Back to Jobs & Education

Navy pilot leverages G.I. Bill to open winery

Planning and organizing skills learned in the Navy

Holmes Harbor Cellars owner Greg Martinez honors his Navy Heritage with two drop tank tail cones off of an EA-6B (Fuel) aircraft. It is a focal point on both sides of the door as you enter the tasting room. Photo credit: Marguerite Cleveland

Email Article Print Article Share on Facebook Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon

Commander (R) Greg Martinez, owner of Holmes Harbor Cellars, is not your typical winemaker. He served in the United States Navy for 28 years as a pilot and flight instructor for the EA-6B Prowler and the EA-18G Growler. His call sign was "Elvis" for his musical abilities. His service in the Navy included serving aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and the USS George Washington and a tour in Afghanistan.

Martinez retired in 2004 and decided to build on his degree in Food Manufacturing, as well as his experience brewing with local brew masters and learning the art of alcohol fermentation science. Wine was his real passion.

"I had been traveling the world with both the Navy and my airline job and was able to discover really fine wines in some of the best wine regions in the world," Martinez said. "With my love of wine, background in beer, and a good understanding of manufacturing, it just came together and made sense. My wife, Theresa, is a professional chemist by trade, and wine making takes a lot of chemistry. We wanted to build a business on our property and this fit. We started Holmes Harbor Cellars in 2005."

Like many veterans, Martinez had the G.I. Bill available to him. He also found the Veteran's Office, a great resource for cutting through red tape.

"I used my G.I. Bill to get a certificate in wine making from the University of California Davis," Martinez said. "UC Davis is world renown for their wine making programs. This was an accredited college program and you needed a previous science degree and specific chemistry courses to even be considered to apply. The program was booked three years out so they were not taking new applicants. I was able to use the Veterans Office at UC Davis who helped me get early enrollment and into the program."  

Martinez found the planning and organizing skills he learned in the Navy to be a tremendous help in starting a business. "Having a ‘game plan' and ‘knowing what you want to accomplish and how,' is something I learned in the Navy and use on a daily basis.  I still use my flight training in daily activities as well as the overall strategy of the business. Anything that needs attention in the business is first ‘Planned Out' and ‘Briefed'. Then the task is accomplished or ‘Flown'. Lastly, we ‘Debrief' so we can determine if the outcome was what we were looking for and better yet, can we do it better next time," he shared.  

Opening your own business can be stressful and a financial risk. It is helpful to learn from those who are successful in becoming their own boss. Martinez shares things that proved helpful for him.

"My advice is to find your passion and build from there," he said. "Don't just build a job because, honestly, jobs get mundane. If you can do something every day that you are truly passionate about, you are not really working, you are having fun every day and work is exciting. Lastly, work with your local Veterans Office. They have many programs that can help you start a business, especially grants you can apply for. They can also be used to network and get more people to your business. If you have a product, go to the local base to see if they will carry it in the Base Exchange. Contact MWR and offer a discount to military families, and they sometimes will advertise for you. Active-duty personnel and veterans alike want to see you succeed!"  

Holmes Harbor Cellars is on Whidbey Island and Martinez offers a 10 percent military discount.

Holmes Harbor Cellars, 4591 S. Honeymoon Bay Rd., Greenbank, 360.331.3544

comments powered by Disqus