Like so many, I stumbled into the wine business. On a lark, I traveled to Florence, Italy to study abroad for a semester. While I was there I was exposed to, and fell in love with, wine. Back in Arizona, I had been studying Political Science and History with a post-graduate plan to attend law school…but after my time in Italy, the die was cast. I returned to the states, graduated from University, and four days later moved to the Napa Valley.
I had sent my resume to fifty wineries in the Valley and only one replied: Robert Mondavi. I showed up to my temporary harvest position interview wearing a suit and tie. They literally laughed at me, gave me a very basic math exam and asked if I could pass a drug test. A few weeks later I was hired.
I spent the harvest of 1997 working the night shift – the only Anglo on an all-Latino crew. When they realized I was there to work hard they took me in, gave me a nickname, and showed me the ropes. I loved it! But I quickly realized that if I was going to work this hard, eventually it would have to be for myself. The very next year I started Orin Swift. Orin is my father’s middle name and Swift is my mother’s maiden name.
The first vintage in 1998 was less than spectacular. It was a tough harvest, and I bought fruit from the wrong part of a great vineyard.
I learned first hand that, Experience is what you get when you can’t get what you want.
The truth is, when it comes to winemaking there are no silver bullets, no secrets. We as winemakers are only as good as our fruit source.
Our winemaking philosophy then was the same as it is today: find the best fruit from the best vineyards. Farm it right, harvest it right, bring it into the winery, and don’t screw it up.
Thank you for reading/listening to my story. I hope to see you soon. Dave