April 21, 2023

Playful Concept, Serious Wines w/ Kyle MacLachlan, Pursued by Bear

Playful Concept, Serious Wines w/ Kyle MacLachlan, Pursued by Bear

Kyle MacLachlan details his journey of starting Pursued by Bear

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Being a celebrity helps and hinders the launch and selling elements of a wine venture. Kyle MacLachlan, an actor with a broad base of work from Twin Peaks to Sex & the City to The Flintstones, details his journey of starting Pursued by Bear (“PBB”) in Walla Walla, Washington and how he thinks about imbuing his personal brand with the wine brand. From getting approval for the brand name from Steve Martin to designing his newly launched tasting room, Kyle weaves his stories around how branding has worked for PBB. 

Detailed Show Notes: 

Kyle’s background - an actor, including Cooper from Twin Peaks, Sex & the City, Desperate Housewives, How I Met Your Mother, and one of his favorites is The Flintstones

  • He just wrapped filming of Fallout for Amazon, based on the video game
  • He grew up in Eastern Washington, always been a wine drinker over beer & spirits
  • Met Ann Colgin & Doug Shafer in Napa and wanted to start a Napa brand in the late 1990s, but it was too expensive
  • His wife pointed him to WA wine, met Eric Dunham looking for a WA Syrah for his wedding, and partnered in 2005 to launch Pursued by Bear


  • ~3,000 cases, 5 wines
  • PBB Cab Sauv (launched ‘05; ~500 cases) - was Cab, Syrah, Merlot blend, now Bordeaux blend
  • Baby Bear Syrah (launched ‘08, ~300 cases)
  • Rose (launched ‘15)
  • Bear Cub (launched ‘16, ~1,000 cases) - an entry-level red blend
  • Twin Bear - “prestige wine,” 100% Cabernet

Winery name

  • He wanted it to speak to his ‘day job’ of acting and bring it back to the theater, a Shakespeare reference
  • Refers to a stage direction in Winter’s Tale - “Exit, pursued by a bear”
  • Steve Martin approved of the name, which solidified it

Kyle’s role at PBB

  • Took over 100% ownership of the brand in 2016
  • Very involved in the business, hands-on with operations (e.g., copywriting for labels) and parts of winemaking (e.g., blending trials)
  • Dan Wampfler winemaker since 2008

Leveraging celebrity

  • Has helped bring attention to wine (e.g., using personal social media), but most fans aren’t wine people
  • Gotten more press than otherwise
  • Some product placement (has been in the background of Desperate Housewives and How I Met Your Mother - like an “easter egg”)
  • Tries to be an ambassador for WA State wines
  • Made short videos during the pandemic - “Beary Tales”
  • It is a hindrance at times as people think wines aren’t good
  • Hollywood connections have not helped much - many aren’t big wine drinkers or collectors

Customer acquisition

  • Most effective has been 1:1 hand selling
  • Opening a tasting room in Walla Walla - April 2023
  • Zoom tastings were effective at selling wine during the pandemic
  • He wants people to feel they are on a journey w/ Kyle around PBB

Tasting room

  • Designed to be comfortable - cork floors, oak tables, big bronze bear
  • Located in Walla Walla downtown - a wine-tasting destination, mostly from WA, ID, OR, and Canada
  • Very little acting memorabilia - a Twin Peaks bobblehead & mug
  • Spring Release 2023 - will have 3 musicians playing music, walking around town
  • Likes surprise and delight elements, has had discussions w/ an AR company about embedding elements, but hasn’t figured it out yet
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