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.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


    Thanksgiving is the busiest wine holiday of the year. Everybody wants to have a nice bottle of wine to enhance that turkey. The question is -- what is the best wine for this special occasion? Probably the most commonly chosen red is Pinot Noir, and that is a good choice. My choice for leftovers was a single village Beaujolais. Another great alternative is a Loire Valley Cabernet Franc.

    My choice for the main event, however, was a no brainer -- Zind-Humbrecht Gewurztraminer from Alsace, France. This medium to full bodied white wine with its incredible floral and spice aromatics and massive fruit and spice flavor profile stands up to not only the turkey, but also to the gravy, squash, dressing, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce and all the other flavors that assault your taste buds. Literally a "spice cake in a glass", this is a spectacular varietal and Zind-Humbrecht is the King of Alsacian winemakers.

   What did everybody else have?