Orin Swift Cellars 
and Founder Dave Phinney Surprise & Delight


Published On: April 18, 2024
interior dimly-lit, moody room with leather chair ear wooden table with 3 glasses of water, red wine and a tray with 3 bottles of wine in the center

Any project in which Dave Phinney has a hand is sure to intrigue. From avant-garde wine labels to risk-taking in the vineyard to unique tasting experiences, Phinney continues to disrupt norms with his creatively irreverent take on the wine industry. His Orin Swift Cellars is no exception.

As winemaker, creative director, and founder of the brand that honors his father and mother (Orin is his dad’s middle name, and Swift is his mother’s maiden name), Phinney has gathered an international fan base that clamors for every new release. Each aromatic, complex, and full-bodied Orin Swift wine becomes a collector item, not only for the quality but also for the unique labels that reveal Phinney’s affinity for fine art.

He attributes his artistic nature to his parents, who, when Phinney was young, insisted on touring him while on vacation through some of the world’s greatest museums. “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. “At the time, we didn’t like it very much, but now, I associate that early exposure with my active imagination and desire to create.”

That creative passion is evident in Orin Swift’s new downtown St. Helena tasting room within a former historic bank building where Phinney was instrumental in every phase of the design, from thrifting furnishings to reclaiming wood and metal fixtures to the restoration of the Art Deco façade. The result presents an immersive dive into the brand, whose eclectic portfolio ranges from a Zinfandel-based blend to a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon and a crisp sparkling wine. Each is a true Phinney creation; he not only makes the wines, but he also selects the glass, the packaging, and the unique labels that create unmistakable identities for each. For EQUINOX, Orin Swift’s most exclusive wine club, Phinney designs special labels that only appear on the wine sent twice annually to members.

wall with several pair of scissor hanles sticking out from wall

The new tasting room design was inspired by the game “Rock, Paper, Scissors” and incorporates rock textures, steelwork, rich leather, neon signs, and curated artwork both by and from Phinney that brings color and attitude to the space. A scissors-themed art installation of vintage pairs from around the world creates a unique backdrop to the range of fascinating tasting experiences. “Rock” is a stand-at-the-bar tasting, “Paper” is a seated tasting, and “Scissors” is a highly personalized, private tasting of the brand’s most ambitious wines.

“We are St. Helena proud,” said Phinney. “I met my wife here and got married here. So this building is really special to me. As we began working on this new space, it became more about preservation than deconstruction. As we peeled back its layers, we were pleasantly surprised. The façade had held up well, so we maintained the 1920 Art Deco style, bringing this historical building in St. Helena back to its original roots. I hope people find this space approachable and come to love St. Helena as much as I do.”