McClain Cellars: The Story of a Winery

Laguna Beach’s newest winery has a story to tell with each label and each sip.

Some of you may have heard of the new rising star among Orange County wine producers. Or maybe you’ve spotted the brand’s unique hand-painted labels at dinner parties and tastings. If not, then meet McClain Cellars, a winery based in Orange County with vines rooted in Santa Ynez and a tasting room nestled in Laguna Beach. The winery first began to bloom when Jason & Sofia McClain made the bold choice to walk away from a lucrative career in technology and motivational speaking and start doing what they truly love, making people happy and meeting new friends.

Jason and Sofia began their journey into winemaking on July 8, 2016, when they sold four of their companies, turned down a national opportunity to syndicate his Amazon Prime TV Show and put all of their time toward their new winery. After learning, tasting and developing their first official vintage, they corked their collection of wines and officially sold their first bottle last year, (2018). Since they launched their winery the reviews have been amazing. They earned 90 to 92 points on many of their wines from Wine Enthusiast and took in over a dozen Gold and Silver Medals from the LA Wine Competition, the OC Fair, and the ultimate Wine Challenge in New York. Having already almost sold out of their first few year’s of vintages, the McClain family is knee deep in the release of their next vintage. They have recently begun offering their wines at select restaurants, and even expanded their operation to include an amazing wine club membership.

The brand may be new, but McClain’s wines encapsulate years of history – from what inspired Jason’s passion for winemaking, to the story of how Jason and Sofia came together, to their quest to live the best lives possible – all told through the names on the labels adorning McClain Cellars’ wines.

Jason believes that life is compiled of a series of Significant Emotional Events that move us from one place to another. “Every good or bad thing makes us better, or at the very least, shapes us into who we are,” Said Jason. When he first realized this, he set out to do something and make something that could be a part of other people’s Significant Emotional Events. After all, being there to help a friend in need or to celebrate with them in triumph is a driving force behind why Jason does what he does.

“You open a bottle of wine, and your son just graduated. You open a bottle of wine, and you got married. You open a bottle of wine, and you’re celebrating starting a business,” Jason notes. “It’s your first date, 50th anniversary – the list goes on.”

So he wanted to make a wine that would play a part in people’s own journeys. He wants to make great wines that celebrate life and the moments people cherish.

Rudderless

With names like Love & Happiness, Cloud Nine and Laguna Sunrise, every label has a story behind it. Take his popular red blend, Rudderless, for example. This wine pays homage to those times in life when you have no idea where you’re going or what you’re doing. For Jason, it was looking onto Crenshaw Boulevard without a home when he was 21 years old. He had become a millionaire at age 19, bought a Porsche and a house in Malibu, and lost all of his money by the time he turned 21. He felt lost, alone and was completely rudderless. On Aug. 19, 1991, he met people in a local church who helped him get back onto his feet. Shortly afterward he joined a software company, became skilled in graphic design, and went on to own a consulting agency and multiple companies that allowed him a comfortable lifestyle. That experience led Jason to believe that being rudderless is the best time in life because it’s the easiest time to change course and try anything.

“It’s when you have nothing that the opportunities are endless because you aren’t bound to any that get in the way of what you want,” McClain says.

Faithful Friend

Faithful Friend Reserve, Bordeaux-style 2013 red blend, is another favorite. This was the first wine he ever made, and it is dedicated to his dearest friends – the folks who have stayed by his side for 30 years. He believes nowadays people go through friends like they go through laundry. “Relationships become more of a stepping stone versus a gift these days,” he says. Faithful Friend honors those friendships that stand the test of time – the relationships that are cherished for the joy they bring to life. This message translates to his wine club members, whom he sees as an extended family. That’s why he personally invites them to tastings and wine pairings, and seeks their help in choosing new flavors and aromas for upcoming bottles. He even makes sure that restaurants that have his wine on the menu offer his members special perks and waive the corkage fee on all McClain wine brought in by patrons.

Promise Keeper

Promise Keeper Reserve, a red blend, holds one of the strongest messages. Integrity is the backbone of society, notes Jason. Yet, there’s one word society uses quite casually, without always understanding its significance. The word? Promise. “It’s as if “promise” means something so deliberate and amazing that adding the word makes your integrity not as relevant,” he notes. Jason believes that anyone should be comfortable enough just telling the truth. “Never say you promise; just keep your promise.” The label is humorously ironic, with a painted depiction of a man crossing his fingers and winking, to poke fun at those who feel the need to promise.

Likewise, Jason makes no promises about his wines. Instead, he lets the wines “speak” for themselves – they will tell you they’re good based on the taste and the quality. Jason and Sofia don’t make wine based on what’s trending or selling. They make wine they genuinely enjoy drinking and hope others feel the same.

McClain Family

Jason and Sofia started this winery by taking a big risk. Jason originally thought they should wait until their kids were grown or until they hit retirement, when they’d be financially stable enough to land on something in case the winemaking business didn’t work out. But something inside told him to stop waiting and start making wine. He’d grown tired of delaying his passion. He wanted to live with purpose, which meant doing exactly what made him happiest every day. The moments that made life worth living, he realized, were those he spent with family and friends, sitting around, swapping stories and sipping wine. He spoke to his wife about his desire. Her answer? “Well, Jason, you never do anything small. When you succeed, you succeed great. So why not give it a try?” Jason took those words to heart, and with that last bit of encouragement from the woman he trusted the most, he and Sofia decided to stop waiting and start practicing a life with purpose. For them, that meant the creation of McClain Cellars.


McClain Cellars

Tasting Room: 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.

849 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

949-590-9980

mcclaincellars.com


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