Daniel Grace is fortunate to be able to split his time between his home in San Francisco and his favorite vacation destination: Tuscany. Grace owns Il Molino di Grace vineyards, located in the hills of Panzano in Chianti, Italy. Many of their Chianti classico and super Tuscan wines can be found in Boston restaurants (including Sorrelina, Toscano, Scampo, and Il Capriccio) and wine shops. Having a strong distribution in Boston (and throughout New England) gives Grace an opportunity to visit several times a year. The Boston College graduate said he especially enjoys visiting the North End, where he performed at a dinner theater as an aspiring actor during his college days. “There’s always a touch of nostalgia when I am back, and I have a lot of friends in Boston,” said Grace, whose father, Frank, founded the Italian winery in 1997. Grace, who was raised in London (and later San Francisco), lives with his wife, three daughters, and their dog, George, whom he called his “sidekick” and “the most well-traveled English Setter since the reign of King George III.” We caught up with Grace to talk about all things travel.
Favorite vacation destination?
As someone who commutes between San Francisco and Florence making and drinking wine for a living, I am beyond fortunate to travel the world sharing and selling the wine we capture in majestic Chianti Classico hills. It has even been suggested, by many, that my life is one long road trip of a vacation. I am blessed to honestly say that I happen to work and spend half my time in the very place that has always been my favorite vacation destination: Tuscany. Beyond the sublime cuisine and exquisite terroir [and] apart from the romantic mythology and humbling history, there is an authenticity to Tuscany that sets itself apart from the rest of bella Italia. It is evident in the Etruscan architecture, the Renaissance culture, and the commitment to the purest expression of food, wine, language, and art.
Favorite food or drink while vacationing?
Anything fresh, local, artisan, and typically not found anywhere else. I seek unusual local food and wine pairings both to expand my palate and extend my comfort zone. As someone who pours and tastes wine for a living, like most vintners, I love a good local craft brew beer. I embrace this never-ending craze, not only because a more sophisticated beer drinker typically leans toward old world wines, but also because for cocktails, beer, and wine, context and company is everything. I recently discovered a Tuscan twist on an American classic: a whiskey sour with a teardrop of Chianti Classico nestled in the egg white.
Where would you like to travel to but haven’t?
While away from the winery, I city hop in restaurants and fine wine stores, so my wanderlust takes me to vast barren places like the Sahara and Death Valley. Who knows, with the dramatic evolution of climate change, we’ll be making chardonnay in the desert! I would love to visit the Atacama Desert and Patagonia in Chile; my bucket list consists of any landscapes that defy logic and words.
One item you can’t leave home without when traveling?
A sense of humor. Travel, for work or pleasure, can be hectic and stressful in the best of times, so a splash of humor and a dash of flexibility always goes a long way — especially when on foreign soil. Food and wine simply taste better when the cheeks are loose with smiles and the mouth is salivated with laughter, no matter the cuisine or continent.
Aisle or window?
Both, simultaneously. When fortunate enough to be flying the suite life after successfully scaling the upgrade list – there’s a lot of travel points to be earned popping back and forth from California to Tuscany — otherwise, I’m a window man, every time. Bald guys are far too vulnerable in the aisle.
Favorite childhood travel memory?
Growing up in London, in an American family, meant that we traveled extensively throughout Europe and beyond. My father, who built the winery in the mid-’90s, loved to play pranks while traveling. I remember many a destination where he would convince my brother, my sister, and me that it was important that we act and speak like locals when in hotels and restaurants. We would sweat bullets while practicing our Franglais or Engliano getting ready to order off of restaurant menus on the continent.
Guilty pleasure when traveling?
One word: upgrade, be it a hotel room or an airline cabin. It’s amazing what you can get by simply asking, nicely, with a smile and without pretense or expectation. Most people, including hotel clerks or check-in attendants, make magic happen when asked and given the opportunity. It’s a karma thing. I’ve been known to give away far too much beautiful wine!
Best travel tip?
Stay spontaneous. As my beard starts to gray, I am doing my damnedest to keep that spontaneous muscle fit. The best adventures — and meals and drinks and get-togethers — are typically those unplanned. Take a detour. Stop unexpectedly. Stay a little while longer.