Q & A with Cali Winemaker Dan Petroski
I am truly excited for all of my winemaker/importer interviews and virtual tastings. But this one is extra special. Northern California winemaker Dan Petroski is a gem of a person, incredibly talented vigneron, and a good friend to me.
I have wanted to feature him in our virtual wine tasting series at Edmund's Oast Exchange for months now, but harvest and so many tragic natural disasters in Cali came between us and that goal. But now without further adieu allow me to introduce you to your new favorite Cali winemaker...
Dan is founder and winemaker at his own Massican Wines in Napa, California. He came to wine after a successful career in publishing. Like so many he caught the wine bug and just could not look back. In particular, he fell hard for the elegant white wines of the northeastern Italian region of Friuli (where his family has roots). Now he makes Friulian inspired whites as his solo project. (He is also head winemaker at Larkmead Vineyards where he focuses on Napa reds.)
We will have a live talk/tasting of the pictured lineup with Dan on
Thursday, November 12, via zoom but also recorded to watch at your convenience. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to join in, buy his delicious wine, or even just watch the recording after the fact.
Below is my recent chat with Dan regarding winemaker life during a pandemic. You can also click here to read my interview with Dan last November regarding his wine tips and general meanderings on Thanksgiving celebrations. P.S. I think Dan's Annia is THE perfect white wine for the Thanksgiving table! P.P.S. Yes, Dan makes a beer in collaboration with Westbrook Brewing here in Charleston, SC. Birra Bianca is a wheat beer aged in Dan's white wine barrels! You know you need to have some beer for your holiday gathering, and the Birra Bianca interesting enough for beer nerds but also very user friendly!
Pandemic Q & A With Dan:
How long have you been making wine?
I moved to Italy for a year-long stage in Summer 2005, returned to the States in Summer 2006, and landed an internship in Sonoma before full-time work in the cellar at Larkmead in Napa in January 2007. I started Massican just two years later in 2009. Long answer, to a short question: 14 years!
What initially drew you to this world? Happenstance? Or even a certain bottle?
Primarily my desire to live abroad, under the guise of learning how to make wine. I never expected I'd become a winemaker after that year in Italy.
How has it felt to be a winemaker during the COVID pandemic? Even as the world pauses grapes keep growing…and you have 2 wineries!!
COVID from April to July wasn't bad at all as there wasn't much wine work in the cellars, and in the vineyards the work is outside and the vines themself are "socially distanced" from each other, so it was pretty normal. However, harvest was a different story as some practices like sorting grapes had to be reconfigured or rethought. Basically, we did all the sorting in the vineyard, on the vine the day before we harvested the grapes. That is just one example of winemaking during COVID.
What has been your own therapy during this crazy time -- Wine? Food? Exercise?
The nightly Quarantini - my nightly Quarantine Martini. [Dan is well known for his love of martinis and actually makes vermouth!)
Have there been any especially memorable bottles or meals during this time? I know I have certainly tried to find reasons to celebrate and open special bottles.There has also been that “smoke em if you got em” feeling to this whole thing!
With my COVID budget being focused on eating and drinking at home, it was definitely focused on drinking well. But the best bottles aren't always expensive. That said, one of my all-time favorite wines and one that I drank twice during COVID was Elisabetta Foradori's Fouripista (Ramato Pinot Grigio). Maybe the world's most expensive Pinot Grigio at $50/bottle! [Yes, we do have this wine at Edmund's Oast Exchange!]
How does 2020 harvest look to you? From a perspective of quality? But also from the perspective of staffing? Was it any different from “normal” non-pandemic years?
Through the beginning of the Summer, 2020 was shaping up to be a phenomenal year, but the weather continued to be incredibly persistent - very hot and very dry. This stressed the vines a little too much so that yields were lower than expected but the quality for everything I have worked with is excellent. And with lower yields, we needed less "hands-on-deck" cellar staff which worked out perfectly as the pandemic made it slightly harder for us to
staff our cellars properly.
On a personal level what lessons do you hope to take away from this tumultuous year and what is your vision for moving forward as a country and as a global citizen?
We can talk a lot about being active in regenerative farming and being responsible for the next generation and the land that we leave them. If we are not doing that today and every day, the history books are not going to be kind to us.