A funny thing happened to two Park City couples on their way to Napa Valley. They left town looking for a golf school ... and came home owning a top-flight vineyard. It’s a vintage Park City tale.
Way back in 1999, longtime local residents Ann and Mac MacQuoid were vacationing in California with their good friends Val and Steve Chin. Ann and Steve have been Park City brokers and realtors for years; Mac is an entrepreneur with a talent for public relations; and Val stays busy chairing and serving on several nonprofit and charitable boards in China and Utah.
Ann and Val had agreed to attend golf school with their husbands, but only if the place had good food and good wine. They found the perfect combination in Napa Valley. On a whim, Steve and Mac took a drive around to look at real estate, and they stumbled upon a good deal. “We thought it would be a lot of fun to have a place in Napa,” Mac MacQuoid recounts. “So we got together with Val and Steve and Toni and Mike Doilney (former Parkites, the Doilneys have since moved to Napa Valley) and bought the property. We didn’t really know what we were doing, but we thought growing grapes and having a little boutique label would be a fun hobby.”
The partners named their new venture Parallel Wines, reflecting the parallel lives they lived on skis and in other endeavors, and went looking for a winemaker. “We really got lucky when we hired Philippe Melka,” Val Chin explains. “Back then he was a young, French winemaker newly arrived in Napa Valley.” By 2003, Melka and the Parallel partners were producing award-winning wines, and Melka has since been on the cover of Wine Spectator and was even named 2005 Winemaker of the Year by Food & Wine magazine. Parallel wines continue to enjoy a reputation for premium quality, with prices ranging from about $45 (chardonnay) to $125 (estate cabernet sauvignon).
Though perhaps the first, Parallel isn’t the only wine label in town. Gott Wines founder Joel Gott is a fairly new arrival to Park City, but he’s been immersed in the business since birth as a Napa Valley native and fifth-generation California vintner. When he and his winemaker wife, Sarah, noticed a void in the sub-$20 wine category in the early 1990s, they jumped in feet first. They were soon crafting fine zinfandels and drawing rave reviews from magazines like Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate. The Gotts also turn out quality, affordable cabernets and sauvignon blancs.
Steve Chin and Mac MacQuoid met Gott in Napa when his family was consulting for Parallel. When Gott asked Chin for advice on buying a second home in Park City, he promptly replied, “Have I got a vintage deal for you!” Gott, whose former favorite resort was Lake Tahoe, says Park City has everything Tahoe has, only better. “The snow is better, and there’s more for our three kids to do.”
Kathy Schlein completes a triumvirate of Park City/Napa winemakers as the co-owner of Schlein Vineyard, a family-owned boutique winery in Napa Valley. She moved to Park City with her two children from Palo Alto in 1994. “We came here for the lifestyle. It’s a great quality of life, superior to most places in the world,” she says.
Schlein Vineyard produces fewer than 1,000 cases of red wine every year. Though small by Napa standards, Schlein cabernets routinely score in the mid-90s in Wine Spectator magazine. Schlein credits the unique Oakville volcanic soil and her winery’s focus on balanced, estate-grown wines at a relative value price (most Schlein wines run about $40).
What’s the best thing about being a vintner who lives in Park City? Ann MacQuoid says it’s the lifestyle. “We’ve always loved food and wine paired with travel,” she says. “When you’re in the wine business, it’s amazing the doors it opens all over the world.” She and Val Chin delight in donating their wines to fundraisers for the US Ski Team, the National Ability Center, and other Park City nonprofits. For his part, Steve Chin cites a love for the energy of the business. “It can’t get any better than sharing great wine with great friends and just having fun,” he says. “When we’re at a Parallel wine reception, it’s like being on cloud nine.”
Joel Gott believes that growing the grapes is the most amazing thing. “Every year is new; you never know what you’re going to get. If I’m not growing something, I feel weird.” And Kathy Schlein confesses that owning a boutique winery can be challenging, but says the family has passion for what they do together: “It unites us. We love wine ... making it and consuming it.”
Where to Sip
Want to try a “Park City” wine? They’re available at our state liquor stores (though Schlein wines may be harder to find) and may be purchased online (although they cannot be shipped to Utah). Our “local” wines are also served at these fine Park City restaurants:
Parallel (parallelwines.com) Adolph’s, Goldener Hirsch, Montage Deer Valley,
Riverhorse, Stein Eriksen Lodge, St. Regis, 350 Main Brasserie
Chimayo, Grappa, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, Shabu, Sky Lodge, the Viking Yurt, Windy Ridge
Bistro 412, Club Lespri, High West Saloon & Restaurant
The list of restaurants that serve these wines keeps growing, so be sure to ask your server.
Steve Phillips is a Park City–based writer, actor, and hot air balloon pilot. He often sips champagne after an early-morning balloon flight and also enjoys a nice cabernet with dinner.