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E. & J. Gallo Buys Star Winemaker Dave Phinney’s Locations Wine Brand

The large American wine company sees an opportunity to work with Phinney again and grow the brand
Dave Phinney built his name with The Prisoner and now has two projects with Gallo.
Photo by: Courtesy E. & J. Gallo
Dave Phinney built his name with The Prisoner and now has two projects with Gallo.

Aaron Romano
Posted: June 27, 2018

Two years after acquiring Orin Swift Cellars, E. & J. Gallo announced today that it has purchased another of star winemaker Dave Phinney's brands, Locations. The joint venture was started by Phinney and importer Aveníu Brands, a subsidiary of Spain’s Codorníu Raventós Group. The acquisition includes the Locations brand and related inventory. There are no vineyards or wineries associated with the brand. The sale will close June 29. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but as with Orin Swift, Phinney will continue making the wines.

“This is something that we have talked about for the last year-and-a-half,” Roger Nabedian, senior vice president and general manager of Gallo’s Premium Wine Division, told Wine Spectator. “We felt it was a good fit, and we’re excited about the way the brand is positioned in the marketplace and feel we’re in a unique position to expand it.”

Phinney conceived Locations as a way of highlighting wine regions around the world. The tipping point came during a 2008 trip to the Maury appellation in southern France. He visited an 80-year-old Grenache, Syrah and Carignan vineyard where the soils were filled with schist and granite like nothing he had ever seen in California. He later bought the site.

Phinney soon found that French appellation law restricted him from labeling wine from his new prized vineyard with a vintage and that it would be relegated to table wine status. He asked himself what would happen if he could blend across appellations and make a wine that represented France, or Spain, or Italy.

Locations now includes bottlings from France, Spain, Italy, Argentina, California, New Zealand, Oregon, Washington, Portugal, Corsica and Texas, each emphasizing grapes that correspond to the region, such as Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand and Pinot Noir from Oregon. Phinney’s knack for blends is showcased as well—for some wines he blends appellations. The wines are also good values, priced under $20.

Phinney blends multiple vintages, modeled after the Champagne region, in order to produce consistency while highlighting what he thinks the respective region has to offer. “I’m excited to continue building upon the momentum of the Locations vision by creating simple, complex and fun wines by removing the constraints of vintage, varietal and appellation to make the best possible wine from a given country or location,” said Phinney in a statement.

Nabedian said that although Phinney had success with his previous partners, he feels like Gallo’s production capability and sales and marketing team offers a bigger opportunity for the brand to reach its utmost potential. That’s similar to the reasons Phinney gave when he sold Orin Swift to Gallo.

Locations currently makes about 80,000 cases annually, and Nabedian hopes they can expand the wine’s availability in the marketplace. “We have high expectations that the brand can grow considerably,” he said.

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