This method of having wine made and selling it is not dissimilar to how Precept Wine started in 2003.
CHANCES ARE, you haven’t heard of Rainier Wine Co. Yet it is growing into one of the larger wine companies in the Northwest, producing 75,000 cases annually.
Damian Davis left his life on Florida’s Gulf Coast in 1999 to move to Seattle for a high-tech job. Along his journey, he stopped in the Yakima Valley to taste wine and became smitten. For the next five years, Davis’ love affair with wine grew to the point he became driven to enter the wine business.
Two to try
Portlandia Vintners 2012 pinot noir, Oregon, $30: This is a classic Oregon pinot noir with aromas and flavors of red cherry, fresh garden herbs, bright acidity and elegant tannins. Enjoy with barbecued pork ribs or earthy, mushroom-based dishes.
Diversion Wines 2012 Majestic Red, $20: This is a luscious blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and syrah that shows off complexity beyond its price point. Aromas of caramel, toasted almond, sweet spice and purple plum give way to rich flavors of bright red currant, huckleberry and blueberry. This will be delicious with grilled meats or Italian fare.
With no appreciable winemaking skills but an ability to sell, Davis launched Rainier Wine in 2005. He obtained a California winery license, created a brand called Mad Housewife and had the wine produced by a custom-crush facility in California. Davis built relationships and sold his inexpensive wine throughout Western Washington.
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As success came, Davis gained confidence and launched a Washington winery called Diversion. He teamed up with Wahluke Wine Co., owned by the Milbrandt family, to produce 25,000 cases of a line of wines to sell for $20 or less. The wines’ delicious qualities and attractive prices were a hit, so in 2013, Davis unveiled Portlandia, an Oregon winery that makes pinot noir and pinot gris.
He’s quick to point out that the success of the quirky TV show “Portlandia” has helped with sales of his new label, but Oregon pinot noir also is easy to market beyond the Pacific Northwest. It sells extremely well across the country in Whole Foods stores.
This method of having wine made and selling it is not dissimilar to how Precept Wine started in 2003. Eventually, Precept bought other wineries (such as Washington Hills, Waterbrook and Willow Crest) and began hiring its own winemakers. That, too, appears to be Davis’ path, as he has brought on Katy Michaud (formerly of Covey Run Winery) to make Diversion, and Judy Thoet to produce Portlandia in Dundee, Ore.
In addition, he’s taken over sales for Nota Bene Cellars in Seattle, and now he’s planning to come out with several high-end Washington wines. His first release, called Denizen, is just now hitting store shelves.