Ask André Hueston Mack what inspired his lifelong pursuit in wine, he simply says, “Frasier.”
“It was really interesting how one show inspired me to be into wine, not just to work in wine, but that wine should be a part of my life. I mean it always looked like they were having a good time and that I should do that.”
At 27, André started watching reruns of Frasier – the tv sitcom series about a radio psychiatrist in Seattle who has a love for sherry, stars alongside a decanter in every episode and competes to be the corkmaster for his wine club. But, André didn’t see a career path start to forge until two years later, partially because he didn’t know a sommelier job even existed.
After those two years, he started studying for his certification. There weren’t a lot of resources to test wine knowledge, so self-starting was crucial in his pursuit. Being self-taught and self-learned involved a lot of, “up until 4 o’clock every morning with a bottle of dry Riesling, writing things down,” he says, “conceptually that’s how I learned.”
After becoming a certified sommelier he began working at a steakhouse called the Palm Restaurant in San Antonio, Texas. Then, moved to a new restaurant that opened across the street called Bohanan’s, which was his first technical sommelier gig.
In 2003 he won the title of Best Young Sommelier by Chaine des Rotisseurs, which he says was one of the most pivotal moments of his career. Following Texas, André landed a well-earned position as a sommelier at The French Laundry in California. That single position at one of the best restaurants in the world turned into two when he moved to New York City to run Per Se’s wine program as head sommelier in 2004.
With the end goal of making his own wine, André quit Per Se to start his label but instead helped open a distribution company called Noble House when a regular came into the restaurant and asked him to be a partner. After 18 months, he decided to quit because it was ultimately another distraction. He began working on Mouton Noir Wines and while his label was in the beginning of fruition, he started a wine consulting company for restaurants in New York City, but saw that as another distraction as well.
Mouton Noir Wines was established in 2007, and in 2010 after the birth of his second son, André moved full time to making his own wine and never looked back. His first bottle under his label was a 2007 vintage called Montgomery Place – a red wine made in California. Now, he’s moved on from the Golden Coast and primarily sources grapes from the Willamette Valley in Oregon, where his production facility is located.
André is also a self taught graphic designer, which came out of necessity. He didn’t have the finances to hire one so he took the lead himself. As a child he marveled at the stark, white and black labels of packaging in the grocery store and took that inspiration when he started designing his labels. And the names of his wines he says, “are all pretty personal.” The popular Love Drunk rosé, was named after his experience in the restaurant industry, “which was full of infatuation, fraternization and intoxication.”
Today, André has 13 different labels, including one named Horseshoes and Handgrenades. The red blend is named after an old saying his father used to say, “close only counts in horseshoes and handgrenades,” which he interprets as “almost isn’t good enough.” Made with Syrah from Southern Oregon and Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes from Washington State, André’s created a wine that’s fruit forward, big bodied and complex.
Going into the New Year, André plans to “spread the gospel” about drinking wine.
“For us we’re just looking for cool ways to present wine and to do fun stuff in wine because wine is about fun, it’s not about wearing an ascot.”