How André Mack left a top job and became a self-taught winemaker making millions

Stephen Nartey May 16, 2023
André Hueston Mack/photo credit: Andre Mack via Youtube

None of his immediate family drank wine but a TV show sparked the dream of going into the winery business after leaving a top job.

André Hueston Mack had before this begun a career in food on a modest note at McDonald’s and then later switched to a waiter at Red Lobster in San Antonio, Texas. Though he was ignorant about the wine industry, he pinned his hopes on his willingness to learn by first picking the basics from watching a TV show involving two wine-snob brothers who demonstrated how to sample wines like a 1961 bottle of Château Haut-Brion Bordeaux.

This sparked Mack’s interest to apply for a job at a steakhouse, where he became skilled in the tasting of wine, its history, geography, and biology. He painstakingly learned the ropes of the trade and successfully applied for a sommelier certificate, exhibiting excellence in his passion and winning a major award in 2003. This paved the way for his employment at one of the best restaurants in California known as The French Laundry. Being in such a working environment placed high expectations on him and he had to learn a 64-page wine list while working effortlessly to master it.

Mack got his breakthrough in his career in 2004 when he was made head sommelier at Thomas Keller’s new restaurant at the time, Per Se. It was initially fun watching people taste their wine and engaging them in their experience, however, he felt it wasn’t fulfilling enough. Once again, the San Antonio, TX native needed a more challenging experience so he resigned from his job at Per Se and began his winery in Oregon in 2007, according to Microsoft.

With his graphic designing skills, Mack designed his wine labels and other accessories as he couldn’t afford the $25,000 estimate a graphic designer gave to him to design his labels. Interestingly, as he taught himself about wine, he did the same with graphic design and is now one of the top Black winemakers and graphic artists running Mouton Noir Wines, an Oregon-based company that blends his wine culture with a hip-hop and wine-subculture vibe.

The self-taught winemaker does not regret quitting his job at Per Se as that risky move offered him the opportunity to be creative. He has been able to diversify and now owns seven businesses established in Brooklyn where he resides with his wife and children. Mack has so far written about his experience in a culinary coloring book and also authored a memoir in 2019, 99 Bottles: A Black Sheep’s Guide to Wines, according to Printmag.com.

Last Edited by:Editor Updated: June 11, 2023

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