While I can't rank Zinfadel in my top 5 wine varietals, I do occasionally enjoy that deep purple juice both straight up and in well crafted blends. At the same time, the sheer full throttle vibrancy of some Zins, coupled with the grape juicy sweet style I find in less expensive Zins makes me wary, esp. at potlucks. My preference for stylized, refined wine with multiple tiers of flavor tends to exclude most Zins, which lean towards a huge fruit/alcohol punch in the mouth. Honestly, though I base my prejudices on my early wine drinking days in the late 90s and I know that Zins have evolved away from one dimensionality. All the more reason for me to pick up a few bottles of The Prisoner from 2003.
A guy I know has a considerable gray market deal going in his house in Brentwood. Where he gets the wines, I don't know, but his prices are good, his selection excellent and no sales tax. I've bought a couple of cases of fine first growths from him (1994s, very well priced) and some of this and that. Anyway, I was buying some 2002 white Burgundy and my friend J said, ever try this? He plucked a bottle of The Prisoner from his cluttered shelves and handed it over. Good juice, he said, Laube loved it. Being a sucker, I bought 3 bottles for $22 each, did I say no sales tax? Anyway, I drank one soon thereafter (no memories one way or another) and lost the other two somewhere in the cellar. I found the bottle consumed for this review when I was rearranging my wines. I took a peek at the WS ratings and saw that Laube gave the wine a 92 in 2005 so I looked forward to tipping back a couple of glasses. Unfortunately, that proved to be a let down.
Tasting Notes: The wine is Orin Swift The Prisoner, Red Table Wine 2003. Swift is obviously sourcing juice from various AVAs as the wine notes that it was "Bottled in Napa" but has no AVA listed. The wine checks in at 15.2% alcohol and is a blend of Zin, Cabernet Sauvignon, Charbono (from where? I thought that all of the Charbono vines in CA were replaced long ago) and Petit Sirah. Not sure of the percentages as there is no info on the website but it's clear that Zin controls the blend. Dark purple in the glass, alcoholic nose with berries and clay, black fruit and maple syrup mid-palate, with a decent though tannic, viscous blackberry finish. Frankly I expected more--better fruit expressions and integration, softer tannins, fuller balance. Honestly, I couldn't have a second glass and had to drink the bottle over a couple of days, which took the starch out of the tannins but dulled down the fruit too. Maybe I will give the last bottle away.