2008 The Prisoner

Gladly Taken Prisoner

Orin Swift Cellars is new.

I don’t mean “new” like they were just formed yesterday, or this is their first vintage, or even that you probably haven’t heard of them. They weren’t, the first release of The Prisoner was the 2003 vintage, and it’s entirely likely that you have.

What I mean is that they’re nouveau. They’re young, and vibrant, and current, and modern. Exciting and interesting, doing things and saying things.

Winery honcho/winemaker/jefe Dave Phinney likes him some zinfandel. The first wine he released under the Orin Swift Cellars name was the 2003 Prisoner, a zinfandel-based blend of some incredible Napa juice. The latest vintage is no different.

The 2008 Prisoner is 46% zinfandel, 26% cabernet sauvignon, 15% syrah, 10% petite sirah, 2% charbono, and 1% grenache. The main players, in my opinion, are the first three, and before you read on you should probably try to think, for a second, what a zinfandel/cab sauv/syrah blend might be like.


If your first thought was “big,” you get a gold friggin' star.

Luckily for me, and everyone else who’s had the fortune of drinking the 2008 Prisoner, “big” is not the only appropriate descriptor here. Fruit-forward, balanced, acidic, earthy all work as well. So, the notes, then?

The wine is dark as night in the core of the glass, and lightens to a bright ruby red at the edges. The nose is lush with sweet cherries and darker, richer blackberries, plus a hint of tobacco or cigar box aromas. It smells rich. It smells like it’s not about to fuck around.

The Prisoner is a full-bodied wine that really coats your mouth. Here is an actual note I wrote in my notebook:

Tannin structure out the ass

This, I assure you, should be translated as “lots of structure.” The tannins aren’t rough or overpowering, though. Raspberry and cherry do a little dance, make a little love, and get down with a nicely-balanced earthiness and acidity that just makes itself known on the mid-palate. The lingering finish of cherries keeps you coming back for more.

I say god damn, this is some tasty wine.

The Prisoner has gained a cult following, and it is deserved. This latest vintage is a great example of California red blends done well, and for around $30 a bottle it won’t take your pocketbook captive.

Verdict: 95/100

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