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Getting to Know You:
Scott MacDonald
Harold Feder, Cub Reporter | Crest Road

Scott MacDonald in his vineyard.
Photo Shirley King.
Clixk on photo to enlarge.

As many of you know, my premise for these articles is that everyone has a story to tell. I believe my experience with Scott MacDonald validates this theory. I did not know Scott. However, a couple of weeks ago, I jogged by his house on Luzon and was struck by his front yard which had been converted into a vineyard. On that basis alone, Scott and I sat down for an interview.

Q: Tell me about your background.

A: For the most part, I have been involved in turning around major real estate companies. One of my first experiences involved The Hahn Company in San Diego. I have worked for companies all around the world included those located in London, New York, Houston and Sydney.

Q: Do these companies have financial troubles?

A: Some of the issues are financial and some involve management or structure or all of the above.

Q: How do you analyze the issues and create resolution?

A: I have both a top down and bottom up approach. The top down is to initially analyze the financial situation by reviewing documents normally provided by management. The bottom up approach is to talk to the employees and to learn the workings of the business by observing over a period of time. I have found that the employees provide great feedback as they are normally very aware of the problems and the reasons for the problems. I then try to change various aspects of the business including the structure to eliminate the problems. This can be a long process. I lived in Sydney for over 5 years working with a major real estate company called Investa. I wrote a book about this experience.

Q: How did you wind up in Del Mar?

A: I had previously lived in Carmel Valley and then bought a house in Del Mar which was rented out during my Sydney experience. After Sydney, I could have moved anywhere in the world, but I really wanted to come back to Del Mar. My accountant advised me to move anywhere but California because of the tax structure. So much for that advice.

Q: So why did you move here?

A: Because I wanted to live in a single family house versus a condo and loved the beauty of Del Mar and the diversity of the homes. The great thing about Del Mar is that there are all types of homes-contemporary, traditional, big, small, one-story, two-story. I think that is a wonderful thing and hope we can preserve this diversity. Since moving here, I realized that my immediate neighborhood is very tight. We have a neighborhood party every month where about thirty people attend.Q: How did your vineyard evolve?

A: When I came back to Del Mar, the front yard was barren. So I thought about doing something a little different and also water tolerant. My neighbor suggested a vineyard which I liked as an idea.

Q: Where did you begin?

A: I went over to the urban winery on Cedros and asked the owner how to proceed. He suggested calling Todd, the expert on vines. My first conversation with Todd was pretty funny when he asked the size of my lot. When I said “10 x 60”, he replied “10 x 60” what? He was less than overjoyed when learning that I was speaking in terms of feet. However, I convinced him that this could be a new business model and he agreed to help.

Q What type of grape are you growing?

A: It is a Chardonnay grape. The reason is that Chardonnay grapes are hearty and do not require as much sunlight as other varieties. Given May gray and June gloom, we thought this was a good choice. Also, this type of grape exists on a drip water system. As a matter of fact, it is important to underwater and stress the grape rather that overwatering.

Q: What’s next?

A: We are in the second year. The grape will be ready for harvest next year. The neighbors will help with the harvest and crushing. Then we will wait for the finished product. We have a name for the wine which is Chateau Luzon after our street. Another neighbor is designing a label. As you can see, my next door neighbor has also started a Chardonnay vineyard where the grapes are one year behind mine.

Q: What else fills your time?

A: My real passion is to try and reform how public education is financed. We need to subsidize students given the high cost of college. I began a pilot program at Davidson University where both of my sons went to school. I initially gave the school $125,000 for the first scholarship. The school promised a 5% return on $100,000 which was the yearly scholarship. The remaining monies went for administrative costs. The school would give the scholarship to a student who promised to work to change the world. The program has been a huge success and been expanded. Examples include one student who began a coop involving bees and honey. The honey (Hives for Lives) is sold in many grocery stores and the profits go to charity-like a small Newman Foundation approach. Another student started a school in Ethiopia. I am now working with the University of North Carolina in reference to other donors and 100 scholarships. (For those interested, the web site is macdonaldscholars.com).

Q: What is the best advice you have received?

A: Honesty and Integrity trumps everything.

Q: The worst advice?

A: Follow the Cubs and they will win the World Series.

 

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