A trio of veterans turned to farming to produce a military-centric wine brand that supports agriculture-based aspirations for others.
“Veterans are used to hard work and attention to detail and need to feel wanted and respected, like they’re part of something bigger than themselves,” Ben Martin, a Marine veteran, said. “We’re trying to bring a mission-oriented brand to the market where you’re not only consuming our wine that we feel is at the same level as our peers, but you’re also fulfilling this mission of helping veterans reintegrate.”
“We” is a team of three Iraq war combat veterans, including Martin, who returned home to the Pacific Northwest wanting to work for a deeper purpose. They knew that the average age of an American farmer is nearly 60, according to the latest USDA census, and that working with soil is often very therapeutic for veterans dealing with PTSD and the like.
So Martin and his buddies started Dauntless Wine Cø. in 2015, with the slashed “o” representing an interlocking system. The name, meanwhile, tells the story of what the three men were trying to do: “Bootstrap a winery with no experience and no money,” Martin laughed. “You have to be dauntless to do that. Plus, it means unwavering under pressure, and that’s what veterans are.”
Thus far in 2023, Martin and his team of around a half-dozen employees have crushed 22 tons of grapes from local Willamette Valley vineyards. The World War II Museum in Louisiana has taken notice, picking up Dauntless to serve in their eateries.
Dauntless’ tasting room is located in Forest Grove, while wine lovers can also taste their wares at Old 47 Estate Vineyard in Gaston. Online, Dauntless offers a selection of pinot noirs, blanc de noirs, pinot gris and rosés ranging from $19 on up.
“Our 2018 ‘Battle Taxi’ is by far the best pinot we have to offer right now,” Martin said. “We also have some half bottles called ‘Militarisms” with 88 different military-related quotes on the label that would make great stocking stuffers.”
To help get other veterans into agriculture, the Dauntless team launched the Dauntless Veteran Foundation in 2020. The charity — which receives a portion of the Dauntless Wine Cø. profits — gives grants to veterans for purchasing necessities like land or tools or complete agriculture-related education. So far, Martin and his team have awarded more than $55,000, mostly to veterans in the Pacific Northwest.
“When our nonprofit gives out these grants, those are force multipliers for someone just starting out,” Martin said. “I’ve received help along the way with Dauntless, and I want to pay it back. It’s important for me to pass it along.”