Ever since its release, Dave Phinney’s Zinfandel based, “The Prisoner,” captivated the wine world. For many, it came as a surprise in 2010 when Phinney’s Orin Swift Cellars sold two of their most popular wines, Saldo and The Prisoner, to Chile’s Huneeus Vintners. According to Phinney, the sale is more of a partnership as Huneeus owns Quintessa Vineyards in Napa Valley. Plans have been launched for Phinney to develop projects in both Chile and Argentina, and beyond.
In recent years Orin Swift has been investing in properties throughout the world and producing some very exciting wines. Once again I am joined by friend and fellow sommelier, Elena Boiko. Also joining us is my friend from Los Angeles, Mark Fraser. We are also indebted to Mark for sharing these wonderful wines.
Up first, 2012 Veladora. This is a blend of 96% Sauvignon Blanc and 4% Muscat. In the glass, the wine is a pleasing yellow, which is brightly illuminated. The nose is dominated by a potent aromas of fresh citrus fruit with peach and honeydew showing through. There are also accents of tropical fruits to fill out the bouquet. On the palate, the Veladora is light in body and well balanced. The lively acidity brings out a rich range of fruit flavors. Orange, tangerine, pineapple, nectarine, mango, and fig, all expressing themselves, yet maintaining harmony. The finish is clean with a pleasurable hint of minerality. The alcohol content is 14.5% with a bottle price of $25. On a completely different note, the proceeds of this wine go to “Puertas Abiertas,” (Open Doors) an organization that provides health and dental care services to California’s migrant vineyard workers. Kudos to Dave Phinney and everyone at Orin Swift.
“I like everything about this wine,” Mark expressed his glee. “It is fresh, bright, and tropical.”
“I do not overly care for California Sauvignon Blanc,” I paused for effect. “However, the Veladora is quickly changing my mind.”
“I like the roundness of this wine,” Elena spoke up. “It is much different than the usual grassier Sauvignon Blanc. I would serve it with a soft goat cheese. Crottin de Chavignol comes immediately to mind.”
“Definitely a versatile wine,” I replied. “I’d also go with fish, seafood, and even quiche.”
“I know what wine I’ll be serving next Thanksgiving,” Mark chuckled. “I’d also go with glazed pork or chicken.”
Our next selection, 2012 Mannequin, is a blend of California grapes. These include 40% Chardonnay, 14% Sauvignon Blanc, 12% Grenache Blanc, 12% Viognier, 8% Marsanne, 4% Roussanne, and 2% Muscat. The wine has been aged over a 14 month period in 40% new French Oak, 40% in neutral oak, and lastly, 20% in stainless steel. Deep shades of gold and amber fill the glass. On the nose, the bouquet is an aromatic blend of citrus fruit and fresh cut wild flowers. On the palate, the wine is nicely balanced with a rich creamy texture. Tropical fruit and exotic spices prevail, followed by flavors of apricot and lychee, and tangerine being the most noticeable. The finish shows lively acidity and a nutty dessert cake flavor. The alcohol content is 15.5% with a bottle price of $30.
“Dave Phinney certainly knows how to blend wines,” Mark concluded with a nod of approval.
“A lot going on so the key is not to over analyze,” I said with assurance. “The Mannequin is simply a very easy wine to drink.”
“He certainly knows how to blend varietals,” ELena appeared pleasantly surprised. “This wine can easily be paired with several types of food. Barbecue immediately comes to mind.”
Up next, 2012 China Doll. This is a blend of Grenache and Syrah. This is a rose style wine that spent 8 months aging in stainless steel. In the glass the wine is a rosy red with a purple tincture. On the nose, the bouquet opens up to exotic spices with jasmine prevailing, followed by fresh berry fruit, and a wisp of orange peel. On the palate, there is good balance to the complex array of flavors. Plenty of ripe fruit, with melon showing through, followed by peaches and cream, and concluding with a dash of peppercorn. The finish is clean with just a trace of minerality. The alcohol content is 14.1% with a bottle price of $20.
“China Doll is particularly complex for a rose wine,” I agreed. “I found this very much to my liking.”
“China Doll is a wine of endless possibilities,” Elena said flatly. “It can be paired with so many different dishes. The Jasmine and spice characteristics of the wine make my immediate thoughts lean toward spicy Asian cuisine or Indian curry.”
Our last selection, 2011 D66 comes from an Orin Swift property in Languedoc, France. This is a region that is quickly becoming a major force in French wines. The wine itself is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Carignan. It was aged in 30% new French oak for 18 months and bottle aged another 5 months. In the glass, the wine is almost black, yet striated by hues of crimson. On the nose, the bouquet is rich and opulent, dominated by aromas of black cherry, plum, and blueberry. There were also pleasurable hints of spice, cola, and mocha. On the palate, the D66 is big, rich, and powerful. The wine exuded a complex array of flavors. Black cherry , blackberry, blueberry, plum, licorice, coffee, pepper, and spice all made their presence known. The finish is long, velvety smooth, and memorable. Still a young wine, we decanted for an hour to give it some room to open up. The alcohol content is 15.2% with a bottle price of $40.
“If you like Grenache, the D66 is a sure bet,” Mark said with a smile.
“I like everything about this wine,” I nodded in approval. “Once the aromas permeated the air, I knew we were in for a treat. It is powerful, yet not overpowering.”
“I agree wholeheartedly. The D66 is very well made. ” Elena’s eyes crinkled softly as she smiled. “The spice of D66 would lead me to pair it with spiced or herbal dishes, and roasted meats. The high alcohol level can also help to reduce the burn of spicy food.”
Lastly, I would also recommend some of the notable wines that Dave Phinney has produced in South America and Italy. You owe it to yourself to give them a taste.
“But that my friends, is another story … “