Kyle MacLachlan at Dunham Cellars for crush

Actor/winemaker Kyle MacLachlan laughs with Dunham winemaker Tyler Tennyson, center, and Kale O'Mara during the sorting of cabernet sauvignon grapes Tuesday afternoon at the Walla Walla winery. 

If you know anything about FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper, it’s that he loves a “damn fine cup of coffee.”

Actor Kyle MacLachlan, who brought Cooper to life on the small screen in “Twin Peaks,” has been more or less on a similar mission with wine.

More than a decade ago, the Washington native and New York-based actor, added Walla Walla winemaker to his list of roles.

On Tuesday he got his hands in the grapes as crush commenced at Dunham Cellars on his Pursued by Bear label.

“You depend on a lot of people when you’re making a movie, obviously. But it’s the same with winemaking,” MacLachlan said of producing his blends. “You’ve got to have a great time.”

Dunham winemaker Tyler Tennyson and winery co-owner Joanne Dunham joined him on the crush pad to oversee the team of employees processing fruit.

The space, where MacLachlan collaborates on his wines, echoed with the grumbling of the optical sorting machine as grapes from DuBrul Vineyard ran through a conveying system. The machine pulled off the stems and separated the grapes from debris caught during harvest.

“Clean” is one way MacLachlan describes the fruit from this vineyard above Prosser. The grapes, he says, are also “super intense, small berries” from “I think, one of the best vineyards in the state.

“You can really taste the quality,” he said.

Studying the vineyards of his home state has been one of the most fascinating parts, MacLachlan said.

“I love the process of learning more about the vineyard sites, what they produce, the vineyard profile.”

Although he could have just as easily made wine in California — where his proverbial place in Hollywood is equally cemented as Orson Hodge from “Desperate Housewives,” Trey MacDougal from “Sex in the City,” Paul Atreides from “Dune,” and the fine mayor in “Portlandia” — Walla Walla called to him for a couple of reasons. 

One: It’s close to Yakima and helped tie him ever closer to his late father during visits to the area. Two: It was the home of the late Eric Dunham, who offered to work with MacLachlan on his winemaking.

Together the two created that first 300-case release in 2005, which by the way earned a 91 rating from Wine Spectator. Pursued by Bear refers to a stage direction in Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale.” Case production has mostly stayed the same.

But MacLachlan last year introduced “Blushing Bear,” a 75-case run of rosé last spring and “Baby Bear,” a syrah Dunham encouraged him to branch into. It was released in 2008, the year his son Callum was born.

MacLachlan tries to make it to Dunham Cellars half a dozen times a year or so. In addition to crush, he makes a point to be on hand for blending trials — “wine tasting is an opinion in a glass,” he says — Spring Release and Holiday Barrel Tasting. The celebrity factor certainly doesn’t hurt Dunham Cellars. The winemaking component keeps MacLachlan connected to his roots.

Over the summer he brought Callum to his home state to experience “a little bit of country life here.” 

As always, the presence of his late friend, Eric, continues to be a source of inspiration, too.

“He was an artist. He followed his own vision. He’ll always be an influence on me and the wine,” MacLachlan said. “His spirit is still very much alive and present here.”

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at 509-526-8321, or on Twitter at

Vicki covers business and economic development, including tourism, the Port of Walla Walla and the Strictly Business column, as well as features. She has been reporting for the Union-Bulletin since late 2001.