Drinks Innovators of the Year: Dan Petroski

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.

Portrait of Dan Petroski
Photo: Cadet Wine & Beer

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.

See all of Food & Wine's 2022 Drinks Innovators of the Year

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."

Dan Petroski

I want to work with great people doing cool shit.

— Dan Petroski

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."

What to Try

2018 Massican Sweet RED Vermouth ($22)
Light-bodied and delicately juicy with a flavor that's just this side of bitter from sweet, this cherry-hued vermouth offers notes of orange peel, cake spices, and gingery galangal. Craving a Perfect Manhattan? With this bottle, you can skip the dry vermouth and get the balance you want anyway.

2020 Massican Annia ($30)
A blend of fragrant Italian grapes — Tocai Friulano and Ribolla Gialla — with just a touch of Chardonnay, this floral charmer smells of peach blossom and tastes of grapefruit and wild, sea-sprayed herbs. Its zesty flavor is offset by a creamy texture from a long rest on the lees.

2020 Massican Sauvignon Blanc ($32)
Modeled on the Sauvignons of Friuli, this zippy wine announces itself with a heady, high-noted scent. Its palate unfurls a crazy quilt of flavors: candied fennel, Meyer lemon peel, apple, bell pepper, crushed pineapple. It's all about pizzazz.

Where to Find Massican

Website: massican.com
Newsletter: massican.substack.com
Instagram: @massicanwinery
Twitter: @daniel_petroski

Meet the 2022 Drinks Innovators of the Year

Fawn Weaver and Victoria Eady Butler | Bill Shufelt | Morgan McLachlan | Jason Haas | Graciela Ángeles Carreño | Jackie Summers

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