• Sarah O'Kelley

Thanksgiving with a Winemaker

Updated: Feb 3


Photo Credit: Douglas Mass

A longtime blog goal of mine has been to include interviews with winemakers, and Thanksgiving seems like the perfect time to kick it off! I am thrilled for the inaugural "Q&A" to be with Dan Petroski, one of the nicest guys in the business. He is founder and winemaker at his own Massican Wines in Napa, California.


Dan 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.)


Like all of us in the wine biz Dan loves to celebrate life through food and drink, and I figured that he would have an interesting take on Thanksgiving. Keep reading to see for yourself!


P.S. I happen to think that Dan's Annia (a Friulian inspired white blend) happens to be the perfect holiday wine as it has brightness and body, but also check out his mineral driven Sauvignon Blanc, elegant Chardonnay, and more.


Now on to the heavy hitting questions!


What is your Thanksgiving food tradition?

I don’t have any food traditions, we just have a standing reservation to eat every other year with my oldest and dearest friends in Napa/Sonoma: winemaker Stéphane Vivier, his wife Dana and their two kids Lucile and Armand. Do you cook at home? Is it a big crowd?

We prep at home on Wednesday and often go out to others on Thanksgiving day. We love the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and have a little tradition - we throw our door open to an all-day cocktail party as we open wine and mix cocktails while prepping pies and sides. We often have a dozen or two friends stop by to say hello and have a drink. What's your favorite beverage to start Thanksgiving day?

Coffee as I have been often hung-over because of our Wednesday tradition! But when the alcoholic beverage drinking begins, it is usually something spirit based and often bitter to help prime the palate. Knowing the weather in California is often warm, a Paper Plane is always the right amount of bright and sweet with a hint of bitter.


(The Paper Plane is a cocktail created by Australian bartender Sam Ross. It's equal parts Amaro, Aperol, Bourbon and lemon juice. Here's a link to the recipe in Imibe magazine.)

Do you make a wine plan in advance of the big day?

Always. My life always revolves around the wine theme first and the food theme second!

Do you like to have a theme to your Thanksgiving wine choices? Like all American?

For sure I have done all American but my wife’s tradition of making lasagna on Thanksgiving opens us up to Italian pretty quickly and it is always nice to give thanks for French wine.

Do you open up your own wines on Thanksgiving? (I happen to think Annia is a perfect wine for the holiday table!)

I agree, Annia is perfect wine for all the tables! But it’s funny, I don’t often open my wines for Thanksgiving unless someone from out of town is visiting. The reason for this is that I will be following up Thanksgiving with blending trials so I will be inundated with tasting my own wines; so, I like to look forward to trying a lot of wines that will inspire me. This year our Wednesday wine choices will be Italian whites from Friuli and Campania. What general advice would you give folks as they pick out wines for their own festivities? Like, stick to crowd pleasers or go for something special?

I like a little bit of both. But Thanksgiving is all about excess so sometimes it is difficult to open something special and truly appreciate it. So, if you do, do it early in the evening. That said, the wine is only a single part of the bigger picture of the day. So, no need to worry too much because most people will be talking Turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie not so much about the balance of the 2004 Dominus (a wine I particularly enjoyed at last year’s Thanksgiving festivities).

How many bottles do you recommend per person?!

What’s the old joke, “one Tequila, two Tequila, three Tequila, floor!” One suffices, two is excessive. I’ll usually plan for two. What do you think is the ultimate turkey wine?

This is the ultimate hard question! I was fortunate to sit in on a pretty exhaustive Trousseau tasting earlier this month. Those wines have been on my mind since - not only for their deliciousness but also their price. I see some Sandlands and some Pelican sneaking onto the table this year. What has been the holiday wine/pairing that stands out most in your memory?

It’s usually the champagne refresh at the end of the evening when the plates are cleared and we start playing board games. What do you like to sip on after the big meal? Any secret digestifs that proves the magic anecdote for all that food?

Madeira! Not enough of it in our lives! This year I have a birth year Verdelho to share.

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