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Wine Review: The Prisoner 2009

A special guest blog appearance by our Cooked author – Jaclyn Poole….

Believe it or not, there was a time when I wasn’t a foodie and really didn’t know much about wine.  It all started one night in Columbus, Ohio. I don’t necessarily remember the occasion, but myself and my boyfriend (husband now) decided to treat ourselves to a nice dinner out. It was at that dinner that I was introduced to what is still one of our favorite wines – The 2009 Prisoner, the flagship wine of Orin Swift Cellars.

Overwhelmed by an extensive wine list, we asked the server for advice. All we really knew was that we enjoyed red wine and since it was a special occasion, we weren’t being too price conscious. Our server suggested the Prisoner because he was on a big Zinfandel kick.  But this particular wine was blended with several other varietals; Cabernet, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Charbono, Grenache and Malbec …to be exact. And they all blend together perfectly.

The color of the wine was the first thing to grab our attention; an opaque shade of ruby that seemed almost solid as it settled into the glass. We allowed the wine to open as we decided on our meals; shrimp and grits to split, barbequed mahi-mahi for me and a caramel seared pork chop for
the hubby.  These don’t seem like entrees you’d usually pair with a deep, bold Napa red – but I am convinced this wine pairs well with everything!  And that night it did.

The aromas of the wine surprised us – strong blackberry and raspberry – reminiscent of a summer fruit salad, sweet and tart. From the first sip you know you’re drinking something great; a powerful, full bodied burst of cherry flavors with pops of pepper on the tongue.  But wait, that’s not even the best part. The best part is the long finish. A velvety finish and softens the throat and warms your chest.  The wine offers plenty of tannins, but they’re subtle which is why it pairs well with so many different meals.

We sipped the wine slowly, even enjoying it with dessert and ever since then we have had at least one bottle of the ’09 Prisoner in our house at all times. Believe me, you won’t regret trying this one.

Outside my box: pairing zinfandel with humidity

I stay in the same box all the time: chardonnay, cabernet and occasionally get crazy with some pinot noir.  But lately for some reason all I want to drink is zinfandel.  It’s so god damn good!  And no, it doesn’t matter that we’re heading into the unbearable hot  summer in Florida.  Apparently zin pairs perfectly with humidity.

Last Wednesday was my blue collar day.  A full day of manual labor, I packed and shipped around 125 cases of wine.  At the end of the day most people crave a beer…all I wanted way a cheeseburger and a glass of zinfandel.  Maybe it stems from my recent memory of heavy wine and burgers.  About a month or so ago, a friend suggested a bottle of 1997 Guigal La Tourque with a Five Guys, not your typical pairing but I was up for it.  Turned out to be both a brilliant and delicious idea.

Unfortunately, since then I haven’t been able to replicate that bottle of Guigal but have found that zinfandel pairs equally as well with burgers (Five Guys or not).  Some recent finds include Martinelli Giuseppe and Luisa and for those ‘everyday drinking’ bottles Klinker Brick.  So for me, put those summer whites and roses away.  Just hand me a big, bold, kick you in the teeth wine and a juicy burger and I’m all set.

Winery Feature – Klinker Brick

Klinker Brick WineryWhen someone says ‘old vines’ in California, you might immediately recall the 60’s when the hippies first invaded Napa County or the 1970’s when California wine first made a name for itself.  But the early 1900’s?  Never in a 110 years would my mind go there.

But that is when the Fleten family settled in the Lodi district and planted their grapes including Zinfandel, Tokay, Carignane, and Alicante.  Since then, the Felten family has kept the winery in the family…currently owned and operated by Steve & Lori Felten (fifth generation winemakers), their team as includes extended relatives Barry Gnekow (winemaker) and Lynne Whyte Bernard (President).

Alluvial FanThe Lodi region of California is located on the edge of the San Joaquin Valley just east of San Francisco.  Although the region didn’t and AVA designation until 1986, the region has been growing grapes since as early as the 1950’s.  The region has a climate very similar to areas along the Mediterranean Sea’s coast with warm days and cool nights.  The region has a great variety of soil contents, although in most cases it contains deep loam and large rocks.  Klinker Brick grows most of their old vine Zinfandel in the sub appellation of the Mokelumner River, which is an area that follows the river from the Sierra Nevadas to the San Joaquin River (the heart of the appellation).  Soil here is deposits of sand and loam in an alluvial fan shape (see an example of an alluvial fan to the right).

Here are some of our favorite selections from Klinker Brick:

2008 Old Vine Zinfandel
From: Mokelumne River, Lodi, California
About (From the Winery): The 2008 vintage produced lower yields than the previous vintage resulting in wines with deep color and rich, explosive fruit. This wine offers aromas of black cherries and fresh strawberries and toasty oak. On the palate, there are layers of dark fruit intermingled with sweet vanilla and spice. This wine has an incredibly smooth and long, lingering finish. Our winemaker believes that it is the best Klinker Brick Old Vine Zinfandel that we have produced to date.

2008 Lodi Farrah Syrah
Lodi, California
About (From the Winery): With aromas of black cherry, cedar shavings with just a hint of tobacco, the 2008 Farrah Syrah is a smooth, beautifully balanced wine with dense layers of spiced plum. The texture is supple and silky and the finish, long and lingering.

Wine for Easter

Photo courtesy of

If you are like many people, you have your Easter menu planned well in advance, or in most cases, you have a traditional family meal that’s always prepared. But with all the advanced preparations, have you thought to chose  the right wine to accompany your meal? Now, the “right wine” is subjective. It’s all a matter of personal preference. Some of you may only prefer a sweeter style white wine, and some only drink red. We have some suggestions to satisfy those differentiating palettes at your dinner table.

If you are serving ham this Easter, there are numerous wines you could serve. Many people choose a sweet topping or glaze to counter the saltiness of the meat. In that case, a Riesling or a Gewürztraminer are going to be your best option. Both wines have a dry fruitiness that is both refreshing and palette cleansing. The sweet, round mouth-feel compliments any sweetness in the topping and the acidity will balance the salt of the meat. If you prefer a dryer style Riesling, try a Washington State Barnard Griffin Riesling $13 or Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl $17. For a more fruit forward, sweeter style Riesling, try an Alsatian or German Riesling such as Fritz’s Riesling $14. For a lighter, aromatic and elegant Gewürztraminer, try Villa Wolf Gewürztraminer $15. If you are a Chardonnay drinker, try a lightly oaked style like White Rock Chardonnay $32.50.

For the red wine drinkers, depending on how you present your ham, you could pair either a Zinfandel or a Pinot Noir. With the sweet glazed ham, a red fruit forward, low tannin Zinfandel would handle well, such as Axis Zinfandel $15. For a spicily prepared ham with cloves and herbs, an Oregon Pinot Noir would be fantastic. Try Archery Summit Premier Cuvee $48.

Lamb and sheep are often associated with spring. Maybe it’s the fact they give birth in the spring to wobbly little babies and springtime in itself is associated with new life. In any case, lamb is another popular choice for Easter dinner. Lamb is a fairly robust meat and should be paired accordingly with a red wine that can handle its full flavors. This wine should have decent tannins, a fair amount of fruit and a lengthy finish that won’t be overpowered by the meat. There are a number of red wines that can accomplish all of those qualifications, from a Cabernet to a Malbec, Merlot and Tempranillo. Try

Jax Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley $40
Volver Tempranillo, La Mancha, Spain $16
Stags’ Leap Winery Merlot, Napa Valley $22

Argento Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina $12

If you are feeling that you really want to get in the spirit of Easter and embrace the roots of Easter’s Israeli heritage, try a kosher wine from Israel – Recanati Chardonnay and Recanati Cabernet Sauvignon $17 each from Galilee. The Chardonnay is a California style oaked style with a smooth buttery finish. Their Cabernet is fruit forward with soft tannins, easily paired with the traditional lighter dishes of Easter.