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Daniel Dawson

10 PM, August night, 2014 and I have banana bread in the oven.
It’s daughter Talia’s favorite breakfast, and I want to keep us supplied with home-made banana bread. That’s the best way I can think of explaining who I am right now.
Wine merchant, business owner and husband/father. Not in any particular order because what’s really the point in making an order?

I opened Back Room Wines in August 2002 after ten years of working in wine and restaurants here in the Napa Valley. I caught the Downtown Napa Renaissance wave when you could barely see it rise. Now, the biggest complaint is “where the F*** am I supposed to park?” I know, I know…
In 2003 I went on a first date with my love Holly Krassner (now Holly Dawson). We saw School of Rock at the movies and held hands. Very sweet. I proposed to her over Loves Falls on the Pacific Crest Trail in ’07. We got married in Sonoma during a driving rain storm in 2008.
In 2012 we welcomed our daughter Talia into this world. That’s her proudly beaming at her Daddy who grew the 11 foot sunflower. I’m very happy 2012 is an excellent vintage in Napa Valley as well as Rhone Valley and Oregon.  I can only hope in 2033 Talia’s says, “good buy, Daddy, and so well stored.”

Pre-Back Room Wines opening:
I moved to Napa Valley in 1992. I was three years out of college and still finding my ultimate place in the gustatory universe. Napa in 1992 was a great food and wine destination (with great changes to come) and it seemed like the right place to find my calling (and I had a good friend in Napa with a couch to crash on). At the time, my dream was to be a restaurant chef and owner.
  1. Was born and raised in Eureka, California. First restaurant jobs were there, most notably Red Lion Inn Dining Room Captain (full polyester uniform-NICE).
  2. Went to University Nevada Las Vegas for Hotel/Restaurant Management. This was in the Runnin’ Rebels Basketball Heyday.
  3. From Vegas moved to San Francisco and apprenticed under the chef at The Olympic Club.
  4. Moved to Davenport, Iowa (Quad Cities) for an extended vacation from the west coast, if you will. I moved back west, to Napa, in just over a year.
My Napa career started at All Seasons Restaurant and Wine Shop. From server I moved to wine merchant and that is where I learned my craft. I was pulled back into the fine restaurant business when I became sommelier at a restaurant with the initials TFL. From there Dean & Deluca, then my gray period.

Somewhere in this gray period I decided to create, build and open Back Room Wines.
Opening day was August 10, 2002.

It’s been a mighty fine run. Business has been good from Day One and with hard work, imagination and guts is now REALLY GOOD. We moved from a 970 square foot location, also in Downtown Napa, to our 2500+ square foot wine shop/wine bar space in June 2008. I’m happy with the move. From Day One it’s been a fighting, smart and miniscule team of two or three. Right now, my #2 is Connor Swanson, a great guy, smart guy, with many food & wine talents.

I’m very lucky to have a good business and enjoy what I do. I guess you can say that my life-balance comes from liking what I do so much. Since I do it SO MUCH, you gotta rationalize, right? My hobbies are on the back burner as, between work and family there is not much time for anything else (except banana bread, of course). There are more chapters in my story to come. For now, I enjoy each and every page of this chapter to the fullest. 

Daniel Dawson
August 2014






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