the partnership with Dunham and becoming sort of my own stand-alone winery. I’ve purchased five two-ton fermenters now and I’ve got everything that I need to do more of a custom crush.
David: Wow, that’s a big jump to start investing in infrastructure! That’s when things start to get real, right?
Kyle: Oh my gosh, yes. It’s going all the way. I didn’t anticipate it to be quite as overwhelming, but it’s still not too bad because the Dunham facility does most of the work, but I’m now gaining more control, moving out of the vineyard and into the winemaking itself. Processing, fermentation, speed, and delivery are becoming more important, so as I get into it more and more I realize the minuscule steps are just as important as the big ones.
David: Right, we realize that on the retail end as well. People spend a lot of time learning about the specifics of wine and the education side, but you still have to know how to use a POS system, run credit cards, and take inventory! There’s no better way to learn than to do every part of the business yourself. Speaking of going back home to Washington, how does it feel to return to Washington as Special Agent Dale Cooper?
Kyle: It’s incredible to be able to do it for a second time. The first time around was back in 1989/90, not that long after I graduated from college in ’82, so it’s always fun to be back. Most recently with the new show, we were up there last year during September and October, but to be honest I was only up there shooting for a little over a week for what I guess we would call season three. But there’s definitely a recognition and there are people who get a kick out of the fact that I’m originally from the northwest. I also just finished my run as the mayor of Portlandia in Portland and that was an interesting experience because I’d never had that kind of local recognition before. There was definitely a bit of a buzz around town while we were shooting, whereas I’m used to being a little bit more under the radar.
David: That surprises me because you were in a lot of cult television shows from Twin Peaks, to Sex and the City, to Desperate Housewives. I would think people would be stopping you on the street all the time. Those are shows people watch over and over again and binge on.
Kyle: Yeah, people definitely recognize me from Sex and the City, also from How I Met Your Mother. I’m pretty grateful for having been able to do this for as long as I have, being in some worthwhile productions.
David: Which role do you get recognized for most often? Like people stop you and say, “Oh my God, I loved you in…..?”
Kyle: I would say primarily as Agent Dale Cooper in Twin Peaks. A close second would be as Trey in Sex in the City because as you said people return to that show time and time again. That one’s still pretty relevant.
David: Heck yeah it is. My wife still quotes some of your best lines on that show around the house quite often.
Kyle: (laughs) Yeah there were some good ones. Embarrassingly good.
David: The part where Trey takes the medication and says it felt like it might “rocket right off” is a classic. I was rewatching The Doors the other day as well and had completely forgotten you played Ray Manzarek in the movie. I think you, Val Kilmer, Frank Whaley, and Kevin Dillon did such a good job in that film that I failed to recognize you as actors.
Kyle: That’s good. That means I disappeared. I like that!
David: Speaking of Twin Peaks, David Lynch is a big wine fan as well, right?
Kyle: Yeah, in fact we share a couple of connections. When I went to audition for Dune in Los Angeles—not even a year out of college—I screen tested for David and when I got back to the hotel there was a bottle of Lynch Bages and a thank you card from David who was hoping everything would work out. He sent me a bottle of Bordeaux, which we talked about during our first meeting. That was probably my first experience with a great bottle of wine. I think that’s what started me on the European wine path. David and I continue to this day to gift each other bottles, either wines that I make or older vintages of Lynch Bages. We definitely have a mutual appreciation for red wine.
David: How does he like your Pursued By Bear wines? Do you keep him well stocked?
Kyle: I do, and he does like it. I think his preferred wine would be Bordeaux, but he has had very nice things to say about the Pursued By Bear wines, which I appreciate.
David: So he’s really being himself as Gordon Cole on Twin Peaks then? In one of the last episodes he sits down with Albert and says something about “enjoying this fine Bordeaux.”
Kyle: Right (laughs).
David: So currently your Pursued By Bear label is producing a Cabernet, a Syrah, and a rosé. Do you have any plans to expand the range with the new facility?
Kyle: Not yet. I think I’m probably going to rally around those three and increase production a little bit, while still keeping my fruit sources. I’m getting more grapes from new sites like Champoux, Sagemoor, Heather Hill—that’s a site than Dan turned me onto, I love it. I’m almost like a negotiant, I’m buying different parcels from different places and still learning. The blend is always going to be Cabernet dominated. When I started it there was a Syrah component in it, but I ultimately became interested in the classic Bordeaux model, so we’re bringing in some Cab Franc for the first time in the 2016 blend. We’ll see what that does.
We currently have Kyle's Pursued by Bear Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Baby Bear Syrah in stock, but we'll be unveiling the rosé at the Hollywood store next Friday. Hopefully you can all make it out!