Wednesday, December 21, 2011


   Orin Swift is one of the hottest wineries in California right now. His The Prisoner is highly sought after, as are his Saldo, Papillon, Abstract, Mercury Head, and his Palermo Cab.  The Prisoner is his flagship wine. This wine is a highly extracted Zinfandel-based blend with huge upfront fruit flavors that many people love. Probably just as many find it an unelegant, poorly structured "fruit bomb."

   Love it or hate it, the 2010 vintage has just been released, and I tasted it at a recent wine dinner. The 2010 vintage in California was extremely difficult, with markedly decreased production and decreased concentration. The Prisoner is no different. There is somewhere between 30% and 40% less of The Prisoner to go around this year. The wine is much less concentrated than usual with a higher acidity. It is a more food-friendly wine than usual and will probably age better than many previous vintages, but if you're expecting the lush fruit that this wine is known for, you'll be disappointed. You'll also be disenchanted with the price increase of 15% to about $42.00.

    There are a couple alternatives to The Prisoner you might consider. First is Bogle's Phantom. This $18.00 wine is a blend of old vine Zinfandel, Mourvedre, and Petite Sirah and is deep and rich with surprising complexity. Most Bogle wines are entry-level, simple wines, so this one is a very pleasant surprise. Another to consider is The Culprit, an $18-20.00 blend of almost every red varietal grown in California (Syrah, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Sangiovese, Grenache, Barbera, Cabernet Franc, and  Merlot). This huge mouthful of  raspberry, stone fruits, and chocolate encased in soft supple tannins is not for the faint of heart! I've sold many bottles of these to customers who like The Prisoner, but not its price tag. They usually come back for more. These two wines are still available in the 2009 vintage for the next several months to pacify you while you wait for the 2011 The Prisoner.

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