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Friday, October 23, 2015

10/19/2015 - A Concierge and a Winemaker - Living Life in Wine Country

Slow Living Radio celebrates the lives of two people who have discovered their passion in the Wine Country of California.  Our first is a second career concierge in the highly acclaimed Villagio Inn & Spa. Mary DuVorue, delights us with her story, local off the beaten track recommendations and experiences.

Dan O'Brien, who is now with Larkmead winery, then joins us to talk about his career in wine - from Sommelier, to wine marketer to winemaker, dedicating his new label to his late mother, Gail.  It's an inspiration to hear. 

Dan O'Brien

From stock boy to wine director to winemaker, Dan O’Brien has dedicated the last 20 years of his life working in every facet of the wine industry. A native of Rhode Island, Dan got his start at a local package store building displays and stocking shelves after class in high school.

During college Dan began managing the wine cellars at some notable restaurants in Providence including The Capital Grille, XO Cafe and Ten Prime before moving his career to Boston where he was hired as a Sommelier at Grill 23 & Bar.

After 5 years as a Sommelier and Wine Director running some of the top cellars in Boston, Dan moved to the San Francisco Bay Area as the opening Wine Director for Cavallo Point in Sausalito. A unique opportunity to build a wine program from the ground up. During his time at Cavallo, Dan began developing priceless relationships within the industry, allowing him to create his first wine label, Cultivar.

Dan left Cavallo in 2011 to begin managing wineries and making wine in Napa and Sonoma. From 2012 to 2015, Dan worked as Estate Director for the highly regarded Long Meadow Ranch in Rutherford, where he ran the winery’s sales and marketing operations and developed new brands for the company's continuous growth in vineyard holdings, including Farmstead by Long Meadow Ranch and Hunt & Harvest.

Today, Dan spends his days as the Director of Sales & Marketing for Larkmead Vineyards in Calistoga. In his spare time Dan is the winemaker for his own label Gail, producing single vineyard wines from appellations in and around the Sonoma Valley in dedication of his late mother.

About Larkmead

Dating back to the late 1800s, the story of Larkmead spans two families and over 100 acres of valley floor vineyard. The Estate has been part of the Solari family for nearly 70 years, continuing the proud tradition of producing world-class wines that was started in 1895.

The Larkmead Estate is made up of three contiguous vineyard parcels at one of the narrowest points in Napa Valley. The vineyard spans almost the entire breadth of the valley floor from Highway 29 to Silverado Trail with the Napa River dissecting it in half. From the winemaking perspective, it offers tremendous diversity in the soils due to centuries of alluvial flow. Today, the vineyard's three block contain four primary soil types: sand, silt, clay and gravel. It is this broad range of growing conditions that brings distinct terroir to our wines.

About Gail Wines

Gail Wines is a small, family-owned wine company producing single vineyard wines from the eastern hillsides of Sonoma County. The wines are fermented in small lots using ambient, native yeasts then aged sur-lie in seasoned French oak barrels with minimal movement or manipulation. Each bottle is bottled unfiltered and hand-numbered all in the name of our mother Gail.

The Concierge Insider: Yountville, California



Mary DuVoure, Villagio Inn and Spa, Yountville, Napa Valley, California.

 Villagio Inn and Spa and Vintage Inn are wonderful choices if you are planning a trip to the Napa Valley.  Large, luxurious rooms, a breakfast spread beyond belief, and within minutes’ walk of some of the country’s best restaurants, including the French Laundry, Bouchon, Redd, Michael Chiarello’s Bottega, Hurley’s, Bistro Jeanty and so many more, These are dotted amongst wine tasting rooms, galleries, spas, boutiques and a chocolate shop to die for, Kollar Chocolates in the historic V Marketplace.

Seated in relaxed and gracious elegance in Villagio’s spacious welcoming lobby, you will find concierge, Mary DuVoure, who’s warm and generous spirit will surround you and start your journey in true Napa style.  Enjoy Mary’s stories!


How long have you been a concierge?

I left the corporate world to take the position at Villagio Inn and Spa in Yountville in 2003 and haven’t looked back.

What is your most unusual request?

Once I was contacted by a guest arriving in a few days, who was planning on surprising his girlfriend with a marriage proposal and vacation at the hotel.  He had selected, purchased and shipped an entire wardrobe, with make-up, toiletries and all she’d need, asking me to set up the room for her.  Needless to say, she accepted the proposal!

What is your favorite local “hidden” gem?

Kayaking on Lake Hennessy, or going up to Somerston Estate where you can drink the spring water from the ground.

Favorite 1 day getaway?

Going to the ocean, like Rodeo Beach to walk my dog.

Favorite weekend getaway?

What referral gets the most “thank you’s” or “wow”s

Dinner at the French Laundry, and also Bottega..

Best Napa “splurge”?

Aside from The French Laundry, a chauffeured guided experience of the valley. They get you into all the unknown wineries with special treatment everywhere you go!


Best quality value for the money?

Lunch at Bouchon Bakery or Oakville Grocery.


Favorite international destination



Best unknown photo spot

Pride Mountain vineyards picnic ground or Cardinale Estate in Oakville where you can get a 360 view from their balcony.

Most unforgettable trip moment

When I arrived in London on one trip, a business man I had met on the plane offered to share his driver taking me to a great hotel, then picking me up the next day for a tour.

Favorite city to visit

Favorite city hotel

Hotel Fountaines du Luxembourg, on the Left Bank of Paris.  For a tired visitor arriving after a long flight, it was perfect – champagne and fully stocked bar, right amid all the Left Bank’s wonderful cafes and such refined elegance!

Most moving thank you gift

A guest made me some hand strung pearls, that she had personally selected knowing my favorite colors, eyes and style.

Something no-one knows about being a concierge

How much work it takes to be good at the job.  You really need to be able to get outside of yourself and be thinking of the guests’ preferences.

When you travel (aside from the obvious) what do you never leave home without.
A black coat that covers all occasions – dressy, casual, wind and rain.

If you only have 1 day in Napa, you must………

Hire a driver; visit 2 great wineries with a picnic in a vineyard.  It’s more important to get quality than quantity to experience the “essence” of the valley.

What are your favorite travel apps and websites?

Best spot for People Watching

Bouchon Patio.



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