Articles: Real Stories About Living the Dream
From ballplayer to dropout to winemakerSan Francisco Chronicle
By W. Blake Gray
Thursday, November 10, 2005
When McPrice Myers, 30, was a young troublemaker in east Los Angeles, he says his father -- first a prison guard, then a teacher for the California Youth Authority -- used to tell him he would wind up behind bars.
After graduating from high school, Myers wasn't particularly interested in college, but he did like to play baseball, so he went to Cypress College in Orange County to play third base. Then he hurt his arm and couldn't play, so he dropped out and got a job at Trader Joe's. And that changed his life.
"My boss had all these old wines he bought from Trader Joe's," Myers says. "He used to open them at night and we would taste together. I fell in love with wine right there."
Myers' blue-collar upbringing had not exposed him to much high-end cuisine. He may have been born with a great palate, but that was not a celebrated quality in his house; instead, he was accused of being a picky eater.
"My mother was the typical Irish mother -- boil everything in one pot for 12 hours," he says. "My dad was the discount king. If a place had 29-cent cheeseburgers, we went there. I think that had a big impact because I thought I would rather save my money and get something good. I don't make a lot of money, but I'll spend $300 on a meal."
Entranced by the wine industry, Myers began driving up to the Central Coast during harvest season to do brief fill-in jobs.
" 'Self-taught' is a word I don't like," Myers says. "I was taught by about 50 winemakers. I worked at random places all over Paso (Robles) and the Central Coast. You can go to school and you can learn all the things about wine, but the palate tells you so much more. There are so many great winemakers on the Central Coast who didn't go to (UC) Davis."
In 2002, Myers decided to start making his own wine at Central Coast Wine Services. He's now up to 1,600 cases per year -- huge for CCWS. His wines have sold well partly because they're good -- big-bodied and fruit-forward -- partly because of his gregarious personality, and partly because they have the Irish symbol of love, the Claddagh, on the label.
Myers collaborates with another small-production winemaker, Russell From of Herman Story wines, to make 2,500 cases of a $15 Syrah ("Our 15-Buck Chuck," he says) called Barrel 27, which they hope will keep them in distribution longer throughout the year. Myers' wines tend to sell out early.
"When I grew up, the last place people would expect me to be would be making wine," he says. "Jail would be more likely. I feel very blessed to be where I am. This is the first year that I've made a decent living at it. But a decent living to me is different from other people. I don't need a lot. I didn't grow up with a lot."
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