Gallo Buys Orin Swift Brands and Tasting Room

Purchases includes 11 brands and inventory of 100,000-case winery

by Jane Firstenfeld
dave phinney gallo orin swift
Self-proclaimed "brand maker" Dave Phinney sold his wine company Orin Swift to E. & J. Gallo, including 11 brands and a tasting room in St. Helena, Calif.
Modesto, Calif.—Napa-based Orin Swift Cellars was sold by its founder, owner and winemaker David Phinney to E. & J. Gallo Winery. Orin Swift is a boutique wine producer that made headlines in April after some previously divested brands including “The Prisoner” were sold to Constellation by an interim owner, Huneeus Vintners.

Gallo brand manager Lon Gallagher told Wines & Vines today it’s a “done deal.” Gallo is not buying any vineyard land with this purchase, Gallagher said, nor is there a working winery associated with the buy. He declined to confirm the price. Total case production is about 100,000 cases per year, with wines selling for between $30 and $100 per bottle. The tasting room in St. Helena, Calif., was part of the purchase price and will remain open to the public.


    Lon Gallagher, brand manager for E. & J. Gallo, told Wines & Vines that the Orin Swift deal will include the following brands:

    China Doll
    Mercury Head
    Trigger Finger
Phinney also has vineyard property in France, which was not included in the deal. About 25 employees of the current Orin Swift operation will be invited to interview if they want to stay with the brand, Gallagher said. “The key thing, though, is that Dave Phinney stays on board. He’s a heck of a guy and a heck of a winemaker, and we’re looking forward to working with him. “

In a news release announcing the sale, Phinney said, “I’ve known and done business with the Gallo family for over a decade, and it makes me very proud that a company that I have such a deep respect for will become the steward of the brand that bears my family’s name,” Phinney said. (The name Orin Swift combines his father’s middle name and mother’s maiden name.)

He added, "I'm looking forward to a long and productive relationship where together we can propel Orin Swift Cellars to even greater heights."

With current production of some 71 million cases annually, Gallo is the largest family-owned winery in the world.


Phinney, who’d previously worked at Robert Mondavi and Whitehall Lane wineries in Napa Valley, started Orin Swift in 1999. His highly recognizable label for The Prisoner reproduces a Goya etching that was given to Phinney by his parents for his 13th birthday, he said.

The Prisoner was part of the group of brands that Huneeus Vintners purchased from Phinney in 2008 for a sum he confirmed was in the range of $8 million to $10 million.

Phinney characterized himself as a “brand maker” more than a winemaker, and said, “Money is not my motivation. I’d do it for free.”

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