Meet the Winemaker Daniel Benton of CROZE and Smith Wooton wines


Daniel and Kara at Premiere Napa Valley Auction.

Bill: What was it that got you started in the wine industry?

Daniel:  I fell in love with the world of fine wine fairly young.  I studied Biology and Chemistry in college.  However, after college I worked in a corporate position where I entertained executives.  Fine wine was always a topic of conversation.  Once exposed, I fell in love with the connection of vineyard to finished product.  I guess that was the old science education taking over.  I felt a connection to the families that farmed the vineyards in each great bottle of wine that I experienced.  I knew I had to get into the industry.


Bill:  Do you have a varietal and style you prefer?

Daniel:  I have always preferred wines that showcase balance and finesse over power.  There is something to be said about a wine that has all the puzzle pieces put together correctly.  For one, it is very hard to accomplish in the winery.  There is a certain level of art in that style of wine that has always captured my attention.


Bill:  What part of the wine making process do you feel is where you become an artist?

Daniel:  I think that moment starts when you pick the fruit.  From that point on Mother Nature has done her thing.  Now it is up to you to hold up your end of the deal. While there is a lot of planning that goes into each vintage, there is also a lot of decisions that have to be reactionary based on the fruit in a given year.  That is where you take artistic liberties.   Great winemakers find a way to have a good balance of scientist and artist, which is a hard thing to do.


Bill:  What is your favorite sport and would you like to coach kids?

Daniel:  I played football in college and have always had a connection to the sport.  I knew my family could never afford to send me to school, so football was a means to an end.  I think there are a lot of very important life lessons an athlete can take from their sport.  Football taught me self-discipline, perseverance, and built a competitive spirit that helped me in business.  I love getting involved with children’s sports.  Although my son is still a little too young, I help out with some of the local high school players.


Bill:  Do you have a varietal in the works you would like to tell us?  If yes, will you release the wine soon?

Daniel:  We are working on launching a Pinot Noir for our Smith Wooton label.  I have always been a fan of the varietal and love classic Burgundy.  Our fruit is coming from an amazing small vineyard in the Carneros AVA.  We should release the first vintage later this year!


Bill:  Do you drink anyone else’s wine or is there a region you prefer to drink like Bordeaux, South Africa?

Daniel:  I do.  One of the great advantages of being in the Napa Valley is that everyone shares their wines.  We trade wine with a lot of different produces so that we can experience what other winemakers are doing with specific vineyards around the Valley.  There are too many great local wines to just name a few, but there are some AVA’s that stand out.  I love trying Cabernet’s from Stags Leap District and Oakville.  Those are two of my favorite areas for Cabernet.  When it comes to France, I love classic Burgundy.  From Montrachet to Côte d’Or, those wines intrigue me with their complexity.


Bill:  You recently participated in the Premier Napa Valley auction.  What did you offer and would you share what the winning bid was?

Daniel:  PNV is an event that we love.  It gives us a chance to produce a very high-end, one of a kind wine for auction.  I always take the opportunity to create a Bordeaux Blend for PNV.  This year we made a 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon from Oakville.  The wine was 85% Cabernet from Money Road Vineyard and 15% Cabernet Franc from Crossroads Vineyard in Oakville.  Both of these properties have great history and produce amazing fruit.  The winning bid was $14K for the 5 case lot.  All of the money raised goes to the Napa Valley Vintners Association.

Chris and I spent some time with Daniel and Kara while he was bottling the 2012 Croze Cabernet Sauvignon.  Daniel also poured us a taste of his Cabernet Franc in the barrel.  The wine was very impressive.


Unfortunately Daniel could not spend a lot of time with with us.  However, we did spend the afternoon with Daniel’s wife Kara and son tasting various wines at their home.  All of the wines were great and I see improvements in quality vintage over vintage.

If you have a winemaker you would like me to interview or have questions please drop me an email at  Cheers!


Life is too short to drink crappy wine!  Expand your palate and keep trying.

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