In 2012, recently out of the Marine Corps, Ben Martin was working in advertising essentially trying to figure out what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. Growing up in North Willamette Valley in Oregon, he had always been around Pinot Noir, but never considered it a viable career option.
“I became interested in agriculture when working with a group of veterans who wanted to start a nonprofit aimed at rehabilitating veterans through permaculture. Looking for inspiration, I found that the French Foreign Legion had a chateau in France that brings Legionnaires back to grow grapes, make wine and decompress,” said Ben.
This would serve as the framework for Dauntless Wine. A winery that puts service over profit and gives military veterans an opportunity to take what they learned in the field and apply it to agriculture and vineyard management. Ben’s goal is to acquire his own vineyard within a year at which point he will be able to take this approach to the next level.
Dauntless Wine was originally founded by Ben and two other partners. Ryan Mills, a full time paramedic with the Portland Fire Department and Paul Warmbier, who has a primary focus in writing, teaching and woodworking both of whom are veterans as well.
Ben and his wife, Carrie, handle the primary day-to-day functions of the winery. Carrie has a great visual eye for detail. They also get a lot of part time help from veterans in the area. “We have surrounded ourselves with good talent and we make it work. This operation has been bootstrapped from day 1, but we’re starting to gain a lot of traction,” said Ben.
The Marine Corps training has provided a solid foundation as building a winery requires that same combat mindset in facing those daily challenges and taking everything in stride. Ben noted, “What’s the next objective and how can we overcome?”
Entry into the wine industry was not easy, but once people started hearing the focus on Dauntless Wines, things started to look up. “Within a year we were awarded ‘Persons of the Year’ by the Oregon Wine Press and from there on out things started to snowball,” said Ben.
Service remains the hallmark of the winery. “We donate a lot of wine to galas and auctions for Veterans charities. We have established great relationships with many Veteran’s nonprofits because of this,” said Ben.
They are also in the process of establishing their own nonprofit, which they hope to have up and running by early 2020 with the hopes of building a Veteran-operated farm.
Dauntless Wines has not been without it’s challenges. They have had to rent production space an alternate between different proprietors to produce their wines, which is great for saving capital on a facility, but drives up the price of making their wines.
Their wines continue to receive great accolades as the 2016 “Trebuchet” received Oregon Pinot Noir of the year from the New York International Wine Competition in 2018. In conjunction with Dauntless Wines philanthropic efforts, they continue to be that positive beacon of light and hope for those less fortunate and serve as heroes among us.
2017 Dreadnought Chardonnay – Light tropical citrus hints interspersed with a little bit of pineapple wrap around this complex yet delicate Columbia Gorge wine. Very approachable and balanced at 13.3% ABV, this wine would go great with crab cakes. If you’re feeling Italian, maybe a nice pasta or risotto with green veggies on the side. Hand picked from the Flume Family Vineyards and only 88 cases produced.
2016 Howitzer Pinot Noir – An earthy bright red with a bit of cranberry cherry on the nose. The fruitiness of this wine still maintains balance at 13.5% ABV. This would go great with Thanksgiving dinner and will stand up well to turkey and all the fixings with its sheer versatility as it would suit a variety of palates. Sourced from the Jesse Estate Vineyard in the Willamette Valley. 400 cases produced.
2017 Trenton Pinot Gris – A crisp green apple flavor on the front with a little bit of lemongrass to round it out. A nice value purchase at under $20, this wine at 13.8 % ABV, pairs nicely with a fresh halibut. Sourced from Jesse Estate in the Willamette Valley. 112 cases produced.
2018 Riveter Pinot Noir Rose – Flavors of strawberry and water melon are coming through on this beautiful pink with just a subtle touch of orange in the coloration.
This is the wine you take to your annual neighborhood Fall cookout- goes great with a couple of slices of pizza and good friendship. 14.3 ABV and sourced from Jesse Estate Vineyards in the Willamette Valley.