A Visit with Daniel Petroski, of Massican Wines:
JonBonne, back in January, named DanPetroski as one of his 5 top/up&coming winemakers we should keep our eye on. Dan makes Friulian-style wines up in the NapaVlly under the Massican label. Google led me directly to his WebSite (www.massican.com/). As a fan of Friulian wines, I liked what I saw on his Site.
Alas, Dan had no wines from last Spring's release for sale, but I signed up onto his mailing list.
Lo & behold, within a few hrs I got a personal e-mail from Dan thanking me for signing up to his
mailing list and apologizing for having no wines for sale. My immediate reaction was "Wow...here's a guy that understands what good customer relations is all about". After exchanging a few e-mails on the subject of Friulian wines and sending him my articles on Picolit and passito wines, I knew we had a lot in common in our interests. A visit was certainly in order. That happened last Monday morning; the first day of sunshine since I'd come to Calif for RhoneRangers 5 days afore.
Dan started out w/ a marketing job in the Time/SI magazine biz. He spent a year in Italy working
harvest at Valle dell'Acate in Sicily. (An interesting side comment from Dan: In the '80's/'90's, when wines from Sicily were starting to gain traction in the world market; the growers all jumped into planting "international" varieties (Cabernet/Merlot/Chard), rather than focus on the indigenous varieties they have done well for so many yrs. That move is now broadly regreted.) During that period, after the 3 months at Valle dell'Acate, he travelled broadly throughout Italy, trying their wines. He fell in love w/ the whites of Friuli.
Deciding he wanted to be in the wine biz in some way, he worked a crush at DuMol w/ Andy Smith. Impressed with his work, Andy subsequently ask Dan to stay on to work at LarkmeadWnry, where Andy is consulting winemaker. Dan is pretty much the only winery employee of this primarily Cabernet-based house.
Dan's family on his mother's side comes from the Campania region of Italy. The name Massican (pronounced ma-sock-en roughly, accent on 2'nd syllable) comes from the costal mountain range in Campania.
There actually was/is a fair amount of Tokai Friuliano planted in Calif where it was originally known as SauvignonVert. Because it was mostly used in pedestrian/jug wines and not very highly regarded; much of it has been pulled. Dan's Tocai comes from old vines from an old Nichilini vnyd up in the ChilesVlly. Interestingly, just down the road a bit from the Larkmead wnry on the Larkmead vnyd itself, is a tiny block of old-vine Tocai. This apparently used to go to StonyHill where they made tiny amounts of the wine. With the use of Tocai Friuliano now forbidden in Friuli (thanks to Hungarian vintners who asserted consumers whould confuse it with Tocaji wine...yeah...sure), so it's now simply known as Friuliano, it is not clear whether the TTB will follow suit. Hopefully, not.
The first RibollaGiallo in the US was planted by GeorgeVare; long time wine industry figure and one of the founding partners in Luna Wnry. George is a strong proponent of this variety and hopes to make in better known in this country. As part of that effort, he has been selling/sharing a small part of his 2.5 acres of Ribolla with other producers, including Massican, Wind-Gap and Arnot-Roberts. All good company.
His Annia wine comes from the name of Dan's Mom. The Gemina name comes from the ancient Roman grape variety Aminea Gemina. The Chard in these two blends comes out of Carneros. The Sauvignon Blanc comes from a vnyd up in the Pope Vlly.
The Passito, mostly SauvBlanc, is Dan's first attempt at a passito wine; a genre that I feel should be much more widely embraced in Calif for their dessert wines. To make this wine, he considered a number of options, including leaving the grapes to hang on the vine or girdling the stems to promote dehydration on the vine. In the end, he adopted the labor intensive technique of placing the bunches on old wooden prune-drying trays out back of the wnry. They were left there to dry for about a week, then Dan went along and turned every single bunch of grapes over; battling the bees and the wasps who also liked the grapes Dan had thoughtfully set out for them.
After another week, this (originally) one ton of grapes then went into the press. Bladder presses are not the press of choice for such dehydrated grapes. Virtually no juice was forthcoming with the initial press. Finally, after maxing out the pressure, he was able to squeeze out a scant 50 gallons of 40Brix Sauv Blanc juice. To fill the barrel he was going to ferment the wine in, he topped it off w/ some Ribolla Giallo; and off it went.
So, Dan opened up: