For the past twenty years, winemaker Douglas Danielak has made wine for some of the Napa Valley's most respected wineries. Influenced by all things French, Douglas started his winemaking career completing the Professional Winemaking Program at the Lycée Agricole et Viticole de Beaune in Burgundy. At that time he worked with Wine Exporter Rebecca Wasserman at Le Serbet where he gained in-depth knowledge of Burgundian wines and barrels while escorting top winemakers to Francois Fréres and Taransaud cooperages. While studying in France, Douglas worked his first harvest at Chateau de Chambolle-Musigny with his friend and classmate Frederic Mugnier as well as studying and making life-long friends with the sons and daughters of many prized domaines of the Cote d'Or.
Upon returning to California Douglas was able to continue his pursuit of perfection in Pinot and Chardonnay. As few vintners at the time were interested in Pinot and Chardonnay, Douglas formed part of a tasting group of early believers in 1989 including Helen Turley, Mark Aubert, David Ramey and Ted Lemon.
In addition to his studies in Burgundy and tasting with his peers in California, Douglas completed his degree in Viticulture and Enology at U.C. Davis and began a successful wine consulting business in Napa Valley. As one of the first Rhone Rangers, Douglas founded the Jade Mountain label with Jim Paras and was recognized as one of the top innovators of Rhone wine in America. Since then he has expanded his repertoire, crafting fine Bordeaux based wines, Rhones, and naturally Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for his list of clients. With a background and philosophy common to small vintners on either side of the Atlantic, all the wines are made to speak clearly of their origin. With a new set of compelling wines, Douglas and Mary bring the same complexity, charm, and sensibility that was forged by their experience in Burgundy to the wines of Pont Neuf.
While Mary worked with French wine exporter Rebecca Wasserman, the opportunity to combine her love of food & wine, language and photography was the chance of a lifetime. Meeting and working with both French and American wine producers proved to be key in what lay ahead for her career.
Upon returning to the United States the couple moved to Napa Valley and she became wine buyer for Oakville Grocery Company as the business began an expansion to five retail stores and the Oakville Café. Over the 18 years in Oakville she honed her marketing skills and developed the reputation as one of the most respected palates in the industry. The relationships formed with Californian winemakers visiting Burgundy had informed and shaped her talents as a buyer and they continued to flourish. When she was not at the store, she was pitching in at harvest and assisting Douglas with his winemaking projects. With a firm grounding on two continents Mary developed a concise understanding of wine from both the New and Old Worlds. Douglas and Mary now enjoy utilizing their talents in guiding their own label, Pont Neuf.
Our story continues with Pont Neuf
Pont Neuf was born out of the desire to make Californian wines with a French accent; to translate the bold flavors of California with transparency of technique, allowing the character of our own terroir to take the lead in the finished wine. In selecting vineyards for Pont Neuf, we look for single-vineyard sites with comparable quality potential to Premier and Grand Cru vineyards. The clonal selection, climate and farming in each vineyard are key to producing wine that mirrors Burgundian construction after malolactic fermentation. We brought with us those techniques that make wines with distinct personality, wines that move you, a signature that is common to characterful wines of France. Native yeasts, slow and measured malo-lactic fermentation, and a policy of low intervention allow grapes and terroir to tell their story. Those who follow Pont Neuf will find wines of elegance and tradition, graced with the excitement and innovation that is uniquely Californian. Pont Neuf offers a wine club called Le Cercle that allows customers a chance to build a library vertical, access to limited single vineyard bottlings, and large formats. Inquire here.
Douglas and Mary Danielak