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Wine Review: Orin Swift’s The Prisoner 2008

Dave Phinney’s story is one of the most unique and admirable in today’s wine industry.  After graduating from the University of Arizona with a degree in Political Science, Phinney began pursuing his team by working harvest at the Robert Mondavi winery.  The next year he began Orin Swift Cellars with just two tons of purchased Zinfandel grapes.

Orin Swift has now become one of the top, if not the top, cult wineries in Napa.  Their flagship wine, The Prisoner, which made the winery famous has recently been sold to the mother company of Quintessa.  We are anxious to see what happens to the brand and the blend as the winery goes through some big changes the next couple of years.

However, we are now reviewing 2008.  Which we found to be a fantastic vintage for The Prisoner, one of our favorites.  The wine is composed of 46% Zinfandel, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Syrah, 10% Petit Sirah, 2% Charbono, and 1% Grenache.  The wine is a deep dark garnet hue.  On the nose hint at cherry, vanilla and new oak.

The flavors and mouth feel of The Prisoner is what really gives this wine its character and personality.  Round and soft on the front palette, dark berries and a slight caramel taste fill your mouth.  A perfect touch of acid rounds out the wine and leads into the very soft and supple tannins on the finish.  For a soft wine, the finish is long with the perfect balance of dryness and fruit.  One of Phinney’s best vintages to date.

Decanted’s Wine Rating:  2.75 glasses

The other guys ratings:
92 points, Wine Spectator
90 points, Wine Advocate (Robert Parker)

Buy Orin Swift’s 2008 The Prisoner
$35 at, 10% discount on a case.


Our New Year’s Resolution: Drink More Wine

Since we have tasted and hand selected almost every wine, beer, and sake in our store, we’ve decided our new year’s resolution is to drink more.  We’re determined to find new and different varietals, wineries, countries, and off-the-wall crazy winemakers.
We’d love to find a great wine out of China, a small producer in France that provides a good entry level red Burgundy, an excellent Mexican wine, and even a new grape varietal we’ve never seen produced before.
We pursued the same goal in 2009 and came up with some pretty great stuff.  Here’s a review of our favorite finds…
Favorite Winemaker:  Charles Smith.  We love him for being a little ‘different,’ for his crazy labels and names (Eve Chardonnay, Boom Boom Syrah) but mostly because he is making the best syrah in Washington.
Favorite Winery (Domestic):  Orin Swift.  Love Dave Phinney’s wines.  From the popular Prisoner (Zinfandel blend) to the big and bold Papillon, his wines are balanced, bold, and brilliant.  Dave Phinney was also our runner-up for favorite winemaker.  Combine Orin Swift with his Soda Canyon wines (Barrel Chaser) and we are completely impressed.
Favorite Winery (International):  Fontodi.  This small production winery in Italy makes what we believe is one of the best Chianti Classicos.  Not to mention their 99 point Flaccianello.
Favorite ‘Unique’ Find:  2008 Naucratis, Scholium Project.  This wine produced by Abe Schroeder is just different.  We know its mostly verdelho, but that’s about all we know.  Abe likes to do things differently, push the boundaries and we applaud him for that.
Favorite non-wine find:  Sake.  We have to admit, a year ago we barely touched the stuff (except for a sake bomb here and there).  But we’ve found so many great ones this year, it was hard not to become a sake geek.  Our favorites?  Karen Coy, Hiko Sake Milky, and Mutsu AI.
What do you want to discover in 2010?  Send your comments to info@decantedwines.comto be featured in the next Inner Circle newsletter.