Intriguing Innovator

Napa Valley vintner Dave Phinney is no ordinary winemaker. And now he’s no ordinary distiller. Prolific in creation of new and extraordinarily popular wine brands and labels, the original founder of The Prisoner and Orin Swift wines has set his sights on the spirits world, and he’s selected Vallejo’ Island as his muse. Working within three historic remodeled buildings on the former Naval base, Phinney produces whiskey, rye, and bourbon at his Savage & Cooke distillery – a moniker he selected in honor of the two surnames he continued to encounter while perusing Mare Island’s archives. He attributes his innovative nature to his parents, who, when Phinney was young, insisted on touring him through some of the world’s greatest museums. Fittingly, his Prisoner wine label featured a Goya etching. “During vacations, my mom and dad made me and my brother trek through museums in the morning before catering to our more youthful interests in the afternoons,” said Phinney, whose yuppie style belies his edgy and intense creativity. “At the time, we didn’t like it much, but now I do associate that early art exposure with my active imagination and desire to create.” Phinney would one day like to own Mare Island outright; he’s got a team actively studying the possibility. His dream is to turn it into a desirable destination – a grittier and edgier Yountville if you will, with restaurants, a winery, and wine tasting rooms, a coffee roastery, retail, and artisan studios that reflect the area’s historic/cutting- edge duality. The bones are there; it’s innovation and inspiration that are required – and both are Phinney specialties.


Article By: Fran Miller