Monday, November 15, 2021

Prisoner Wine Company "Cuttings" California Red Wine 2012

Prisoner Wine Company "Cuttings" California Red Wine 2012

New parents son Sean and Michelle brought our new recent arrival grand-daughter, Lavender, over for dinner and we celebrated with a vintage release premium bottling from The Prisoner Wine Company.  

The Prisoner brand was first created by Orin Swift back in 1998 by winemaker and founder David Phinney. Phinney's interest in wines dates back to 1995 when on a lark, David Swift Phinney took a friend up on an offer and went to Florence, Italy to spend a semester “studying”. During that time, he was introduced to wine, how it was made, and he got hooked. After graduation from university, he  eventually landed a job at Robert Mondavi Winery in 1997 starting as a temporary harvest worker. 

Deciding that if he was going to work this hard, it would eventually have to be for himself, he founded Orin Swift Cellars in 1998, named after Orin, his father’s middle name, and Swift, his mother’s maiden name. With two tons of zinfandel and not much else, he spent the next decade making wine for others as well as himself. He made the first Prisoner wine in 2000 with a 385 case production and continuing growing production, his reputation and his brand to an inconic label and portfolio with a wide cult-like following. The widely popular Prisoner label and brand had grown to a wide selection of carefully crafted wines - blends from the best vineyards and appellations across the leading regions of California. 

Phinney sold the Zinfandel blend and a few other labels comprising The Prisoner Wine Company to Huneeus Vintners in 2010, owners of the premium Quintessa brand. Huneeus later sold it to Constellation Brands in 2016 who spun off Orin Swift to E. & J. Gallo Winery, although David stayed on and remained the brand's winemaker. When Constellation bought The Prisoner Wine Company in 2016, case production had increased to 165,000 and they paid $285 million for the brand.

Following his non-compete sabatical after selling The Prisoner Brand, Phinney released his follow on label, 'Eight Years in the Desert', for the period of time since he had produced the original Prisoner red blend. He built up his new brand with labels that compared with those of his earlier portfolio.

  • Orin Swift, Eight Years in the desert vs The Prisoner Wine Company, The Prisoner.
  • Orin Swift, Mercury Head Cabernet Sauvignon vs The Prisoner Wine Company, Derange Red Blend.
  • Orin Swift, Slander Pinot Noir vs The Prisoner Wine Company, Eternally Silenced Pinot Noir.
  • Orin Swift, Palermo Cabernet Sauvignon vs The Prisoner Wine Company, Cuttings Cabernet Sauvignon.

Orin Swift became almost as well-known for its artistic and mysterious labels featuring photography, pastiche, collage and street art, making them stand out and helping to tell the story of each wine. 

Frankly, many of the Orin Swift labels are weird and in some/many cases creepy; The Prisoner family of wines, Red Blend, White Blend and Chardonnay, Blank Stare, Blindfold, China Doll, Machete, The Mannequin and Palermo. This label Cuttings in one of the few labels that are not so, artistic but not unnerving. 

The Prisoner brand and flagship label, were originally inspired by the classic sketch Le Petit Prisonier by 19th century Spanish artist Francisco Goya, part of a series entitled, “The Disasters of War”, created to be a visual protest against the injustice and brutality of the Spanish War of Independence in 1808. 

Today, Prisoner Wine Company wines are crafted by a team lead by Director of Winemaking Chrissy Wittmann and a team who work with over 100 growers across northern California from The Prisoner Wine Company located on the legendary Highway 29 St. Helena Highway in Napa Valley.

The Cuttings label was/is a creative red blend of predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon with a dash of Syrah and Petite Sirah and a drop of Zinfandel, kind of a reverse blend of the original flagship and Prisoner. This 2012 release was crafted for the Syrah to add a rich mouth feel and silkiness to the complexity and depth of the Cabernet and the structure and intensity of the Petite Sirah, with some robust zest and character added by some Zinfandel in the blend. The Cabernet came from hilltop vineyards directly across from Pritchard Hill, as well as vineyards on Howell Mountain and Spring Mountain. With 20% new French and American oak, this was a complex sophisticated red blend.

The Cuttings' name and label were inspired by the age-old method of using cuttings from a vineyard to propagate new vines. This resulting wine is powerful and structured, with intense aromas of ripe dark fruit, black cherry and subtle spicy notes of cedar and anise. The palate is rich and dense, with flavors of sweet plum and red berries and complimented with a hint of dark cocoa powder. Polished tannins and integrated French oak adorn a long silky finish.

This wine was awarded 91 points by Wine Spectator, 90 points by James Suckling and Robert Parker's Wine Advocate. 

Winemaker's Notes:. Inspired by the age-old method of using cuttings from idyllic sites for the propagation of new vines, this Cabernet Sauvignon-based blend showcases some of our favorite hillside vineyards. Cuttings combines the intensity and depth of Cabernet Sauvignon with the structure and richness of Petite Sirah and Syrah. A small amount of Zinfandel adds a nice layer of complexity, while encompassing a signature, vibrant spiciness. The wine has an intense and alluring aroma of ripe plum reduction layered with baking spices, hints of cocoa powder and cigar box. The palette is velvety and dense with flavors of black cherry, cola, and freshly roasted co ee beans. Soft tannins evolve into a plush and lengthy finish.

Dark garnet colored,, full bodied, intense concentrated ripe plum, black cherry and currant fruits with baking spices, mocha cocoa powder, expresso and cigar box with round tannins on a moderate finish. 

RM 90 points.