Forbes: Interview with Dan Petroski

How A NY Publisher Became A Successful Winemaker For Two Wildly Different Brands

How did a Nebbiolo-lover from the New York publishing world become an icon of hipster wine while simultaneously producing some of Napa’s most exciting Cabernet for a heritage brand in Calistoga? Because Dan Petroski is uniquely suited for both.

Petroski is the owner/winemaker for his label Massican and head winemaker at Cabernet Sauvignon house Larkmead, owned by Cam Baker and Kate Solari Baker. Meeting with him last winter proved a fascinating encounter. Over dinner in Calistoga, I could sense the dichotomy of his character, the toggling between his innate East Coast city sensibility and his newfound agrarian lifestyle as a California winemaker. He problem-solves like a corporate strategist with a science background who cares deeply about artistry. It’s as though his left and right brains hum along in harmony, politely ceding the floor to the other when required.

A Brooklyn native, Petroski resigned from publishing in 2005 after working for Sports Illustrated and TIME in New York for nearly a decade. Having developed a penchant for Italian wine, he moved to Sicily for a complete life reset, eventually returning to the States to find work in Napa’s wine industry. While landing a spot in a cellar, he founded his own brand, Massican. The name derives from Monte Massico, a coastal mountain in southern Italy’s Campania, although the wine he produces actually pays tribute to the north, namely Friuli.

For Massican, Petroski makes moody, textural dry whites that have caught the attention of young, t-shirt clad sommeliers across the U.S. (Being on-trend in that niche in no way diminishes the wines’ import.) For Larkmead, he produces savory, intellectual – and very expensive – Cabernet. Granted, “intellectual” is not typically an adjective used for the hedonistic style pervasive in Napa, but that’s not the kind of wine Petroski makes. By picking earlier and separating lots by soil for the “Larkmead” line (Dr. Olmo, Solari, and The Lark), the product is as much about the pleasure of a fine-tuned Cabernet as the exercise of understanding it. The amalgamation of art and science.

[Click here] to read what Petroski had to say about his unusual backstory, his vision for Larkmead, and the future of his Massican label.

Lauren Mowery

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