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Azores Wine Company, Pico (Portugal) Arinto dos Acores Sur Lies 2018 ($65, Ole & Obrigado / Obrigado Vinhos Portugal)
 If you want to explore the impact of place on taste, look no further than the Arinto dos Acores Sur Lies 2018.  This is a wine from the tiny island and impeccable growing site of Pico in the Azores.  The Azores is a chain of nine islands approximately 1,000 miles off the west coast of Portugal.  Protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2004, Pico's vineyards are planted on volcanic soils and surrounded by dry-stone walls made of black basalt stones.  This Arinto is bone dry, fresh, and lively with bright acidity. It has a smooth texture with layered lemon flavors, providing a citrus and sea salt edge.   
93 Miranda Franco

WRO WINE BLOG

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. 




More wine columns by Miranda:   Miranda Franco   
Connect with Miranda on Twitter:   @Miranda__Franco



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This Issue's Reviews
 
California's Harvest 2021: Small-ish but Excellent
Rich Cook

Seasons. They come and they go, marking the time of the existence of the earth, bringing us a steady current of change and at the same time bringing a consistent rhythm of life. Since ancient times, we have harnessed the physical seasons, planting in the spring and harvesting what each trip around the sun rewards our efforts with - sometimes defying expectations in spite of those efforts, sometimes to the good, sometimes to the tragic, and everything in between. This time of year, it's good to be reminded, especially during what seem to be unending seasons of pandemic and political turmoil, that the physical seasons march on, and those that farm the fruit that becomes the beverage that we love are on the watch, monitoring what comes so that they can deliver the best of what the vintage has to offer.
Wine Grape Quiz!
Marguerite Thomas

Every wine drinker in the world is surely familiar with wines made from the Vitis vinifera wine grapes Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay, and, probably, Riesling. While Zinfandel, Malbec and Tempranillo may not have quite the same name recognition but there's no doubt that regular wine consumers are familiar with their names. But what about Petit Corbu, Kotsifali or Monica? By some estimates there are more than 10,000 wine grape varieties in the world, so unless you are an enologist, a sommelier, or some other well informed wine professional it is unlikely that you'll know every one of them. Still, since it's always fun to test one's knowledge here's a little grape quiz to challenge your enological smarts by seeing how many of these grape varieties you can describe, including place of origin and type of wine. Hint: most, but not all, of them are Vitis vinifera grapes.
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
Exceeding Expectations for Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet
Mary Ewing-Mulligan

Sometimes before tasting a wine, assuming that I am not tasting it blind, I glance at the technical sheet for that wine and imagine how the wine will taste. For a mid- to high-end Sauvignon Blanc from California, these days I expect to read about various clones that produce the wine, and maybe some portion of Semillon. I expect to read about stainless steel fermentation at a range of temperatures, possibly oak aging and perhaps a mix of vineyards from different altitudes. These comments will support findings of aroma complexity, fruitiness, freshness and crispness in differing degrees. But the tech sheet for the 2020 Turnbull 'Josephine' Sauvignon Blanc from the Oakville district of Napa Valley told me that the wine is entirely Sauvignon Blanc (nothing about clones) and that it is aged in concrete (52 percent) with French oak for 38 percent and Italian terracotta amphorae for 10 percent (not stainless steel). Likewise, the tech sheet for the 2018 Turnbull Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve reveals no blending of Merlot or Petit Verdot, but simply 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 100 percent French oak aging. And yet both wines express nuance and complexity, seemingly born that way. The good genes behind these wines, the press material explains, is the richness of the estate's vineyard holdings, 110 acres in Oakville divided among three vineyards, one of which carries vines from the pre-Prohibition era.