Dave Phinney had always wanted to be a lawyer, but during a semester abroad in Italy in the mid-1990s, wine changed his mind, and he hasn’t looked back since. After helping with a harvest at Robert Mondavi and cultivating experimental plots of Zinfandel in Arizona, Phinney started creating his first wine brand, The Prisoner, in 1997. This blend of California Zinfandel, Cabernet, and Petite Sirah quickly became a commercial success.
Zinfandel is not the most straightforward grape to cultivate due to inconsistent ripening, high alcohol content, and a predisposition to rot, but it didn’t let this stop Phinney from producing his first wine from it in 1999, of which he distributed 99 cases.
In 2000, Phinney made his first batch of The Prisoner, a Zinfandel, Cabernet, and Petite Syrah blend. It instantly became a fast-rising 85,000-case brand. Phinney sold The Prisoner in 2008 and made a deal with the buyer to stop producing Zinfandel for eight years. He admits it was excruciating having to wait what seemed to be an eternity to produce his next bottle of Zin. He spent months coming up with a name for a ‘comeback’ label. Waiting patiently to be able to make his beloved wine again, he wrote a short book of short stories, one of which he named Eight Years in the Desert.
This powerful blend opens up with aromas of wild blackberry, pepper, an oatmeal raisin cookie, Sequoia forest floor, bay leaf, and spices. It continues with brambly raspberry, black cherry, ripe blueberry, and a hint of chocolate on the palate. With rich tannins and a sweet oak flavour, the wine exhibits exceptional length throughout the finish.
Food pairing ideas: A perfect wine for Christmas turkey, but why not try something different, like a roast pigeon with truffle cream and tarragon.
Vintages shown are for illustration purposes only
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