Rockstars of Wine: André Hueston Mack - Mouton Noir Wines
The black sheep. The person regarded by the family as being less than, the one who brings the family into disregard. An outcast, someone who does not belong. But look at history. Every great rock star is a black sheep. I mean take your pick, from Marilyn Manson to NWA, Slipknot, Lady Gaga, Eminem, or the Sex Pistols. The real black sheep is someone who makes us uncomfortable, because they are breaking the status quo, calling attention, pushing us in ways that we never thought were possible.
Thats where I found Love Drunk Rose, a pink wine with a black rose label. It stood out, it felt a little uncomfortable but it grabbed my attention and would not let go. This was a wine screaming to be drunk, not pretending or playing at being conventional. Why would it? This was a wine for me, for me to share, that grabbed my heart immediately and dared me to drink it. It broke through the status quo, and like Dr. Dre at a mixing board, it had big hit written all over it.
I was fortunate to sit down with the founder of Mouton Noir and creator of Love Drunk, André Hueston Mack, who took the nickname “Black Sheep” bestowed upon him by friends and colleagues in the wine world and ran with it. André is exciting to talk to, but what strikes you the most in his story is that this is a guy with an unquenchable thirst, the kind of guy who starts something and just keeps going just to see where it will take him. Every destination is just the starting point for a new adventure, and you have to work your ass off to get there, even harder to keep going. Repeat again. Keep repeating.
So where did winemaking start?
It all started while watching reruns of Frasier. “I just saw people having fun with wine, having a good time, and their enthusiasm for it was contagious.” Through watching all twelve seasons of the show, he started learning about wine and had caught the wine bug. The gravitational pull toward wine was working, as André sought out jobs at restaurants with great wine lists.
As the saying goes, if you want to know about a place’s culture, get to know their wine. And André really started studying...hard! He started writing everything he could learn down, put it up on boards, but it wasn’t challenging him. All this knowledge was being wasted. So he entered into Sommelier Competitions just to test himself, to see how much he knew. He even won Best Young Sommelier in America in 2003, a title that opened the door to a job working as the Somm for French Laundry in 2003 before moving on to their sister restaurant in New York, Per Se. But something was missing, something felt off. Deep down, there was a feeling that this is not as good as life gets.
That's where the idea of making wine came into play. Whatever you want to do, you have to put yourself into the universe and see what takes hold. Remember the story of your favorite band in their early days? The couch-surfing, begging, borrowing, and stealing gear, hitching rides to gigs. That’s kind of how Mouton Noir Wine started in the wine world. Making what you can with what you got. André quit his job, emailed everybody he could, and decided to make his own wine.
The whole process was about putting himself out into the universe, letting it go and seeing what the universe would return to him. To star, André acquired grapes on credit. Then he found places who would let him use their equipment. He experimented! He tried out different things! One thing he knew is it felt like the early days of a band, where passion far outweighs talent. No budget, no marketing, either you find someone who can fill a gap in what you don’t know, or you figure out how to do it yourself. That went all the way through to making the labels. He bought himself a Mac he found on Craigslist, got a copy of the Adobe suite, and taught himself how to design. He ended up designing the labels that would make him an icon.
Its about more than just wine, its about friendships, its about lifestyle.
You won't find Mouton Noir Wine wines in your regular run of the mill wine publication. You won’t find it in Wine Advocate, or Decanter. You won’t see any point ratings going alongside them. Why should a black sheep do the same thing everybody else does?
Mouton Noir Wine wines are about living life your way, celebrating! Mouton Noir Wine did a coloring book for their wines, because they thought it would be a fun way to celebrate wine! That has been the attitude of the Mouton Noir from the beginning. The company sells wine themed, skate styled t-shirts. Why? To get the word out! Not because it was cool, or it felt like a quirky way, but because it was how he did it. It was a throwback to the skaters, the brands, the people who were making their way when Andre Mack was growing up, the people, the style, the music, that made him who he was. It was an extension of who André was as a kid. It was André being André.
So why should you be drinking Mouton Noir Wine?
Hey, I would never tell you to drink this or drink that. You find your own way in life. But if you ever went the other way in life, if you ever did things differently from the pack, if you ever took pride in being an outsider then you should give these wines a chance. For starters they are great wines, a good level of acidity that makes them great with food, but most importantly great with company. Mouton Noir Wine is celebration, even if you have nothing more to celebrate than you just doing you.