André Hueston Mack breaks the trends to produce delicious wine.
By Marcy Harris
One of the most exciting changes we’ve made to our new wine list at the Roadhouse is to feature the noteworthy wines of André Hueston Mack. André owns his own winery in Willamette Valley, Maison Noir Wines, and has won Best Young Sommelier in America in 2003. He is the first African American to win that distinguished honor.
André’s road to success is one less travelled. For anyone who’s explored Ari’s anarchist approach to business, André’s philosophy will sound familiar. After learning about André’s guidelines to being a Mouton Noir, or a black sheep, on a presentation he did for TEDx Talks, I can definitely see how both he and Ari share ideas on becoming successful by doing things differently. Specifically, they both embrace the freedom of being unique, not following trends, and having fun while doing it. André fits right in to the Zingerman’s fold. Here are his rules for being a black sheep:
- Don’t do what you are supposed to do.
In A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building A Great Business, the first ingredient for Ari’s Recipe for Making Something Special is A Vision of Uniqueness. Likewise, When André mentions creativity, he emphasizes defining yourself as being unique. He did not grow up around restaurants or vineyards, but André followed a course that would take him to become Thomas Keller’s Sommelier for Per Se in New York. This is when he gained the nickname Mouton Noir, because he was not like many sommeliers in New York City. He found the name empowering.
- Don’t be afraid to do it yourself.
The second premise in Ari’s Recipe for Making Something Special is Bucking the Trends. He specifically speaks about the idea that when you start off doing something really different, you don’t often get a lot of support. André embraced his unique identity and chose to do something totally different… on his own. He left Per Se and became a winemaker. He opened his own winery, Maison Noir Wines with no startup and no investors. He didn’t have a design team to create his labels, so he created his own, and is now a talented self-made designer.
- Don’t dress the part.
André started to design t-shirts in addition to his labels, like we do at Zingerman’s. And he wears them, like Ari. Neither of them want to be caught up in a status symbol culture. André’s mission is to make sure wine is accessible to everyone, and to make sure this happens, he chooses to not be restricted by how other people think he should appear.
- Don’t seek approval.
According to André,“Wine is not a beverage reserved for the elite, but can and should be enjoyed by everyone.” He feels that wine is subjective, like anything else creative, so he does not have his wines rated. He understands that people will either like them, or they won’t. But he has to believe in the product, and avoid the anxiety of worrying about what everyone else thinks.
Ari’s written an entire book on the Power of Beliefs in Business, and he’s been talking about the importance of belief since the beginning, “Without it…food is at best is technically correct, but almost always lacks the soul that makes it special.” By believing in his wines and not sweating about what everyone thinks they should be, André has been able to focus his energy on making them really great. Or as he says “put your energy into what feeds you.” In his new pamphlet, My Beliefs About Cooking, Ari echoes this sentiment, that the act of feeding ourselves just to get by has become so much more than that for him: “What was a rather unremarkable routine that ensured survival is now the centerpiece of my existence, something that sustains me physically and financially, intellectually and emotionally.”
Having fun is another crucial ingredient in Ari’s Recipe for Making Something Special. For André, creativity is key. There is something to be said for figuring out what feeds you and playing with it. André has designed a coloring book about food and wine, called Small Thyme Cooks: Culinary Coloring and Activity Book. Have you seen his labels? Or his t-shirts for that matter? Personally, I’m a huge fan of his Knock on Wood label for his chardonnay:
Or his Eat, Breathe, and Die shirt, which to me exemplifies what he means when he calls wine a “condiment to life.”
If you like what you see, don’t miss out on an opportunity to taste wine created by the man who’s sharpened the edge on winemaking. Dare to be different and join us for a glass at the Roadhouse. Come alone if you’d like, wear a t-shirt, don’t ask permission. It will be fun.