Vintner Dan Glover is no relation to the actor of the same name, but they both started out in the entertainment field.
“I wrote songs for films, performed as a singer, played bass and drums and was a recording engineer in Los Angeles,” said Glover, 56. He grew weary of the cutthroat L.A. entertainment scene and thought fondly of a place he’d lived before, San Francisco.
“In San Francisco I worked as an audio engineer. That’s where I learned to savor and appreciate wine. I discovered that I loved fantastic wines but couldn’t afford them.”
After moving to picturesque Healdsburg, Glover found the grind of a city commute exhausting. He liked living in Sonoma County and decided to find a local job. Since he enjoyed fine wine, but not the price tag, he was determined to learn how to make it.
“I got a job at Clos du Bois during harvest although I didn’t know anything.” He learned how to drive a forklift, hook up a hose and every job in-between.
Working for a large winery taught him about the labor that goes into a good wine.
“I tell young people that it’s good to start out in the cellar at a big winery. That’s where I got my chops at a fast pace. You learn to be more efficient and those above you appreciate what you’re doing and that’s how you move up.”
He spent two harvests at Clos du Bois before leaving for the smaller Armida Winery, where he was eventually promoted to assistant winemaker.
“It was great there, hard but good. I learned a lot about chemistry. I’d read chemistry textbooks at lunch and at home. That led me to ask better questions about making wine.”
From Armida he went to Dutcher Crossing Winery to be their associate winemaker, with more responsibility in wine formulation, barrel choice and brix.
“That’s when I started buying grapes to make my own wine. It was a nice job with a nice paycheck but there’s a difference in selling wine that’s not yours.”
He took a leap and made his own wine. Glover’s label is L’Objet Noir. Over 11 years, he’s persevered, making Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc, attending events and pouring his wines for a loyal following.
“We’ve progressed to making 600 to 700 cases of Pinot Noir, but I sell everything without a winery or tasting room. It’s all through direct customer contact.”
These days he’s a “one-man band,” handling all phases of winemaking and selling.
“I’m not interested in going the big distribution route. It’s a nightmare to do the three-tier marketing system and I don’t want to navigate that. I spend about 10 percent of my day in the wine process and the rest is in sales, marketing and administration.”
While being an African American winemaker has challenges, Glover said it hasn’t held him back.
“There is an unconscious bias; it’s nothing overt. I believe that other minority winemakers face similar preconceptions. It’s my role to teach because those subtle prejudices come from ignorance. I try to change them by telling them to try the wine. They realize it that it’s just as good as anyone else’s or better.”
Glover said he had to overcome bias even when he first worked in the cellar.
“Hispanic workers weren’t enthused even though I was a hard worker. I asked them to teach me winery Spanish so we could communicate. The phrase I used over and over was ‘¿Como se dice?’ to learn the correct vocabulary. When they saw I was trying, we became friendly coworkers.”
His network of friends and fellow winemakers is large. “I don’t think any entrepreneur would make it without the community of friends,” Glover said. “The most important thing is your relationship with people. Anything you give, you get back the same if not more. I never forget those who helped along the way. My brand wouldn’t make it without people supporting it by buying directly. It’s humbling and I’m thankful for each bottle sold. The wine club members are amazing. They’re like family.”
Other winemakers are also like family. “We get together and talk about winemaking. The more we help each other, the better for all of us. Our wines may be competitors but we’re not competitive.”
He belongs to the African American Vintners Association, which has a scholarship program for young people. Glover is happy to talk about his other charity work.
“I help children’s causes because they can’t help themselves. It’s something that’s important to me and a lot of us in this business. I may not have a lot of money, but I have wine and time. Charities must be supported and advocated by everyone. I suggest people find something they’re passionate about and support it. Pitch in. Even if it’s little; it’s important.”
Between his fine wine and giving back, entertainment’s loss is a gain for us all.
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