Orin Swift ‘The Prisoner’ Napa Valley Red Blend 2005

The Prisoner is a scintillating American success story; launched in 2000 by famed winemaker Dave Phinney, the brand has been sold twice already. In 2010 Phinney sold it to Huneeus Vintners, they in turn sold it [along with its siblings Saldo, Cuttings, Blindfold and Thorn] to Constellation Brands in 2016. As the bottle I enjoyed pre-dates these sales, here is the original background on the brand:

Progressive winemaker David Swift Phinney was “introduced to wine, how it was made, and got hooked” during time spent in Italy in 1995. Upon his return to the States he took a job as a harvest worker at Robert Mondavi. It was there that he decided, “that if he was going to work this hard, it would eventually have to be for himself”, and in 1998 Orin Swift Cellars was founded [Orin is his father’s middle name and Swift is his mother’s maiden name]. . He is renowned for wines that “are unapologetically full-flavored and intense, yet with a backbone of structure that holds it all in place”.

[Orin Swift developed into an international brand including 300 acres in southwest France along with projects in Spain, Italy, Corsica, Argentina and other locations. In 2016 Orin Swift (the brand, remaining inventory and the tasting room in St. Helena) was purchased by E. & J. Gallo Winery. Dave Phinney “will remain involved”.]

Winemaking: The Prisoner was an immediate success, and has been hailed as a “contemporary California field blend” [comprised of varying percentages of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petite Sirah and Charbono]. The Prisoner consistently is awarded, and appears regularly on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list.

Tasting Notes: Dark garnet in colour, highly aromatic with aromas of blackberry jam on toast, black pepper, vanilla and mocha traces. Silky layers of concentrated black current, black cherry, raspberry are dusted with crushed black peppercorn along with a hint of graham cracker. Velvety tannins accent burnt caramel, chocolate, black current, vanilla and buttery toast on the fantastically lengthy finish. Opulent and lush, nearly a meal on its own.

48% Zinfandel, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Syrah, 10% Petite Sirah and 2% Charbono
Napa Valley
California
Bottled by Orin Swift Cellars
15.2% Alcohol
$125 [1.5 L]
Enjoy now thru 2020

Rated 93 points by Wine Spectator

Orin Swift ‘Abstract’ Red Blend 2015

abstract15

Winery: Progressive winemaker David Swift Phinney was “introduced to wine, how it was made, and got hooked” during time spent in Italy in 1995. Upon his return to the States he took a job as a harvest worker at Robert Mondavi. It was there that he decided “that if he was going to work this hard, it would eventually have to be for himself”, and in 1998 Orin Swift Cellars was founded [Orin is his father’s middle name and Swift is his mother’s maiden name].

Today the company has grown into an international brand that includes 300 acres in southwest France along with projects in Spain, Italy, Corsica, Argentina and other locations. However, his mission still remains a small, “passionate team of friends and family dedicated to making great wine”. He is renowned for wines that “are unapologetically full-flavored and intense, yet with a backbone of structure that holds it all in place”.
*[Note: Orin Swift (the brand, remaining inventory and the tasting room in St. Helena) was purchased by E. & J. Gallo Winery in 2016. Dave Phinney “will remain involved”.]

Winemaking: Grapes are sourced from vineyards located throughout Northern California, including Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino. “Drawing from five esteemed regions throughout Northern California, an alluring matrix of flavors and textures was achieved. Each vineyard block was precisely chosen to fulfill a vision and blending component need.” Aged for 10 months in a combination of new and seasoned French Oak, with 35% new oak.

Tasting Notes: Red-violet in colour with aromas of wild berries, baking spices and traces of caramel. Tasting quite similar to the inviting aromas, with wild berry jam, a hint of vanilla and a pop of fresh jalapeno. Silky tannins compliment good acidity; rich chocolate, a hint of black cherry, and sweet caramel linger on the velvety finish. A decadent, silky fusion of berries and chocolate, your glass will empty much faster then you thought possible. [Especially with that 15.1% Alcohol.]

Blend of Grenache, Petite Sirah, and Syrah
California
Bottled by Orin Swift Cellars
15.1% Alcohol
$29
Enjoy now thru 2022

Ampeleia ‘Unlitro’ Costa Toscana IGT 2015

unlitro

Estate: Located in the rugged hills of Maremma, near the Tuscan coast in Italy, Ampeleia is the passion project of 3 friends; pioneering winemaker Elisabetta Foradori, Thomas Widmann and Giovanni Podini. [For a detailed account of Elisabetta Foradori’s lifelong work in Trentino, the biodynamic approach, initiatives taken to preserve indigenous plants and wildlife, and the more ethereal, nuances of winemaking, please explore the Foradori website here]. Unlitro is the estate’s 3rd wine; “one litre of Ampeleia is an expression of Ampeleia’s vitality and subtly delicate nature”.

Philosophy: Listening to the land and “creating a deep awareness” of a sense of place. Harmony with nature allows Elisabetta “to express the beauty of the land in her wines”.

Winemaking: All vineyards are farmed biodynamically. As little as possible human intervention in the winery, with only indigenous yeasts used. Grapes were sourced from the estate’s youngest vineyards. Aged for 6 months in cement tanks.

Tasting Notes: Transparent garnet in colour with aromas of wild berries, pink peppercorn and a flash of funk. Vivid cherry, strawberry and blackberry are backed by pepper spice and dusty earth. Black pepper, strawberry and rhubarb comprise the lengthy finish. Engaging and easy drinking with a beatnik edge, well worth seeking out!

Blend of Alicante [Grenache], Carignan and Alicante Bouschet
Costa Toscana IGT
Italy
Estate Bottled by Societa Agricola Ampeleia
12.5% Alcohol
$20
Enjoy now thru 2018

Pillitteri Estates Winery ‘Canadian Gothic’ Niagara Peninsula VQA 2013

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Estate: Committed to creating a legacy for the generations to follow him, 3rd generation wine grower Gary Pillitteri founded the Pillitteri Winery in 1993. Gary began working in the vineyards alongside his grandfather and father in his native Sicily, and carried his passion for viticulture to Canada. Initially he and his wife grew fruits and vegetables on the estate, but in 1998 Gary decided to experiment with making a small batch of Vidal Icewine. Upon winning a gold medal right out of the starting gate, Gary decided to plant vines and open a winery. Today there are just over 100 acres of vineyards, and Gary’s grandchildren [who grew up working in the vineyards] are managing the export side of the winery, establishing themselves as the 5th generation of the Pillitteri winemaking family. Alongside their renowned Icewine, [which is currently receiving many accolades in the UK] the estate also crafts traditional Niagara wines such as Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.

Tasting Notes: Garnet in colour with aromas of cherry, strawberry, jalapeno and baking spices. Silky smooth with soft tannins, cherry, blackberry and green bell pepper flavours culminate in a cozy finish of cinnamon and black pepper. Friendly and straightforward, a good accompaniment to a wide variety of simple dishes.

Pairing Suggestions From the Winery: Good for an everyday sipping red, or works well with pizza, pasta or burgers on the BBQ.

Blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot
Niagara Peninsula
Canada
12.4% Alcohol
$13 [Canadian Dollars]
Enjoy now

Tenuta De Angelis Rosso Piceno DOC 2015

deangelisrp

Estate: Located in Cossignano, in the Marche region of eastern Italy, the De Angelis estate was founded in the 1950’s by Alighiero De Angelis and Ciabattoni Giovanna. Their grandchildren, who focus on indigenous varietals such as Pecorino and Passerina along with traditional production methods, care for the 50 hectares of vineyards today.

Winemaking: Grapes were sourced from “average textured” clay soil. Aged for 4 months in stainless steel, followed by 6 months in the bottle .

Tasting Notes: Inky red-violet in colour with aromas of strawberry, raspberry, spice and a hint of earthy funk. Abounding with fresh berry flavours [raspberry, blackberry, cherry] that are given a shake of white pepper. Dusty, dry tannins provide a backbone to the baking chocolate and berry filled finish. Straightforward, easy drinking and versatile at the table. [Or as the winery states: “Perfect with everything”.]

70% Montepulciano, 30% Sangiovese
Rosso Piceno DOC
Italy
Estate Bottled by De Angelis & C srl.
13% Alcohol
$11
Enjoy now thru 2017