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Dry Creek Vineyard, Clarksburg (California) Dry Chenin Blanc 2020 ($15)
 Dry Creek Vineyard is one of California’s most notable wine producers in a number of ways.  Longevity is one thing: the estate that Dave Stare founded in 1972 on the site of a former prune orchard remains one of California’s most consistently dependable estates.  Vision and imagination are also qualities that separate leaders from followers and Dry Creek Vineyard was the first wineries in the region to, for example, establish a Sauvignon Blanc vineyard.  Planting Chenin Blanc vines was perhaps an even gutsier move as this grape is not nearly as well known in the US as it is in France, where it is one of the viticultural stars of the Loire Valley.  Dry Creek’s interpretation of Chenin Blanc yields a stellar wine, with alluring aromas and impeccably dry yet fruity flavors (the 2020 vintage brims with hints of pear and peach).  Is there a category of wines one might label as “loveable?”  If so, Dry Creek’s food friendly and affordable Chenin Blanc definitely belongs there.      
93 Marguerite Thomas


Posted by Miranda Franco on September 22, 2021 at 5:51 PM

Pathbreaker: Dan Petroski, The Massican Winemaker Pushing Whites to California’s Forefront

The Napa Valley wine industry is rich with winemakers producing premium Cabernet Sauvignon as economics continue to drive the prominence of the variety.  So, it was a thrill to sit down (via Google Meet) with winemaker Dan Petroski as he pushes the pendulum of Napa Valley wines toward white wines that combine the sunny Mediterranean with an intellectual appeal.

Petroski is the founder and owner of Massican, which serves as an ode to Mediterranean wines.  Massican's name comes from the coastal mountain range in Southern Italy.  His entire production is white wines (and vermouth), producing several distinctive Italian varietals like Ribolla Gialla and Tocai Friulano that don't often get the attention they deserve and are seldom seen in Napa.  His focus on white wines makes Massican the only all-white wine project in the Napa Valley.

Petroski came to wine somewhat unconventionally after a successful career in publishing.  In 2005, he traded in New York publishing expense accounts and power lunches to serve as an intern with the Valle dell' Acate winery in Sicily — a move driven by his Italian heritage and affinity for Italian wines.  Petroski explained that his time in Italy was, in essence, his second act in life (following the first of business and marketing) focused entirely on creativity and the art of learning a craft.  He returned to the States to work in the wine industry, serving as a harvest intern and eventually landing the coveted spot as winemaker for Larkmead Vineyards in Calistoga. 

While at Larkmead, he began his personal label, inspired by his time in Sicily and the beautiful, local white wines he would enjoy while overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.  Petroski is now in his self-described third act, having left Larkmead recently and focusing solely on Massican.

The 2020 Massican portfolio consists of “Annia,” named for Petroski’s mother, a blend of 61% Tocai Friulano, 27% Ribolla Gialla and 12% Chardonnay and “Gemina,” a blend of 75% Pinot Bianco and 25% Greco.  Petroski also makes a 100% Sauvignon Blanc, a 100% Chardonnay, and dry and sweet vermouth, inspired by a love of Italy’s aperitivio drinks.  All of the Massican wines are piercingly pure, refreshingly crisp, and easy-drinking.   

Sadly, the wines from Massican are not so easy to obtain, as currently only 3,000 cases are produced.  The wines are primarily distributed directly to consumers via the Massican mailing list, and they are also distributed to select retail shops across 14 markets.  However, the shortage is slowly easing as Petroski seeks to increase production.  As a first step, he will soon release a Whole Foods exclusive white blend named Emilia Bianca after his grandmother.  It will ring up for $22, making it slightly more accessible than his other $30 bottlings.  

Petroski doesn’t shy away from political discourse, which with him is as refreshing as his wines.  His Instagram magazine tackles topical issues like fighting voter suppression.  He’s also long been at the forefront of the climate crisis discussion in Napa.  In response to my question asking if Napa has focused too much on Cabernet production and not on what the ground can best yield, he noted that the Cabernet phenomenon is relatively new, a direction Napa went in part after Robert Parker advanced the scoring system.  Accordingly, he remarked that Napa vintners could pivot again to confront climate change by planting different grape varieties akin to Bordeaux, which has now expanded its list of permitted varieties.  However, he emphasized that many in Napa remain short-sighted in their Cabernet reliance, given it is what fetches the highest price.  Petroski noted it wouldn't be until a Napa Touriga Nacional garners 100 points that the tide will turn.  So, for now, Napa continues to plant more and make more Cabernet.

Petroski is also passionate about changing the perception of white wine in the U.S. and exposing those interested in something new to his wines.  To do so, he is dipping his toes into myriad modern marketing approaches, including the Instagram magazine mentioned earlier and the introduction of a non-fungible token (NFT) – digital certificates of ownership and authenticity that can be applied to wine among other things.  He has also recently launched an app with a white-wine emoji.

It's the rare winemaker who modernizes white winemaking, tackles vital social issues, and introduces an endless array of innovative marketing approaches.  Thus, it's no surprise that he and his wines have a loyal following.  I hope after reading this, you will seek out a bottle and join the growing legion of Massican enthusiasts.  

Dr. Michael
This Issue's Reviews
The Okanagan Valley: Making Canadians Proud
Norm Roby

The Okanagan Valley accounts for 90% of all wines made in British Columbia. As a wine producing region, it is home to just under 10,000 acres and over 275 wineries. Looking at what is planted, the breakdown is interesting in that four red grapes--Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc--account for about 75% of the total. And a similar pattern emerged for white varieties with four accounting for 70%: Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, and Riesling. Only seven wineries try to make an Icewine, and It was a surprise to see that hybrids like Baco Noir and others which are thought to thrive in cold climates have pretty much disappeared. With a little digging, I found out why.
Popular Red and White Wine Grape Varieties
Ed McCarthy

Over 10,000 grape varieties exist, but only a very small percentage of them have made the cut as popular wine grapes. To almost no one's surprise, the most grown wine grape in the world is Cabernet Sauvignon. Total acreage of the world's vineyards destined for Cabernet Sauvignon wine production is about 16 million acres! Of the 10,000+ grape varieties, the 13 most popular varieties are planted on one-third of the world's vineyards. Naturally, it is easier to sell wines when people know the grape varieties. Although there is a trend among some producers to search out old, forgotten grape varieties, such as the recently revived white grape variety, Timorasso, in Piedmont, Italy, the most popular grape varieties clearly dominate world wine production.
Wine With
WINE WITH…Pork Chops Stuffed with Fresh Peaches

Apples are surely what one thinks of as the best fruit partner for pork, but fresh peaches might be just as popular if they weren't so dependent on seasonality. Decent apples are available almost year-round, but peaches tend to be mealy, dry and flavorless except in late summer. In the northern hemisphere, July, August and September are generally when you will find deliciously juicy peaches bursting with flavor. So, now is the time to make the most of them-which entails a partnership with pork and pairing with a delicious wine. Pork's relatively mild flavor makes it a good companion to a reasonably wide range of wines (at a wide range of prices), but this does not mean that the wine, whether white, pink, or red, should be one-dimensional. Of the handful of wines I selected to try with this dish, the best ones had a particular distinctive fruitiness-not to be confused with sweetness-that married well with the pork and peach duet.
On My Table
An Early Peek at a Great Montalcino Vintage
Mary Ewing-Mulligan

The Caparzo estate was initially planted beginning in the late 1960s, in the very earliest days of international recognition for the wines of Brunello di Montalcino. In 1998, Elisabetta Gnudi Angelini purchased the property, which she runs in collaboration with her son and daughter. The estate covers 223 acres of vines on all sides of the hill of Montalcino. Aficionados of Montalcino wines credit different parts of the production zone with imbuing different characteristics to the wines from that area. This 2019 Rosso di Montalcino hails from three vineyards in the northern, southern, and eastern parts of the production zone, ranging from 220 to 270 meters in elevation (720 to 885 feet). When you taste the 2019 Caparzo Rosso di Montalcino, expect to find aromas and flavors of red fruits (red cherry, sour cherry, pomegranate, even raspberries) with notes of smoke, spice, nut meats, and dry earth. In your mouth, these flavors are pronounced, lively and fresh.