The Dave Phinney story is one of the most impressive stories in all of wine. His plight is very uncommon. Most winemakers don’t build multiple multi-million dollar brands. But Dave Phinney has defied logic at every stop along the way and he’s the type of guy you should never bet against.
Dave’s first gig in wine came in 1997 as a harvest intern at Robert Mondavi. Fully infatuated with the industry from his year there, he decided to take a wildly unconventional route by immediately starting his own project the very next year, using only two tons of Zinfandel that he sourced and launched Orin Swift Cellars. The rest as they say is history.
Deciding he’d focus more on non-Cabernet varietals, Phinney’s blends immediately took off, and he started to develop a following. Two of his brands, ‘The Prisoner’ and Saldo would become MASSIVE with the former earning Wine Spectator Top 100 honors 3 years in a row and Dave would eventually sell the two to the owners of Quintessa for a rumored $40 million to pursue a new project that the wine world eagerly anticipated: Department 66.
It started when Dave got a tip from a French couple he was friends with that said they had found a truly remarkable place to grow wine in the South of France right near the Spanish border. Dave didn’t hesitate a second and immediately traveled the next day, arriving in the darkness of night.
When he woke up and looked out the window he saw one of the oldest, most insane vineyards he ever laid eyes on atop the steep slopes of the Pyrénées-Orientales mountain range. He agreed to buy 40 acres of the incredible old-grenache vineyard right on the spot.
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