Gestalt Wine Company is Napa Winemaker Dave Phinney’s Next Great Experiment

DuVine guests are among the first to experience Gestalt Wine Company, the latest addition to California wine wunderkind Dave Phinney’s portfolio. Most wine lovers recognize Phinney as the founder of Orin Swift Cellars, originally beloved for its best-selling red blend The Prisoner. These days, he’s got a few new projects up his sleeve.

Phinney’s story is the stuff of legends in new world wine. He entered the business in 1997 as the self-described “lowest guy on the totem pole,” but had an epiphany while working the harvest that wine was what we wanted to “do with his life.” The very next year, Orin Swift Cellars was born. In vintage 2000, he crafted The Prisoner and “put [Orin Swift] on the map.” He’s since sold both brands, remaining engaged as the winemaker and Creative Director at Orin Swift.

Another Phinney brainchild is Locations—with familiar-looking labels reminiscent of travel decals, these wines demonstrate the global potential of making wine that rebuffs the rules of appellations. Phinney says the project was “an excuse to travel all over the world and learn a lot.”

But on this cold November day in 2022, we’re talking about his next venture: Gestalt Wine Company. His newest members-only wine subscription program is an endeavor that Phinney calls a “collaborative ecosystem centered around wine.” If this sounds like a far cry from your typical wine club, that’s exactly the idea. Phinney is at the helm as Creative Director, along with industry veteran Sebastian Lane acting as Gestalt’s CEO and Tony Leonardini leading the winemaking.

The vision for Gestalt is different—creative, authentic, and community-oriented. In a debut partnership, DuVine’s California Couture bike tour visits Phinney’s Gestalt House, a five-acre estate just outside St. Helena, to enjoy lunch with the Gestalt team. It’s an opportunity to engage in conversation (often with Phinney himself), soak in the Napa Valley scenery, and sample Gestalt’s latest releases.

“The place where we welcome DuVine guests is pretty special, a beautiful Victorian house with a ton of character.” It’s not a winery, nor commercial space or tasting room—rather, DuVine travelers are welcomed into Phinney’s private Napa Valley haven comprised of “inside and outside space, cool art, and curiosities.”

Lane sees how DuVine and Gestalt have a natural intersection; a shared ethos that encourages thoughtful and intentional discourse about wine. “DuVine guests are well-educated, interesting people, and they want to have a great time,” says Lane. And of course, the visit may pique the interest of DuVine guests if they taste something they love.

Gestalt’s quarterly wine shipments aren’t just bottles landing on your doorstep. Each delivery is shaped by Phinney’s keen sense of style: the packaging and labels are designed by Phinney himself; the wines are bespoke releases from various vineyards, and each shipment is presented with a theme, reflected in an original art object and magazine that arrive with the wine. “A huge amount of time and thought goes into it,” says Lane.

The first drop, No Coincidence, contains three bottles each of Gestalt’s new Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. To create the labels, the team filled wine bottles with acrylic paint, attached them to a canvas with epoxy, and shot them with a vintage Belgian Browning double-barreled shotgun. The process was photographed, and the resulting images appear on the wine label. Lane described the project as messy and explosive, yet “elegant and chic—the juxtaposition of messiness with the glossy label looks just beautiful.” It’s this type of energy and thought-provoking experimentation that sets Gestalt apart.

And stand apart they do. Phinney and the Gestalt team are pioneering a whole new category in the wine club and subscription space. “Our team has the credibility to have a much more direct conversation with the consumer,” according to Lane. A membership connects you directly to the makers at Gestalt and includes access to an online marketplace curated by the team. Here, you’ll find artisanal items like artwork, jewelry, and even shotgun stocks the team is crafting from walnut burl wood harvested on-property. Basically, “cool shit that we like”—in Phinney’s own words.

Phinney and Lane are also seeking to imbue Gestalt with a culture akin to French salons. To inspire these intellectual and creative gatherings, they plan to partner releases with “interesting people who have a love for wine.” Phinney says this could include artists, musicians, athletes, or authors—not just celebrities lending their names to a bottle. “They’ll be involved in everything,” he says, including non-commercial, complimentary, and invite-only events and presentations. Members will “come into my home and enjoy an evening,” says Phinney. 

Phinney and Lane are seeking synergy, and they’ve found it with DuVine. “If you were to ask DuVine guests who dropped by,” says Lane, they’d probably tell you that “the wine was great, but the conversation was as good or better.” The wine is one thing, but for he and Phinney, he says, “that’s the juice.”  

Join DuVine on our California Couture: Napa Wine Country Bike Tour for an exclusive, firsthand encounter with Gestalt’s team of wine geniuses and creative disruptors.  

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