Welcome back to Coravin’s Taste of Harvest series! 

Today we chat with DLynn Proctor, Director of Fantesca Estate & Winery in St. Helena, California. DLynn has been a prominent figure in the wine industry for more than 20 years, with extensive experience working with the best in the fine dining business, wine education programs, and winemaking. In addition to his role at Fantesca, he is also the Co-Founder of Wine Unify, an organization that welcomes, elevates, and amplifies the voices of non-white, underrepresented minorities in the wine industry. While DLynn’s titles and accolades are many, they all are rooted in his deep appreciation and understanding of wine. We sat down with DLynn to learn more about his past harvest experiences and what to expect from Fantesca this season.

What’s something people might not know about how their wine gets from the vine to their glass? 

With a winery of our size, that is family-owned and small in production, people may not realize the finite number of hands that actually handle our grapes. Besides a very small crew of pickers (10 acres), no more than 5 sets of hands handle our grapes from fermentation to barrel to bottle.

Have you worked a harvest in the past? If so, when and where?

Indeed. My very first ‘Vintages’ were in Valpolicella as a cellar hand, with the ‘02, ‘03 vintages. I followed those up with Napa Valley in ‘04 and the Texas Hill Country in ‘05 and ‘06. South Australia really gave me a lot more clarity of farming, winemaking, and lab work with my tenure at Penfolds.

Do you think that working a harvest helps sommeliers, both current and aspiring, become more successful in their craft? 

I do, yes. Farming and the understanding of how varieties work in a particular soil, in a particular climate, and on a specific rootstock with a specific vine density are amongst the most important aspects of getting fruit to become the ultimate wine that you may want to make. It’s often common for individuals to study some notes, memorize some facts, and pass exams, but the application of ‘doing’ can really help the sommelier gain a very deep and more expert understanding of the vocation.

How have your harvest experiences helped shape you and your connection to wine? 

If it wasn’t for seeing the vines and learning to understand the specifics, like watering or not (a philosophy thing), pruning, green harvesting, shoot thinning, etc… it might have just become a transactional career.

What factors are taken into account when deciding if Fantesca’s wines are ready to be bottled and made available to the public? 

Bottling always depends on what the barrel samples taste like with Fantesca’s winemakers Heidi Barrett, Tony Arcudi, and the winemaking team. We need balance in the blending, structure, and the marriage of fruit, acid, and tannins. We aren’t reinventing the wheel here, but Heidi’s skill is pure excellence.

Tell us about a varietal you are especially excited to see come out of Fantesca this harvest season. 

It’s always the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. The vines were planted in 1997, and we have replanted a couple of blocks. With those blocks being 4 and 5 years old now, the fruit is not quite making the blend. So the rest of the 10 acre vineyard is doing the heavy lifting and limiting what we can produce. The end result is always 450ish cases of Spring Mountain magic.

What complications has your team faced as a direct result of the Northern California wildfires?

First and foremost, we are fortunate to share that our team is safe and the winery is largely unscathed. While we lost equipment and our outdoor tasting deck, which has been a centerpiece of Fantesca that has been iconic for its illustrious views and celebrations, we know these things can be replaced. There are no words to express our gratitude to the men and women of the St. Helena Fire Department and Cal Fire who have worked tirelessly to protect our community. 

How can consumers best support wineries and families affected during these difficult times? Are there any specific relief organizations or resources that you’d like to share?

The overwhelming support we’ve received in response to these wildfires has been a blessing. Friends and family near and far have asked how they can support Fantesca and the Napa Valley community, and the first thing we tell them is to enjoy a special bottle in our name, and then start planning their next trip to see us once it’s safe to do so. There are more than 500 wineries and 130 hotels and small inns ready to welcome guests to the hospitality hotbed of the world in Napa Valley. 

We’ve also encouraged donations to the Napa Valley Community Foundation. This relief fund provides immediate response grants for additional safety net services, like legal and housing assistance, as well as the launch of cash assistance available to homeowners and renters affected by the fires. 

For more information on how to support those affected by the California wildfires, click here.