With Fodor’s Travel Guides, we can explore world regions from the eyes, ears, and penmanship of regional writers. Many of our own decisions are based on the reviews in print and online, about these fabulous and global places of interest.
- Africa and Middle East
- Australia and The Pacific
- Mexico and Central America
- South America
And, it takes a global village of people to create these kinds of resources. For my part of the wine country (Sonoma, and Napa), Fodor’s writing is being accomplished by the very affable Danny Mangin, who covers “wineries, sights to see, activities, restaurants, and hotels in Napa, Sonoma, and beyond.” (Quoting his Website.)
I first met Danny at ACORN Winery, located in the Russian River Valley. My friends Bill and Betsy Nachbauer (owners of ACORN) had also invited Danny Mangin and his partner William, and so began my seeing Danny at every subsequent wine event I attended. Initially, we’d chat, but I never got to the bottom of who he was. I just knew I liked him. As time went on, I saw Danny on every electronic media channel, and I finally got pretty curious. My reaction, at this very time, is that Danny is extremely formidable, and is definitely part of our current, global wine writer database.
I’m really honored to share him with you. The best I can do for fellow wine writers is to share who they are, so you, too, know who you can enjoy through their profiles on my Wine Writer page.
While Danny’s writings are very thorough and interesting about all wine stories and data, it plays to the strings of my heart that he’s also a champion of the underdogs. These writers dare to step off the beaten path… they’re adventurous and selfless, they elevate all boats so the sea is more level, with their ship and contents then catch more visibility. Writers are our marketers and our heroes.
Danny Mangin ~ Fodor’s Travel Destinations
[Q] Tell me something about you that no one in the wine world knows.
[DANNY MANGIN] Personally
In the late 1970s, I did lighting for two Bay Area punk-era bands and occasionally picked up gigs with headliners like Ray Charles, Etta James, and the Talking Heads. Rock friends were always impressed about the Talking Heads until I confessed my instructions from David Byrne: “Turn the lights all the way up when we get onstage. Turn them off when we leave.” (It was the band’s minimalist period.)
I tasted the winning Judgment of Paris California wines when they were young.
[Q] What inspired you to write about wine?
[DANNY MANGIN] Through a roadie friend, I met a collector of Napa Valley wines who introduced me to labels—Mayacamas, Heitz, Phelps, Trefethen, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Stony Hill, Steltzner—way better than anything I’d been drinking. I immediately “got” why these wines were magnificent. My ardor back then, for a particular Cab, led to some stern advice I’ve lived by ever since: “Heitz Martha’s Vineyard is not for a Monday-night burger by yourself.”
I didn’t begin writing about wine right away, but seeing the wine world through a collector’s eyes and participating in conversations, with the vintners and winemakers he knew, spurred a lifelong interest. Some encouraging words from Zelma Long late in her tenure at Simi led more directly to my involvement.
[Q] What is your primary interest with wine?
[DANNY MANGIN] I come from the travel-guide world, where part of the job is to help readers choose the best experiences given their budgets and levels of taste—and perhaps gently elevate the latter. So, turning people onto worthy wines and wineries is a primary focus. This includes broadening readers’ varietal awareness—as you know, I’m enthusiastic about California Petite Sirah and Zinfandel. I also like to highlight low-on-the-radar mom-and-pop wineries, along with operations of any size that are advancing winemaking or grape growing.
[Q] Tell me about your Fodor writings (what a great gig).
[DANNY MANGIN] It is a great gig. What’s not to like about tasting great wines and food and interviewing people intensely passionate about what they do? I’m coming up on three decades with Fodor’s, two times in Manhattan on staff and three in California as a freelancer. While on staff, I ran Fodors.com for five years and was the editorial director of the culturally oriented Compass guides.
My main assignment is Fodor’s Napa and Sonoma, and I cover Mendocino, Lodi, the Gold Country, and a few other areas for Fodor’s California. A few years ago, I checked out wineries from Shasta County to Temecula in the same month. You learn a lot about terroir covering that much ground, but also varietal. I became fascinated, for instance, about the diverse ways Syrah expresses itself throughout the state, even before factoring in winemaking skills, cellar approaches, and facilities.
[Q] What has your journey been like as a wine writer?
[DANNY MANGIN] I commissioned and edited copy about California wines for a decade before doing much writing and learned a lot from my authors. As part of my editorial due diligence, I found myself consulting all sorts of texts, taking classes, and tasting hundreds of wines (I’m very diligent). One always feels one could know more, but I am happy to have followed the path I have.
[Q] What wine regions have you covered, what would you like to cover, and why?
[DANNY MANGIN] For Fodor’s and other outlets, I’ve covered most of California. I haven’t explored Santa Barbara County as systematically as other regions, so I’d like to complete that part of my education. In March, I participated in a master class in Oregon wines that rekindled interest in Pacific Northwest wines that dates to when I commissioned books on Oregon and Washington. Outside the U.S., the Loire Valley, Spain, Tuscany, and Chile intrigue me. Oh yes, and New Zealand for Pinot Noir—I recently had some superb wines from there and would like to try more.
[Q] As an independent writer, without the safety net of a salary, what’s your biggest challenge?
[DANNY MANGIN] It’s the same as when I did have a salary: not drinking up the profits! To be serious, though, I’ve been lucky enough to have had a few ongoing writing and editing opportunities that pay decent if not fabulous money. These days, the biggest challenge is ferreting out assignments that help me grow as a wine writer.
[Q] Does William also write with you, or is he your constant companion with any suggestions?
[DANNY MANGIN] I used to joke that I had William accompany me on winery visits so I could get the Every Traveler’s take, but he’s become too sophisticated to provide that anymore. His evolution is instructive, though. When we met 33 years ago, he was as apt to like grocery-store Chinese plum wine as Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. But like the rest of us, the more he tasted, the more he became able to detect and appreciate quality. He doesn’t write, but he snaps mighty-fine social-media photos.
[Q] Besides wine, what is another passion?
[DANNY MANGIN] We’ve lived the past decade in northern Marin County (or as we prefer to say, lower Petaluma Gap), so like all good Marinites we’ve gotten into hiking. I write about some favorite hikes on my website.
[Q] What does a typical day look like for you?
[DANNY MANGIN] This being the first week of updating Fodor’s Napa and Sonoma, I’m spending much of the day reviewing the last edition, reading my notes about what’s changed over the past two years, and lining up places to (safely) visit and research.
[Q] What are your greatest strengths?
[DANNY MANGIN] As a writer, I hope my greatest strengths are that I can turn a phrase and do my part to make wine less intimidating for general readers.
[PHOTO CREDIT: Chenoweth Wines]