Actor Pursues Passion, Pursued By Bear

by | May 22, 2023

In 2002, actor Kyle MacLachlan returned home to visit his dad in Yakima, Washington, to take one of their regular road trips to wineries in Walla Walla, Washington. MacLachlan had been toying with the idea of starting a wine business. While visiting Dunham Cellars, winemaker Eric Dunham accepted MacLachlan’s invitation to collaborate and Pursued by Bear was born. 

“It was a mad caper. I came in completely clueless, but with a passion to learn,” MacLachlan reminisces. “I needed someone to hold my hand and take me through the beginnings of this. Eric was perfect.”

Dan Wampfler took over winemaking responsibilities at Dunham in 2008 (including Pursued by Bear). When Wampfler left Dunham in 2016 to become winemaker at Abeja Winery, MacLachlan continued the relationship with him.

Being a celebrity with many film and television credits including roles in Dune, Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks and Portlandia can be a double-edged sword as a winery owner. The upside is MacLachlan has no trouble making connections. “If I’m out doing market research or want a meeting, people want to meet the actor and I can put that hat on.” The downside is potential skepticism about the quality of the wine.

“There was a tendency when I first started, reviewers maybe not treating me the same as some other wines made in Washington,” MacLachlan recalls. “I completely understood that because of the celebrity thing and because we were new and must prove ourselves.” Over time, the wines have indeed proven themselves and consistently receive accolades and high scores.

For many years the only way to purchase Pursued by Bear wines was by joining the mailing list. In 2017, MacLachlan began his quest to open a tasting room in Walla Walla.

Originally, MacLachlan secured a location in downtown Walla Walla that he tried to make work. When COVID-19 hit he decided to reevaluate his decision. “I ultimately realized that space wasn’t going to work,” he recalls. “It was quaint and had some elements to it that I really loved, like a cool skylight, but it just was too small.” The search restarted and MacLachlan eventually found a new home nearby. He opened the tasting room this year in April.

MacLachlan was intimately involved in the interior design of the space. From the cork floors to commissioning Walla Walla artist Brad Rude to create a six-foot-tall bronze bear that greets visitors, MacLachlan oversaw every aspect. “What was important to me was to make a room that people feel real comfortable in,” he says. “I feel like it is a very personal expression of myself.”

Now that the tasting room is up and running, MacLachlan has turned his attention towards the future. “The next step for me is to find an estate vineyard location,” he says. “That’s the long-term goal.”

Even though MacLachlan has been on his “pursuit” for many years, he remains humble about his experience. “I would say I’m still just an infant in my knowledge, but smart enough to realize I’ve got to surround myself with people like Dan [and others] that really know [the business],” he says. “I’ve learned that wine is a journey. It was a crazy thing to step into, but I’ve embraced it and never looked back.”

When asked how he would describe his 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon if it was a person you might meet at a party, MacLachlan’s description reflected his theatrical spirit. “He’s a super interesting English guy who runs a leather factory in Nepal, which is an unusual place,” he says. “It’s full of stones and flint and these kinds of materials. He is also a stalker and enjoys stalking the great stag in Scotland in the heather in the mist. He’s a very interesting person.”

Featured Wine

2019 Pursued by Bear Cabernet Sauvignon | Columbia Valley AVA

Considered their signature wine, this Cab has been produced since 2005 and consistently receives 90+ point scores from reviewers. The grapes come from multiple highly regarded vineyards: Dionysus, Dubrul, Heather Hill and Weinbau. This 97% Cab with a splash of Cab Franc and Merlot exhibits a classic dark fruit profile balanced with tannins and acidity. It’s an age-worthy wine but approachable now with decanting. Only 473 cases were produced.

$70 | 14.2% ABV


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