For Dave Phinney, the venerated wine entrepreneur, it’s no surprise that “wine is at the heart of everything [he] does.” Only natural for the founder of Orin Swift Cellars, producer of incredible award winning wines such as The Prisoner and Machete.
These days Phinney has traveled far from his Napa Valley roots and delved into the world of hard spirits with Savage & Cooke – a distillery and tasting room on Mare Island. Combining his considerable winemaking skills with a newfound love of locally made spirits has led to a “unique barrel program” for blending whiskey, bourbon and aging tequila.
It’s the best of both worlds. Mare Island, a former naval base in Vallejo, CA, is the perfect launch pad for a whole new venture. And dubbed a “playground for adults,” with fitted copper stills and halls lined with oak wine barrels, Savage & Cooke is a good bet to be one of Northern California’s hot summer destinations for serious tipplers.
Here’s what we loved about.
Tequila Aged in Oak Wine Barrels
According to Phinney, “The oak simply brings it all together.” Aging in oak ensures that his tequila is mellow smooth and won’t “burn” on the tongue.
Whiskey and Bourbon
Both are given the same posh treatment – distilled onsite and full of flavor, “they can stand up to the barrels on their own.”
Savage & Cooke uses only water from a local spring, as well as planted heirloom grain and corn for future bottling.
The Abstract Labels
Orin Swift has always been known for their stunningly abstract and aggressive bottle labels. And from a chair on fire to a unique matte black bottle, each image tells a story about what’s inside.
Built 120 years ago, this naval base has seen thousands of Navy employees pass through its halls, including two officers whose last names were….Savage and Cooke.
Drinking With a Conscience
Eco friendly isn’t just a phrase, it’s the future. Or at least that’s Phinney’s plan. That local spring isn’t dumping out waste into the environment – they’ve created and installed “the most advanced closed loop water system, which is environmentally friendly with no water or pollution waste.” We’ll drink to that.
The Main Tasting Room
Formerly known in its Naval incarnation as “the vault,” it was where top-secret meetings took place. In war-time, only officers with the highest levels of clearance were even allowed inside. Now, a Master Distiller leads the tastings.