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20 Not So Penetrating Questions for a Wine Craftsman—Duane Hoff from Fantesca

Riddle me this:  What do you get when you combine Midwestern expatriates, a small production, 1500 case producer of allocated Napa wine, a winery that leverages Web 2.0 and social media, AND a winery that recently hired winemaking maestro Heidi Barrett, current star of the California “Land of Wine & Food” ad campaign and a winemaker with a resume that makes others green with envy?

You get Fantesca; a beautiful winery producing beautiful wine, as if that were enough. 

However, Duane Hoff and his wife Susan are doing so many darn things right it is hard to know where to start with the gushing.

First, I love their companion site to Fantesca, Adopt a Grape (brilliantly executed from a marketing perspective by keeping the site, with cinematic help from my pal B. Napa, separate from the wine brand).  Second, their back-story on the naming of Fantesca and their social object or signature has to be one of the most interesting and creative in the Valley.  Third, Duane Hoff is a nice, funny guy. And, fourth, he just hired Heidi Barrett for pete’s sake.

Throw in Facebook, the Open Wine Consortium and a bunch of other Internet-savvy tricks and this alchemy can mean only one thing:  Better sign up for the mailing list soon.

I caught up with Duane for “20 Not So Penetrating Questions” and I think you’ll see that he’s as genuine, bright and humorous as you might expect for somebody that is making all of the right moves to make Fantesca not just the great winery that it is today, but also one that will be heavily managing the velvet rope on allocations in the future. 

Plus, he’s down with 80’s music and Keyser Soze, which makes him a-ok in my book, but no way can he dunk a basketball (see the last question and take your own guess).

Good Grape:  Which of the Seven Deadly Sins are you most guilty of?

Duane:  I would have to say “Pride”. It isn’t enough to know your own abilities. You have to know your limitations and how many hours there are in each day.

Good Grape:  What is your biggest pet peeve?

Duane: Those political buttons with a “W” and a red circle and slash through it. Hating George Bush isn’t much of a strategy for improving the country.

Good Grape:
What is on your nightstand?

Wine and War: The French, The Nazis and the Battle for France’s Greatest Treasure by Don and Petie Kladstrup and a Conan the Barbarian novel.

It’s kind of like Dennis Miller said. “The reason “Wheel of Fortune” is on right after “Jeopardy” is that once you’ve been forced to choke down the foul-tasting tequila shot of your own abject ignorance, it’s nice to be able to bite into the refreshing lime wedge of other people’s incredible stupidity.”

Ed. Note:  Check out pictures of Duane’s wife.  Here at Good Grape, if married to Susan, we wouldn’t keep anything on the nightstand. 

Good Grape:  What is in your refrigerator or pantry that you wouldn’t openly admit?

Duane: Dark Chocolate Covered Potato Chips.  Mother of God, they are good!

Good Grape: What do you drink when you’re not drinking wine?

Duane:  The adage that it takes a lot of good beer to make great wine is in effect. I am also not opposed to the occasional rum powered “boat drink” if the weather is hot.

Good Grape: What type of music or radio station is played most often at Fantesca?

Duane: I like to torment the younger guys with my passionate knowledge of 80’s rock lyrics and trivia.

Good Grape: In what era would you live if you transport yourself?

The United States at the turn of the 20th Century. It was a period characterized by extraordinary optimism and growth. The spirit of this was captured in the Art Deco architecture of the time. The Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building were completed a year apart in 1930-1931. Both buildings were completed on time and under budget. The Empire State Building was the tallest in the world for 41 years. The Chrysler Building remains the tallest brick building ever built. I greatly admire the indomitable spirit of that era.

Good Grape:
  What is the best wine-related book you’ve read?

Duane: “Plain Talk about Fine Wine” by Justin Meyer. Justin Meyer founded Silver Oak Winery. He wrote a wonderful straightforward book about enjoying wine, and making wine. He holds wine up as a gift from God to be enjoyed. Never stuffy or pretentious, but worthy of your attention. 

Good Grape: What is your favorite movie genre? 

Duane: I love plot twisting dramas like “The Usual Suspects” and “Memento”.

Good Grape: Is your desk messy or organized?

Duane: I have a great quote about that here somewhere… I just can’t find it right now.

Good Grape:  Are you always early or terminally late?

Duane: Define terminally.

Good Grape: Do you read the comics in the newspaper?  If so, what’s your favorite comic?

Duane: I love Dilbert. It reminds me why I go to a winery every day instead of an office.

Good Grape:  Who would you want to play you in the movie about your life?

Duane: My wife suggested Jon Bon Jovi. I would ask for Chris Rock. That way my jokes would actually be funny.

Good Grape:  What super-power would you most like to have, and why?

Duane: Do you remember Superman flying around earth so fast that he could go back in time by a few hours? I have two teenagers. That skill would come in handy.

Good Grape: You are moving and can only take three or four articles you want to take with you. What would you grab?

My amazing Goodall Guitar, my laptop, and some great wines. That and my wife and kids, and I am set to go!

Good Grape: What do you do if you have a spare hour?

Duane: I see if my busy kids can hang out with me and watch something we recorded on TiVo. I am a big fan of TiVo because it allows us to find things we want to watch together. My son and I love Mythbusters, and he tries to explain South Park to me… My daughter and I watch American Idol together and occasionally, “So You Think You Can Dance”.  It gives us great things to talk about over dinner.

Good Grape: What was the last great restaurant you ate at?

Duane: Mama’s Fish House in Maui. The restaurant is just off the surf of the north shore of Maui. It is stunningly beautiful. The seafood is “pound on the table” good! The recipes were gathered as the family sailed on their small boat around the South Pacific in the 70’s. The menu changes every day based on what the daily catch is and the menu identifies the fisherman that caught it. No Ka Oi (It’s the best!).

Good Grape: What is your favorite ice cream flavor? 

Duane: A hot fudge sundae. Food Nirvana.

Good Grape:  What is the best compliment you have ever received?

Duane: I am lucky enough to hear it all the time: “Your children are terrific”.

Good Grape:  “2 Truths And a Lie” – Share 3 unique things about yourself and your life, 2 of them true, 1 false, readers will guess by leaving a comment


I lived in England for a year with my parents as part an exchange program.

I won the 1981 Little International Livestock Judging Competition.

I can dunk a basketball.


Posted in, Good Grape Daily: Pomace & Lees. Permalink | Comments (2) |


On 06/03, Rich wrote:

Mama’s Fish House…he is so right! Also, the part about being able to go back in time to deal with teenage issues. The man speaks from a wealth of experience!

I vote that he didn’t live in England for a year, but I usually lose these votes.

On 08/21, wrote:

I have to admit this is a very good article and worth reading !I am lucky enough to hear it all the time: “Your children are terrific”.


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