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Return Of The Mack
Return Of The Mack
Sommelier uncorks a non-serious wine brand that’s seriously good
Take a former French Laundry sommelier with a penchant for Burgundy, garage style winemaking and hip-hop sensibility and what do you get? Mouton Noir, a line of seriously satisfying and original wines crafted by none other than André Mack.
After a business career, Mack, now 39, got seduced by the wine business and started working as a sommelier in Texas. He won the Chaîne de Rotisseurs Young Sommelier Competition — the first African American to pull off that coup — and subsequently joined the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group.
He calls himself a micro-negociant, like the small vignerons in Burgundy who buy pinot noir grapes and then create small lots of wine. He lives in Brooklyn, he but makes wine in a custom crush facility in that northwest state he likes to call "Oregogne." Mack makes a handful of pinot noirs, a fresh rosé called Love Drunk, a silky Washington merlot (Code Noir) and a balanced Napa cabernet franc blend (Montgomery Place).
Some wines are small lots that go straight to restaurants like Alain Ducasse’s Adour at the St. Regis in New York and Michael Mina in San Francisco. His more commercial wines have attention-getting labels and monikers and are available at wine shops and through his site, which also sells his fun line of Get Fraîche Cru T-shirts with sayings like “Beaune Thugs” or “Run DRC” that mash up famous wines, mass culture and street-wear style.
Here are some excerpts from The Daily Sip's recent conversation with André.
TDS: How’d you come up with the name Mouton Noir?
AM: Mouton noir means black sheep in French. Mouton noir was one of those nicknames I got that kind of stuck. Within the organization (Thomas Keller Restaurant Group) where I worked, I never did things the same way as everyone else; I always had my own way of doing things and I kind of marched to my own drummer.
TDS: Were you one of those scary sommeliers?
AM: It was the whole idea not to take myself too seriously. Some people worked in all these great restaurants and they’re like, ‘I have this great knowledge,’ and they want people to fear them. I don’t want to be serious.
TDS: What’s your whole fascination with Burgundy?
AM: A lot of what I love about Burgundy is the way it evolves in the glass. Burgundy is a little more elegant. It’s more of the thinking man’s wine or an artistic wine; it has so many different layers; it’s subtle; its difficult to grow.
TDS: Does your wine O.P.P. have anything to do with the Naughty by Nature song?
AM: No, but I like them. We bought barrels of wine from a winery down the street that went bankrupt and we referred to them as the ‘other people’s wine.’ When it came time to name it, we called it Other People’s Pinot.
TDS: Some of your wine names are kind of cryptic à la winemaker Manfred Krankl. How do you name your wines?
AM:I’m very confident with what I put inside the bottle. If you don’t like it, I’m not upset. It’s your opinion it’s just not for you. I always wanted to have fun with the label and I want them to tell a story about my life. Montgomery Place is the name of the street where I spent my summers in Trenton, New Jersey. It’s where I learned my street smarts. Love Drunk was an ode to my restaurant career. When you break up with someone you give them a black rose to say it’s over.
TDS: How would you sum up your approach to wine?
AM: I just want to have fun. I don’t have a family legacy or heritage in this business, so I can really be me. Carlo Mondavi has to worry about the whole reputation of the Mondavis. I’m building my own legacy.
Which wines tell your life story? Tell us below!