Dan Smith was raised in Tualatin, a small city 12 miles south of Portland, Oregon surrounded by the vineyards of the Willamette Valley. As the youngest of five children, he watched his siblings as they progressed through school and various careers and decided at an early age that he needed a plan of action. “It was a mixture of the geography around me, on top of a fascination with my Aunt and Uncle’s obsession with collecting wine that led me to tell my parents that I wanted to be a winemaker when I was 14 years old. Always supportive, they bought me some books to read and even let me paint my room in a wine color theme.”

In 2005, Dan ventured out of Oregon to start school in Cal Poly’s Wine & Viticulture B.S. program. It was his first experience with California’s Central Coast and he immediately fell in love with the SLO life. Dan met many influential industry leaders and mentors while working on his degree at Cal Poly. “I remember a career discussion before graduation I had with my Viticulture professor, the late Dr. Keith Patterson, where I expressed my desire to keep living and working in the area. He strongly encouraged me to leave the region and get as much experience as possible, then return given the right opportunity.”

Dan took Dr. Patterson’s advice and worked vintages in Sonoma, New Zealand, California’s Central Valley, and back in Oregon before one of his college mentors, Matt Ortman, asked him to become Villa San-Juliette’s Cellar Master in 2013. “It’s been an amazing experience working with the VSJ vineyard and wines along with our small team, and I’m thrilled to step in as Winemaker and continue producing quality, hand-crafted wines.”