Notes from Napa

Photo | Submitted Urbana native Daniel Orrison lives and works in the Napa Valley with his wife, Filipa. They also make wine internationally with their business partner. Their Portuguese blend is available beginning this month at Urbana’s Orion Wine and Spirits.

Photo | Submitted
Urbana native Daniel Orrison lives and works in the Napa Valley with his wife, Filipa. They also make wine internationally with their business partner. Their Portuguese blend is available beginning this month at Urbana’s Orion Wine and Spirits.


It doesn’t take more than a few of these wintry days to make me miss California. Ten short days last fall threw me into what’s destined to be an eternal love affair, mostly dreaming of the nonstop sunshine, the warm breeze off that glorious rocky coast — oh, and the wine. My favorite wine memory was a chilled glass of smooth Moscato sipped at a sidewalk table outside a Turkish restaurant in downtown Napa.

Urbana’s newest wine shop, Orion Wine and Spirits, is starting to carry a new blend of wine this month — wine crafted in Portugal by an Urbana native, Daniel Orrison. (For the backstory of Orion Wine and Spirits, flip to page 3.) Orrison’s story and Urbana connection is intriguing.

Orrison, 27, and nephew of Orion’s owner, Charlie Seymour, grew up in Urbana and graduated from Urbana High School in 2005. It was here with his uncle that his passion for wine began, Orrison said. He reminisced about the months that he and his family lived on what was then the Turning Point Inn restaurant property.

“I helped build the [restaurant’s] wine cellar all summer,” Orrison said, describing their family dinners in the cellar. “We had lots of late evenings down there and really great dinners. It was all so [much a] part of our family.”

Wine is a way of life, Orrison said, and while attending the College of William and Mary, double majoring in business and English, he started working at The Williamsburg Winery. After graduating, he got an internship at Chateau Montelena Winery in Napa where he learned to make wine.

“The way that new wine makers learn to make wine is jump around from region to region of the world,” Orrison said, so he took his wine studies to New Zealand. Fate would have it that he worked in the same wine cellar as Filipa Fonseca, who is now his wife, and with longtime friend and wine expert Ricardo Carvalho. Filipa is a native of Portugal, which has become the center of the couple’s professional passion for wine.

“For the longest time, Ricardo and I, and Filipa, talked about starting a wine together,” Orrison said, adding that while loving Napa wine, it is really expensive to make and sell. That’s when they linked to their Portugal connection. Not only is Filipa’s family there, but Portugal’s “potential is completely undiscovered,” said Orrison, adding that quality for price point perspective in Portugal is much lower than in California.

While for most of the year Filipa works in a Napa wine cellar and Orrison runs Ma(i)sonry Napa Valley — an art and wine gallery, they also purchase fruit from Portuguese vineyards and rent Portuguese tank space. Ricardo Carvalho oversees the wine from beginning to end and Filipa travels several times a year to work with the wine during the different stages of production.

The trio just finished up their first red blend, swill be offered in Urbana when it’s released in May. The wine, dubbed Rowan, is their second blend. Their first, Pipa, a white blend given Filipa’s nickname is slated to show up this month in Urbana.

“Our passion is turning this into something we can focus on full time and someday buying our own vineyards,” Orrison said, adding that their goal for 2014 is to make wine in Napa and increase production enough to purchase a Portuguese vineyard. “We want to raise awareness for how undiscovered Portugal is.”

“It is a dream come true that soon my friends that I have not seen in a long time can stay connected, when they decide to open a bottle of wine,” Orrison said. “A lot of Urbana people have followed and supported what we have worked on. We are so genuinely thankful and grateful.”

For more information on Orrison, Filipa and their wines, go to www.orisonwines.com — or flip to page 3 for the Urbana wine shop’s backstory.

Also notable this month is William Eskay, Urbana High School senior and Ijamsville resident, who was covered in the Jan. 20 issue of Sports Illustrated. See the front page for more information. In addition, on page 26, Timothy Mellott gives a glimpse into exciting new plans slated for Urbana athletics — a brand new turf field at Urbana High School.

The Town Courier staff sends out their deepest condolences to the Coffey family, who lost their 13-year-old daughter, Liz, last month. For a memoir to Liz from the community, flip to the front page.

To comment on these topics or any others, contact me anytime at 240.409.6734 or send me a line at bethany@towncourier.com.

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