Orin Swift The Prisoner 2008

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IMG_4528It is always interesting for me to return to this wine. It was the first wine I had when I first took a trip to Napa Valley two and a half years ago. I drank it at Napa’s Bounty Hunter, a cool little retail shop / restaurant that represented the kind of thing I wished was possible in Canada. Our draconian regulatory licensing scheme makes such a venture impossible, so the memory of such places has become an ideal for me to fight for in the local wine scene.

My first trip down to Napa was also precipitous in my exploration into the vast world of wine. Back then I hadn’t tasted much of anything over $20 a bottle, and I tended to stay with things that I knew more. I was only just starting to make a more in-depth foray into regions beyond Australia and California. In reflection, it’s amazing what I’ve learned in such a short period of time. And, it is this wine – Orin Swift’s incredibly successful Prisoner zinfandel blend – that reminds me of the beginning of this journey.

This is particularly interesting since The Prisoner is stylistically vastly removed from what I tend to drink today, with a massively sweet nose of blueberries and figs. The palate reminds me of how exciting it was to taste this level of fruit concentration in wine before I knew anything. This vintage is massive with its dried blueberry, fig, chocolate and subtle spice tasting like an incredibly concentrated reduction. This is not a bad wine, unlike the massively disgusting 2005 Paraduxx zinfandel blend I had two nights ago, which had so much heavy oak treatment the fruit was indistinguishable from the cream and caramel. No, this is a very well made wine – but it is absolutely huge and sweet and does not try to produce subtlety, finesse or nuance. This is all fruit all the time. And it does this well. Perhaps most importantly, it serves as a yardstick by which I can measure my stylistic drift and expansion over the years. Whereas in early 2007 I would have jumped for joy at this wine, now I find it easier to place and far less exciting. Wine really is a fascinating journey.

Very Good
$55 at BCLDB


  1. Joon S.
    January 6, 2010

    You know, I had “The Prisoner” for the first time a while ago and it was too much for me even then (I’m not bragging about my “refined” palate here–it was just too much wine for me!). I’d be interested in trying it again but from your description it doesn’t seem like it’s something I would keep on heavy rotation.

    I DID have some good Zins recently, as indicated in my most recent post. I’m in love with Ridge and hope to try their (decidedly NOT Zinfandel-based) Monte Bello someday soon!

  2. Shea
    January 6, 2010

    Zinfandel can be amazing. This bottle of the Prisoner isn’t really a good emblem of what the best zins are like. Look for Peter Franus, Brown Estate, Neyers, Mazzoco – all of whom know how to keep balance + freshness in their zins.

    Also, this bottle of the Prisoner was probably a bit young to drink when I did. It will likely gain some depth over the next year or two.

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