Washington State Wines: In Walla Walla with Kyle MacLachlan
On TV, Kyle MacLachlan battles desperate housewives. In real life, he has joined forces with one of Washington state’s top wine talents to make Cabernet.
By Joel Stein
Published: April 2010
Actors are usually good at being guests, not hosts, but Kyle MacLachlan could be a cruise director. As he leads me and a caravan of friends and family around Walla Walla, Washington, for two days—before having us over to a dinner party he’s hosting at a local bar—his energy doesn’t flag once. He maintains a hyper-vigilance over all our needs: When he’s not pointing out sights, he’s calling ahead to make sure things are set up for us. I don’t think my parents asked this often if I had to go to the bathroom.
I discover MacLachlan’s hosting talent soon after I get off the morning flight to Walla Walla, the heart of Washington-state winemaking; he comes here to work on his Cabernet blend, Pursued by Bear. MacLachlan—who must follow plane arrival times pretty closely—calls my cell, worrying that I need coffee. So I walk a few blocks and find the smiling, perfect-haired actor at the Walla Walla Roastery. He introduces me to the Russian Orthodox owner and insists I try the baklava from the local nunnery. I’m amused that the guy who played the coffee-obsessed FBI agent on Twin Peaks knows a coffee-bar owner so well. This is before I realize that MacLachlan knows everyone in this town well.
But maybe it’s not hard to know everyone when there aren’t many people around. Walla Walla itself isn’t very big, and the surrounding area seems like an endless expanse of wheat fields. Yet scattered amid those wheat fields are vineyards producing great Cabernets and Syrahs—neither as pumped up as many California reds nor as funky as some French ones. And thanks to the wine industry, the restaurants, wine-tasting rooms and hotels have started to open up, so that Walla Walla is lately looking like a mellow version of Healdsburg in Sonoma County.
…The next day, MacLachlan and I meet up with his dad, Kent, a stout, sunglassed, blunt old golfer who is both obviously proud of his son and unlikely to let him get away with anything. We head off to meet Dunham at a farmstead cheese producer, Monteillet Fromagerie. It’s the home of Pierre-Louis Monteillet and his wife, Joan, who gave up 15 years of wheat farming to start making great cheese a few years ago. MacLachlan donated an old 34-foot Airstream trailer he’d used on sets to the farm, and now several interns sleep there. As the interns drink Dunham’s wine, we sit on the steps of their sauna house over the river and eat ice cream: an idyllic scene.