Steve MacRostie has what he calls “palate aptitude,” the ability to make wine that’s both delicious and balanced, and he considers it a prerequisite for winemakers.

The founder of Healdsburg’s MacRostie Winery & Vineyards credits his mother — dietitian Marynelle MacRostie — for teaching him the art of balance, an appreciation for lean vegetables as well as decadent desserts like Lemon Meringue Pie.

“I grew up with an attentive mom who was always in the kitchen,” MacRostie said. “She taught me the habits of good eating by making balanced, nutritious meals. Even in my bagged lunches, I always had a piece of fruit.”

The vintner, now 72, is behind our wine-of-the-week winner — the MacRostie, 2015 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay at $25.

This crisp chardonnay is rich and complicated yet kept in check with its bright acidity. It’s fruit-forward with layered flavors and finishes crisp.

“People can have what they want in a chardonnay, something that’s crisp, dry, aromatic and focused on fruit,” MacRostie said. “They don’t have to drink chardonnay that’s fat, sweet, oaky and ponderous.”

With 44 vintages behind him, MacRostie said he has learned how to cultivate cool-climate chardonnay by grooming grapes in chilly spots and tracking their progress with vineyard visits. The Sonoma Coast chardonnay, for instance, is a complicated blend, with blocks of vines on 30 vineyards from 15 different growers.

“Our vineyard team visits these vineyard sites several times a week,” he said. “The most challenging part is the picking of the fruit. We want it to be as close to translucent as possible, with the seeds brown and crunchy.”

MacRostie, initially a pre-med student, never expected to be a farmer of grapes. But he was drafted into the U.S. Army, and in 1971 landed in the Veneto region of Italy. When a friend’s father was visiting, he mentioned winemaking as a career possibility.

“With my scientific life sciences background, it seemed like a good fit, and the lifestyle was attractive,” he said. “Immediately the light bulb went off.”

In the fall of 1972, MacRostie enrolled in a master’s program at UC Davis, graduating two years later with a degree in enology.

The MacRostie brand has been served at the White House more than two dozen times during several administrations, dating back to the 41st president George H.W. Bush.

MacRostie sums up brand’s success: “Rigorous attention to detail from the vineyard to the bottle.”

Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at 707-521-5310 or peg.melnik@pressdemocrat.com.

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