Malek Amrani / Photo courtesy The Vice Wine
Moroccan-born founder of The Vice Wine, Malek Amrani, is a lot of things, but boring isn’t one of them. He speaks five languages fluently and is a private pilot and accomplished triathlete in addition to being a winemaker.
The multi-hyphenate Amrani produces around 25 wines per year while training for and competing in at least five triathlons per year. Last year, he was on the podium for all five triathlons he competed in, placing either second or third place. And this year in June, he will be on his way to Montreal to compete in the World Triathlon Championship final.
But Amrani says that wine—Napa Valley wine in particular—is his first love.
“I grew up tasting wine and drinking my father’s wine, so I had a taste for it, but it’s more than a beverage to me: it stimulates my sense of smell and taste,” says Amrani.
His love affair with Napa started with Quintessa.
“It sparked fireworks in my mind,” he says of the St. Helena label. “I was like, ‘this is everything.’”
Amrani aims to take his appreciation for Napa to global audiences.
“My ultimate goal is crazy and wild and is for the French to drink more American wine,” he says. “[The French] play with iPhones, they drink Coca-Cola but they don’t drink American wine. They call our wines sweet and not good, and my goal is for the French to be begging for Napa Valley wine, but not just Napa Valley, but other places like Oregon. That’s my long-term vision.”
Until then, Amrani has another focus. He will soon apply his talents to a new role: father. We talk to him about what he expects, wine for the masses and what he orders at a dive bar.
What do you wish you knew when you started working in the industry?
Two things I wish I knew: One is that morning tastings aren’t just a vice but a career requirement. [More often than not] my barrel tastings are done in the morning before breakfast when my palate is the freshest. I’ve been brushing my teeth in the morning with the same toothpaste for years now, and I maintain the same daily ritual to avoid any taste corruption [to] my palate.
[The second is that] you can plan and prepare all you want—Mother Nature really does what she wants. This was an important lesson for me in 2020. With the unexpected pandemic, I was able to foresee labor shortages and supply chain issues ahead of time. I thought I took all the necessary steps to avoid challenges come harvest [time]. Although the growing season was dry, the vintage itself was on track to be a stellar one until it wasn’t for many of our red varietals due to the historical fires.