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With Vintage Point Partnership, Dave Phinney Looks To Bolster Department 66 Brand

Courtesy of Shanken Daily

Known as one of California’s most innovative winemakers, Dave Phinney is also at work on the other side of the Atlantic, building his Department 66 label from Southwest France’s Roussillon region. Earlier this year, Phinney partnered with Sonoma-based sales and marketing company Vintage Point in a bid to boost the momentum behind Department 66, whose wines range from $18-$175 a 750-ml. at retail.


“I have the most control of viticulture and winemaking for Department 66 of any of my wines,” Phinney tells SND, noting that he owns all of the brand’s 300 acres of vineyards, which are located in the Maury region and made up of low-yielding vines mostly around 75 years old. Currently, Department 66 produces between 15,000-20,000 cases a year, but Phinney says it could push closer to 30,000 cases in the near future.


With the move to the Vintage Point portfolio—which has annual volume of about 350,000 cases and also includes brands like Mionetto, Cigar Box, Moone-Tsai, and Julia’s Dazzle, among others—Department 66 could garner more visibility in the market looking ahead.


“I think we’re going to be able to provide a little bit better reach for the brand,” Vintage Point president David Biggar recently told SND. “Following the Orin Swift sale, they were ready to reestablish Department 66 with a new distributor network.” (Phinney sold Orin Swift to E.&J. Gallo for a rumored $100 million in 2016.)


Led by its namesake blend, D66 ($38), the winery focuses heavily on Grenache, blended with Carignan, Syrah, Mourvedre, and Petite Sirah, which Phinney had to petition the French government to be able to plant.


The label’s prestige offering, Pharaon ($175), is only released in particularly strong years, with 2014 as the current release.

Phinney says that 2017 was an exceptional vintage for his Roussillon vineyards and that he’s likely to bottle a 2017 Pharaon. The brand also features two more accessibly priced wines: The Others, a $28 blend of Grenache, Carignan, Syrah, and Mourvedre; and Fragile ($18), a rosé that’s predominantly Grenache.