Thursday, July 15, 2021

By the Bottle: Dan Petroski

Wine lovers on wine and the vinous life.

I first met Dan in Napa Valley, where he is a winemaker at the historical winery Larkmead and also has his own label, Massican, which focuses on Italian grapes, among others. Dan is an inquisitive soul, constantly searching into corners of the winemaking (and greater) world, looking for answers. A really generous person, I’ve tasted Italian wines with Dan in Napa Valley that I’ve never seen or had the opportunity to taste in Italy. Really glad to have him on these pages today with his perspective and passion.


What wines do you have standing up right now?

I don’t have any standing up, but I do have a lot lying down.


What’s the last great wine you drank?

As we are deep into the summer here in Napa, drinking white wines is top of mind and always topped-up in my glass. And the greatest so far has been the Clos Saint-Joseph Blanc 2019 from Villars-Sur-Var. Ugni Blanc (Trebbiano), Rolle (Vermentino) and Semillon. A perfect wine! I could drink this everyday this Summer.


Are there any classic wines that you only recently had for the first time?

During the pandemic I had the good fortune of drinking a bottle of (Jean-Louis) Chave Cuvée Cathelin, it was the first vintage of the wine, 1990. Blessed are generous friends. (ed. note: this wine would sell for about $13,000 a bottle, if one could find it.)


Describe your ideal drinking experience (when, where, what, how).

Any experience that offers me an opportunity to start with a Martini, move on to a glass of Champagne, then some white wine and finish strong with a red wine. That experience can happen anyplace with new or familiar faces and something good to eat.


What’s your favorite wine no one else has heard of?

There are two wines that I love sharing with people. Many of the times I poured these wines folks haven’t had them before. Most people know of Elisabetta Foradori from Trentino, but 9 out of 10 times they have not tried her Ramato Pinot Grigio called Fuoripista. And the second wine is made by Marisa Cuomo from Italy’s Amalfi Coast. I love sharing her whites! Especially if it is Fiorduva. Marisa’s wines capture a texture that I love in Mediterranean white wine.


What wine should everybody drink before the age of 21?

Champagne! The bubbles make it much easier to appreciate especially coming from a beer first diet in college.


What wine should nobody drink until the age of 40?

Burgundy! Hopefully by then you can afford it.


Who in wine — winemakers, winery owners, writers, retailers, collectors — active today do you admire most?

I can answer this and kick myself later for leaving a dozen or so people off the list that I truly admire. So, I will take the easy path and say, Aubert de Villaine. When I grow up, I wish I could be like Aubert.


Do you count any wine as guilty pleasures?

Does all the champagne I drank during Covid count? Seriously, it was end of days type drinking. And it was good.


Has a wine ever brought you closer to another person, or come between you?

I’m very opinionated and have argued the pros and the cons (mostly the cons) of certain wines with people but wine has never broken us apart. Wine always brings us together.


What’s the most interesting thing you learned from a wine recently?

I always learn something from my friends when I am drinking a wine together. Wine is the vehicle, not the driver.


What moves you most in a wine?

I have never consumed a bottle of wine alone. (I don’t count sitting at a restaurant by myself as being alone! The room and the atmosphere are always full.) That said, I am moved by the experience of sharing and being able to communicate how a wine makes me feel. Sometimes it’s all expletives, sometimes it’s jumping up and down.


Which styles do you especially enjoy drinking?

I like spirited wines. Those that have energy on the palate so much so that after you consume a sip of the wine its soul leaves your retro nasal and moves towards the heavens. I feel that way every time I drink Giuseppe Mascarello Monprivato.


How do you organize your wines?

Nebbiolo over here. And everything else.


What wine might people be surprised to find in your racks?

I drink a lot of Las Jaras Superbloom.


What’s the best wine you’ve ever received as a gift?

I’ve been the beneficiary of receiving a lot of great wine over the years, but the Massican mailing list customer who gifted me a bottle of Monprivato knows the way to my heart!


How have your drinking tastes changed over time?

They keep changing. It surprises me, I thought I would have been settled by now but I am having a Renaissance with my tastes. Right now, I just want to drink a lot of delicious and fun wines. Pre-pandemic I was much more serious about what I drank. Don’t get me wrong, I drank a lot of great shit during the pandemic, but I much rather drink a wine and leave with a smile on my face then checking off a box.


You’re organizing a dinner party. Which three people from the wine world, dead or alive, do you invite?

That’s a tough one because you want the dynamic to be right. And I don’t know how Andrew Jefford and Bob Parker would get on! But those two and Alfonso Cevola.


What wines are you embarrassed not to have drunk yet?

Can I just say something sweeping like the wines of Temecula? Seriously, I don’t think I have had a wine from Temecula. I need to correct that.


What do you plan to drink next?

I am bottling Larkmead Cabernet next week. I always like to celebrate the end of bottling with a dinner at the bar at Press in St. Helena. On those nights, after a cocktail, I usually drink a Napa wine with some age on it.

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