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Monday, February 27, 2012

This Is Where It's At... Mouton Noir Wines

Who's the Black Sheep, What's the Black Sheep?


Andre Mack's Mouton Noir Wines (Black Sheep in French) got its start in 2004. Andre left a career in finance for his love of wine. People leaving careers they find unfulfilling to pursue a dream is certainly admirable, but it rarely works out as well as it did for Andre. He went from a sommelier gig in San Antonio to being awarded Best Young Sommelier in America to Chef Thomas Keller's Head Sommelier with stints at both The French Laundry and Per Se. Along with managing one of the world's top wine lists and discussing pairing and menu dynamics with Keller, Andre Mack got into the winemaking game.

His cache as one of the top flight sommeliers got Andre access to both wine and fruit from prestigious vineyards and winemakers were willing to work with him to craft the kinds of wines Andre and his discerning customers appreciated. Andre left his work in the restaurant stratosphere to focus on wine and to develop his own brand, Mouton Noir.

Launching his own label Andre decided to do what he'd done best, be himself. As a Black man in charge of the wine program at America's most prestigious restaurants the status quo was never really an option for him, and he embraced it. "I was always comfortable with being the only person in the room who looked like me. In some ways, it worked to my advantage because everyone remembered me." He's someone who's embraced being himself and his label Mouton Noir wines embodies that, borrowing from Hip Hop and the skateboard culture of Generation X. Mouton Noir is about a lifestyle; clothing and domestic wines geared toward a younger set. "I gear my stuff towards young people who get this culture. Many in the wine community don’t necessarily understand these references, but the wine community could use a few new faces."


Andre's unique approach to marketing has mirrored the street team concept used to promote bands or live shows and is an overwhelming breathe of fresh air. His offerings include t-shirts encouraging the drinking of "Grower Champagne" that depict Mr. T saying "I pity the Veuve" or his Beaune Thugs design incorporating brass knuckles and a corkscrew. The current wines from Mouton Noir show a heavy Northwest leaning. The Code Noir Merlot is sourced in Washington State and there are three Oregon offerings: the Beaux Knows Pinot Noir, the Love Drunk Rose and perhaps the greatest wine moniker of all time, the O.P.P. or Other People's Pinot, (of which Andre sent me a bottle).

"The O.P.P.? How can I explain it, I'll take it frame by frame it and have you all jump and shout and saying it. O is for other, P is for people's, scratch your temple. The last P? Well, that's not that simple. It's kinda like a well, another way to say Burgundy that we grow, it's five little letters that spell Pinot." (I may have taken some liberties with that last line.) On the initial go round the OPP is predominantly bright and young fresh fruit, and even possibly a bit shy. Give it about an hour or so in the glass and the Pinot becomes a bit more signature Oregon, opening up with hints of dust and earthen aromatics along with a faint hint of clove. The more this Pinot breathes the more the classically Oregon bramble-berry profile comes to life on the palate. A blend from vineyards in the Eola-Amity, Yamhill Carlton and McMinnville AVAs at $22 it's easy to be down.



Mouton Noir image and photo of Andre Mack from www.moutonoirwines.net 

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