INNOVATOR OF THE YEAR

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Napa’s iconoclastic winemaker sees the future of the Massican brand in vermouth, beer, body products, gin, coffee, a magazine, emojis, NFTs, virtual vineyards, and beyond.

Napa’s iconoclastic winemaker sees the future of the Massican brand in vermouth, beer, body products, gin, coffee, a magazine, emojis, NFTs, virtual vineyards, and beyond.

Meet the 2022 Drink Innovator of the Year

Magazines, NFTs, climate change, coffee, the color blue, the metaverse, emojis, gin, body wash, winemaking — this seems like a loose dataset. Its common denominator is Dan Petroski. Napa’s iconoclast, Petroski makes Mediterranean-style whites in the valley of Cabernets. But his cultish brand, Massican, is currently a drop in the bucket. If plans pan out, that bucket will overflow, watering his every passion, amid the vines and beyond.

To that end, this futurist of the crush pad recently quit his longtime position as winemaker at historic Larkmead Vineyards, where he oversaw experimental plantings of climate-friendly grapes and revamped the house style of Cab, making it leaner and more elegant. “I couldn’t keep my day job and try to be the next Santa Margherita,” he says.

That brand sells millions of bottles, “but I think there’s an opportunity for Massican to get 10% of that market share,” Petroski says. “Plant more vineyards; find more distribution. At my $30 a bottle, the only the thing that matters is scale.” Scale is the quickest way to cash flow, which takes us back to our original list: “I want to work with great people doing cool shit. My brand is a vehicle to larger conversations.”

Petroski is using Massican, its label a proprietary blue from a 1,500-year-old Pompeiian fresco, to create vermouth, beer, upcoming body products, gin, and, eventually, coffee. Using aromatic white wines as the wedge, he wants to “own the whole aromatic category.”

That’s not all. Petroski’s interest in media has led to the internet’s cutting edge. For the next season of Massican Magazine, a free online publication covering everything from art to regenerative agriculture, he’s pondering an Instagram cookbook with interactive dinner parties. He created an NFT — a video of his quest for the first white wine emoji. Then he launched that emoji in an app that includes a bar’s worth of booze for your drunk texting. “Now, I’m looking at the future,” he says. “To decide whether to buy land in the U.K. for growing grapes, or launching a virtual winery in the metaverse.”

Guess which option is winning out? “In the metaverse, you can create space for people to buy things for their avatars: Massican-blue sneakers, shirts, hats. I have a vision of launching an Italian-style bar. We could be sitting there talking on our computer screens.” So many ideas! “Call me tomorrow,” Petroski says. “I’ll have another one.”

-Betsy Andrews, April 2022

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