What do winemaking and firefighting have in common?
“Not a darn thing,” admits Dan D’Angelo cheerfully. But that hasn’t stopped this Napa firefighter from starting a second career in the wine industry.
Seven years ago D’Angelo created his own wine brand, Vino D’Angelo Wines, with labels Rescue Red and Chief’s Blend.
“I just kind of jumped into it,” he said. “I enjoy it because I like the challenge of it.”
Today, his wines are found at a number of local restaurants and stores including Grace’s Table, Il Posto Trattoria, Sushi Mambo, Filippi’s Pizza Grotto, Siam Thai House, Vallerga’s, Ranch Market, Lawler’s Liquors and Val’s Liquors.
What fire station do you work at?
I’m at Station 3 by Justin-Siena.
How do you find the time to run your wine business?
We get our days off. I squeeze it in.
How have you been able to get your wines into stores and businesses?
By going out there and hustling. I know some people in the wine industry and that basically got me in the door. But I’ve done cold calls too.
What’s one key to your success?
My price point has always been good. I’m not the $60 to $80 bottle of wine. I’m $12 to $14.95. It’s a really great, everyday bottle of wine.
Where do you see this going?
We did about 1,000 cases of wine last year. We’re hoping to reach somewhere between 5,000 and 8,000 cases down the road and distribution across the U.S.
What’s your advice to someone who wants to get into the wine industry?
Start small and get your feet wet and see what it’s about. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to start as a cellar rat or sales rep and learn from the ground up.
Who do you most admire in the business world?
My father, Sal, had the strongest work ethic of anyone I know. He never complained, and he did what it took to provide our family with a very good life.
What is one thing you hope to accomplish in your lifetime that you haven’t yet?
So far I have done things that I never thought I would do. I became a firefighter and get to help people every day, and I started a wine business from the ground up.
What’s something people might be surprised to know about you?
I was a big ham as a kid. I was in Napa Valley’s children’s theater and loved it. My second cousin used to call me prosciutto: the Italian ham.
Which other Napa County business person(s) would you like to see featured in “10 Questions for…”
My sister, Cathy D’Angelo Holmes, commercial realtor for Coldwell Banker Brokers of the Valley.
Which three people would you most like to have dinner with?
My father, Sal D’Angelo, my Noni and Nono (grandparents) who have all passed away, and Abraham Lincoln.
What job would you like to try/not try?
Try: Airline pilot
Not try: Any job that makes me sit at a desk all day long.
What’s the worst job you ever had?
Balloon case crew. What was I thinking? You can get crushed by the basket--not smart.
How did you get into this business?
I had a conversation with my friend and winemaker, Derek Irwin, and he invited me to make some wine with him. The next thing I knew I was in the wine business.
What’s on your to-do list?
To travel more with my wife and two boys. Plus, I’d like to learn how to fly airplanes.
If you could change one thing about your business, what would it be?
It would be great to build a team to take this to a larger national market so more people can enjoy Vino D’Angelo wines.
What was your childhood ambition?
I always wanted to be a firefighter, and I’ve fueled that passion for the last 25 years.
If you could be anywhere right now, where would you be?
Back in Italy seeing my relatives. I was there in 1998 and I want to get back soon.
Reach D’Angelo at 738-0498 or Dan@vinodangelo.com.