After a long string of firsts, Carey and I were introduced to Orin Swift (the wines, not the nonexistent person) during dinner at the Rutherford Grill on our last night in Napa Valley. The Prisoner was being poured by the glass—which, by the bartender’s body language, was a special opportunity. I immediately felt uncool for having not experienced this groovy, cult wine that important people were buzzing about. A shackled prisoner on the label of an expensive, extra thick bottle? How cool is that?
Upon return to the northeast, I quickly discovered that very little Orin Swift makes its way into town. The cases that do appear on the shelves around Saratoga get gobbled up long before the next vintage is released—that was until I received a newsletter from the Saratoga Wine Exchange stating that Orin Swift wines were arriving in bulk (‘cult bulk,’ of course, not Yellow Tail bulk).
Even though the Saldo Zinfandel is gone, the more expensive offerings are still lingering (including a whopping 80+ bottles of The Prisoner still in stock), I made sure to get a bottle for myself.
The coolness of the Saldo label is almost overwhelming. Remember those label-makers from the eighties? You could really get busy with those things:
ROB’S MATH BOOK
It’s so simple and clean. Crafty (no pun intended) art directing in a time when labels are often bad enough to turn you away from trying a wine.
Great nose! Red raspberry, cedar, and strawberry rhubarb followed by a pleasant sinus burn. There is cherry all over this wine in various degrees and forms, from the cool stoney variety directly off the stem to the chalky medicinal variety. The nose is a direct reminder of the spicy vanillin, sweet oak that hangs in the cool air in every high-end barrel room I visted in Napa.
Deliciously indulgent and warm-chested—a carnal delight from a producer with a serious reputation with an almost frenzied fanaticism that surrounds his wines. After a swirl, the tears roll like molasses down the inside of the glass, barely able to rejoin. An interesting graphite component lends a great mineral coolness and momentary hiatus from the wine’s massive fruit.
There is little need to swish, suck, gargle, pull, or make any such noises with the mouth in order to extract the flavors that naturally ooze from the Saldo Zinfandel. Carey described it as, “the ultimate R&R wine, an almost Port-like linger that travels on and on.”