Any Major Dude: Dani Rozman of La Onda
We had the supreme pleasure of going to Northern California and getting a peak behind the curtain with the masterful Dani Rozman of La Onda. This was a reunion on many levels, as we linked up with our dear friends from our All Time days and beyond, Summer and Ferelith, as well as reconnecting with Dani. The last year being what it has been, I know we were all jonesing for human interaction and this trip provided the perfect platform to unwind, share tales, share wine and swimming holes in the most grounded and beautiful way.
After meeting up in Marin and cooking a pretty, pretty magnificent dinner (super secret Sicilian salsa verde ftw), jumping on a trampoline for the first time in 14 years, wedding song auditions, hot tub real talks, dance offs and enough wine, we woke up and headed north to rendezvous with Dani in Grass Valley. Lunch was first, seated between 2 giant pine trees. Sandwiches and Modelos. Straight out the gate, Dani's thoughtful, methodical approach to life and work was apparent. His demeanor and passion brought me down to earth. I felt the collective gears downshift within our camp and I savored the feeling.
We poked around and picked the foxtails from our socks (rookie mistake) and decided to find our way to a swimming hole before the day got too late. Swimming takes precedence on days like this and I’ll gladly take the extra time to find the choicest spot. A short drive and slightly treacherous climb later we found the goods. The first swim of summer! Sun warmed rocks provided the perfect drying rack for our soaked bodies. Cleansed and recharged after the long drive, (and long night before) we headed back to Dani’s newly acquired vineyard/home in Oregon House.
Driving up I was taken by the quaint nature of the setup. The house, with its pinecone lined railing and perfectly rustic charm fit Dani’s entire ethos. Focus is on the process, the delicate and diligent work of hand-tending a vineyard for the most part solo. Everything beyond the art is an afterthought. The results of his hard work became abundantly clear as Dani started pulling bottles out of his fridge.
The wines, in their native environment, sang loud and pitch-perfect. The work was tasted. The years of dedication were tasted. The foothill’s air was tasted, and it was all pulled through Dani’s lens in a clear, pronounced fashion. My first sip of Levantamuertos, (“dead-raiser”) La Onda’s single vineyard País sent me flying: crisp, bright and soft, delicate while lip smackingingly refreshing. País, a primary varietal in Chile, and one very close to Dani’s heart, is often overlooked and/or poo-pooed as a subpar village wine or one used in blends. It also had a rich history in California before the boom of Cabernet and other major varietals, which saw many País plots replanted. It’s hard enough to find it general, says Dani, but even harder to find it farmed to the standards he holds. It was so hard in fact it took 8 years to seal a deal with the owner of the plot. The result was worth the wait.
After tasting and talking wine philosophy, it was time to eat. In typical winemaker fashion, Dani dolled out the hospitality in spades. The first step was a quick jaunt up the road to pick up bread from a neighbor baker. We approached a small shed where we were greeted by several freshly baked beauties, with Dani’s and others' names lovingly scrawled on their bags. Next to them a bowl with cash to make correct change reflected the honest and humble nature of this community. “I think I underpaid him last time.” he says, leaving more than necessary. The honor system was on full display. Returning to the house, we were joined by fellow winemakers and friends, everyone eager to contribute to the feast. Grills were lit, wine was poured, and the cornhole boards were set up in the yard. We sat on the porch and laughed and traded stories. We were locked in. As things were winding down, a brilliant plan was forged: star gazing. The lights were turned off and we made our way, glasses in hand, to a clearing on the property.
Eyeing the cosmos and Steely Dan will now go hand-in-hand for me, after a request-based singalong went down in the middle of a field in Oregon House. Flat backed and singing along to one of the choicest Dan tracks, the chorus lyric stuck out:
"Any major dude with half a heart surely will tell you my friend
Any minor world that breaks apart falls together again"
After a year of unrivaled weirdness and countless shifts, things are finally falling back into some kind of order and I couldn't feel more grateful. Getting back to basics feels not only right but necessary, and this trip brought that straight into focus. Thank you to Dani for the inspiration, letting us into your world and treating us like family. Any major dude will tell you.
FILM PHOTOGRAPHY BY THE MAGICAL SUMMER STAEB (@summerstaeb)