Westminster alum opens a winery in Park City, Utah
by Michelle Barber Lyhnakis (MPC ’06)
Holed up in a snowstorm in Squaw Valley, California, Park City natives Stephen MacKay (’10) and Jason Morgan found themselves in a deep conversation about their lives, careers, educations, and passions. Four bottles of wine into the conversation, the childhood friends landed on a great idea: opening a winery in Park City. In March of 2016, that idea came to fruition when the little-league teammates from the Park City Philly’s opened Old Town Cellars on Historic Main Street.
“It’s been a wild ride,” Stephen says of starting a new business. “Do your homework… twice—and don’t be afraid to ask questions.”
Stephen says Westminster helped him foster curiosity and have the courage to ask about things he doesn’t know. These are qualities that have served him well, not only at Old Town Cellars but throughout his life.
Stephen came to Westminster through a US Ski and Snowboard Association scholarship. He started out as an aviation major, but switched majors when the reality of joining the Air Force and living on a ship for months on end set in. A conversation with a Westminster professor helped him choose an environmental science major. After graduation, he moved to New Zealand to learn about wine from some of the masters. He studied, worked, helped open a wine bar in Auckland, and developed a sophisticated palate. “Wine chose me,” he says of heading down this career path. He then moved back to the states, worked in high-end restaurants as a sommelier for five-star resorts like Montage Laguna Beach, and finished at Stein Erickson Lodge in Park City as director of wine and spirits before deciding to start a winery in his hometown.
Old Town Cellars is a quaint, elegant, and rustically modern winery located at the base of Main Street. Park City does not have the climate needed to farm rolling vineyards, which is why Stephen and Jason focus on blends, which means taking finished wines and blending them to create unique and delicious flavors. “Everything we learned about blending wine, we learned from our high school chemistry teacher, Mr. Kahn,” Stephen says jokingly. But after sampling their tasting flight, it’s clear they know what they’re doing.
Old Town Cellars currently carries seven wines: a pinot gris, two chardonnays with different oak structures, a cabernet sauvignon, a malbec, a pinot noir, and a rosé. Stephen says they develop their wines by doing a lot of market research, which shifts their blends from season to season. They look at what is selling nationally and craft wines that are palatable and non-intrusive. After they decide on blends, they test the quality and get honest feedback from family and friends. In addition to making great-tasting wine, Stephen and Jason wanted to create a fun, casual atmosphere where Utahns and visitors to Park City could unwind, learn about wine, and enjoy a glass. As the “Official Wine of Après,” Old Town Cellars is open Monday through Saturday for tastings and can be reserved for private events. Visit otcwines.com.
About the Westminster Review
The Westminster Review is Westminster University’s bi-annual alumni magazine that is distributed to alumni and community members. Each issue aims to keep alumni updated on campus current events and highlights the accomplishments of current students, professors, and Westminster alum.