Three vintners walked onto a neglected, decommissioned Naval base. This isn’t the opening line of a joke, but the story of how Dave Phinney, Sebastian Lane and Gaylon Lawrence Jr. formed the Nimitz Group and began turning their sights on about 1,000 acres of developable land, stretching into San Pablo Bay and accessible by causeway from the city of Vallejo.
In 2015, Phinney was looking for space for a winery. Closer to his home, development projects in Napa Valley were hitting hurdles, so he decided to look elsewhere. Vallejo’s Mare Island is located between Napa and San Francisco, with abundant space, plenty of abandoned buildings and a colorful history. Phinney was instantly hooked on the location, but when he eyed the red brick warehouses, he didn’t see a winery. Instead, he saw a home for a future distillery, and in 2018 he opened the doors on Savage & Cooke Distillery. Read about the rest of Phinney's plans to revitalize the island.