The 80-acre vineyard and winery in the Yakima Valley where Patrick J. (Pat) Dineen focuses an increasing amount of his attention isn't an entrepreneurial encore for the retired bank executive so much as it's a return to his roots on the farm.
Dineen, who hasn't totally stepped aside from his 40-year banking career since he chairs the board of Bellevue-based Puget Sound Bank and is one of its original investors, grew up on a dairy farm in the Midwest. "I knew that when I retired I wanted to get back into farming," he says, admitting that the dirt called to him from time to time over the years.
This is harvest time in Wine Country and thus Dineen is spending many of his days this month at Dineen Vineyards, which sits on a hillside north of Zillah, amid a cluster of Washington State's well-known wineries, with an impressive view looking west toward the mountains.
It's there that Dineen Vineyard's grapes, primarily cabernet, cabernet franc and sirah, are being harvested and winemakers from many of the 23 wineries that are his customers arrive to load up their grapes.
Dineen only produces about 300 cases a year for his own use, either under the Dineen Vineyards label or the Kamiakin label, a second label featuring a red blend, that came into being about five years ago. Most of the 190 tons of grapes are bought by the other wineries.
One of those wineries buying his grapes is Sheridan Vineyards, in which Dineen invested in 2000 after being introduced to Sheridan's founder, Scott Greer. He soon ran across a rundown apple orchard nearby that he bought in 2002 and turned into Dineen Vineyards. TheSheridan winery is built on part of Dineen's acreage and is leased back to Greer.
The vineyards primarily produce the three major varietals, but a total of eight different varietals are grown, though Dineen is quick to make it clear that "the viticulture is my interest in growing the grapes rather than making the wine."
His ongoing process of learning about the grapes includes traveling to Europe each year to visit different grape-growing regions and says with satisfaction that "I get into prestigious wineries that I wouldn't be able to if I didn't have the winery."
Like a number of those involved with vineyards or wineries in Washington State, Dineen first looked for land in the Napa Valley in California, but found "it was more pricey than I wanted to get into."
Dineen produced his first wine under the Dineen Vineyards label in 2003, primarily for personal consumption, but about four years ago he got his commercial bond to permit him to market and sell his wine.
"That was primarily to promote the vineyard," he said. "My plan is not to get any bigger since I'm retired. We could get bigger but chances are we won't."
Dineen, discussing his decision to be in the group who put up money to launch Puget Sound Bank in 2005, says "I had a good career in banking, made good money, and wasn't looking to get back into the business. But I figured I could do this with a minimal amount of time and effort. It hasn't turned out that way."
Dineen says Puget Sound Bank, a $200 million, single-office bank, "has a strong balance sheet. We didn't get into problems because we avoided real estate and focused on commercial and industrialized loans."
Dineen started his banking career with Seafirst Bank after moving West following graduation from Marquette University and five years in the Air Force. He then joined Spokane-based Old National Bank, which was acquired by U.S. Bank, where Dineen eventually served as president for Washington before he retired.
Looking ahead at the industry, Dineen said "we're going to see a lot of branch closures in an era when people can do their banking from anywhere. They could care less today if your bank has a branch on the busiest corner in town."
He notes "there aren't many healthy banks changing hands these days because banks looking to sell find that their book value is pretty much what they're being offered today."
"A few years ago, selling prices for banks would have been twice book value or even better for an attractive bank," he added. "Until we get back there somehow, you're not going to see much movement among healthy banks."