Always Aiming High: DLynn Proctor Chats Live on His Storied Career

The sommelier and director of Napa's Fantesca Estate & Winery talks about pouring wines for the world's biggest names, reshaping the wine industry and a new TV show with comedian Kevin Hart

Always Aiming High: DLynn Proctor Chats Live on His Storied Career

When it comes to wine, very few can match DLynn Proctor's experience and style. The veteran sommelier and director of Napa's Fantesca Estate & Winery is perhaps best recognized for his appearance in the Somm films and his work as associate producer on Netflix's feature film Uncorked. But his 20-year career includes leadership roles with Australia's Penfolds, overseeing wine programs at top fine dining spots in Dallas and Los Angeles and spearheading Wine Unify, a nonprofit supporting increased diversity in the wine industry through education. In the latest episode of Straight Talk with Wine Spectator, Proctor spoke with Wine Spectator senior editor MaryAnn Worobiec about helping bring minorities into the wine world, falling in love with Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, a new TV show with comedian Kevin Hart and why hospitality needs to be reimagined.

Proctor discovered a link between wine and celebrity early in his career. While working as a sommelier in Dallas, he met Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and oil magnate Tim Headington, who both became clients. Then, the introductions began.

"There was a period where I was finding and sourcing '89 and '90 Haut-Brion for the likes of Johnny Depp and building Tuscan itineraries for Brett Hull," Proctor recalled. "That blossomed to hockey, football, NBA, leaders of industry, C-suite, thought-provokers and the amazing Carmelos and Dwyane Wades of the world."

Over time, Proctor noticed that many collectors loved the same producer: Philip Togni. "Tasting that wine was my first foray into Spring Mountain," Proctor said. "The style caught my attention." Proctor says he fell in love with the appellation and in 2017, joined Fantesca owners Duane and Susan Hoff, who he met during his years at Penfolds. Proctor is currently the director of the winery located in Spring Mountain.

Last year, Proctor co-founded Wine Unify, which helps give minorities an "entrée" into his world. His goal is to help educate people of color in the wine industry through classes via the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET). "A lot of these individuals have been in hotels and tastings and events and not really welcomed or given the cold shoulder," Proctor said. "What we wanted to do is give people equity and access…and the foundation to tackle what's out there."

Proctor says he believes film and TV are some of the best ways to educate the younger generation about wine. His latest TV appearance is with American comedian Kevin Hart, who's new talk show Hart to Heart features Proctor as Hart's personal sommelier, pouring bottles of Fantesca, McBride Sisters, Le Artishasic and Avaline for guests such as Kelly Clarkson, Cameron Diaz and Bryan Cranston. The show is now streaming on Peacock TV.

Drawing from his years on the dining room floor during a time where the restaurant world is wrestling with the pandemic, Proctor believes the guest-customer approach has to be reimagined post-COVID as lack of staff is adding an extra weight to the problem. "We've spent a career in hospitality always thinking about 'guest first', much to the detriment of ourselves: the server, the backwaiter, the host/hostess and maître d' making sure rent is paid and car bill and cell phone bill is paid," Proctor said. "The guest is important because the guest keeps light on, but in reimagining what hospitality looks like, the guests have to come in with the same exact empathy that staff is expected to give the individual paying."

Watch the full episode with Proctor on Wine Spectator's IGTV channel, and tune in to catch Straight Talk with Wine Spectator every week. On Sept. 1, Worobiec will chat with Jackson Family Wines owner Barbara Banke. And on Sept. 8, senior editor Tim Fish will talk to Vidon Vineyard president Tiquette Bramlett.