Marco DiGiulio finds tripe alluring, drinks resiny IPA beers and is a big fan of salt cod and fresh sardines. For him, heaven is where they serve cheese and sparkling wine for dessert. Every day.
“You have to have an adventurous palate,” says the Chief Winemaking Overlord at Vintage Wine Estates—that is, in fact, his official job title. “You can’t be afraid of tastes or aromas. It’s all a learning experience, even when it’s unpleasant.” Just don’t ask him to eat beets. He draws the line at beets. He’s also a bit of a food purist —bourbon should be neat, espresso black and mustard the only condiment for a hot dog.
Seated al fresco for lunch at the Portuguese inspired Café Lucia in Healdsburg, DiGiulio selects a 2013 Raza Vinho Verde for its bracing acidity and minerality. He deftly bones fresh, grilled sardines and forks into salt cod baked with potatoes, onions and olives—all of which he’s willing to share as he opens up on his career and philosophy he’s accumulated in a life spent learning and living food and wine.
The son of Italian immigrants who waited tables, he grew up in San Francisco speaking Italian and eating his grandmother’s traditional cooking. Wine was not always his passion but during his first year at UC Davis pursuing an engineering degree, he concluded that career path wasn’t for him. After finding out about the enology program there, he sat in on a class. It suited him, and he never looked back.
In the more than 30 years since, he has crafted wine at several properties, including Pine Ridge Winery, Atlas Peak Winery and Pezzi King Vineyards, and now serves as the Senior Winemaker at Vintage Wine Estates. While lending his expertise to multiple wineries and winemakers in the region, he still finds time for his personal wine label, Marco DiGiulio Wines, and proudly serves on his local school board.
Asking him to brag about his accomplishments isn’t an easy feat, and he prefers to detail his mishaps over the years, like the time he nearly blew up a fermentation tank with a clogged release valve or when he almost spent his weekend atop a wine tank when, all alone at the winery, his ladder fell. But don’t let his humbleness fool you, Marco’s wine consistently receives 90+ point scores from top critics and he has been recognized by Wine Spectator as “one of Napa’s leading wine consultants.”
Today, Marco still finds his career to be a constant learning experience and encourages people to not limit themselves to the familiar. When asked what advice he would give to aspiring wine enthusiasts, he says, “try everything. Everyone has the capacity to commit experiences to memory, but you have to remember to pay attention.”
Q & A with Marco
What’s your go-to wine?
Any aromatic, high acid, low-ish alcohol white
Best thing about living in wine country?
Weather, food and tons of interesting people
If you could have a dinner party for any 3 people, who would they be?
Hard to narrow it down to three…
- Frank Zappa
- John Cleese
- Miles Davis
- David Byrne
- David Foster Wallace
Biggest wine tasting pet peeve?
Holding the glass by the bowl. That’s why the stem’s there
What’s your music guilty pleasure?
Bee Gees from the Saturday Night Fever era
Bucket list vacation destination?
Wine advice for a beginner:
Try everything and pay attention
Best thing about a good meal out?
No dishes to do
Best bang for the buck?
Cheap rosés from the south of France
Salty or sweet?
Salty, always and forever