The Prisoner Wine Company makes several of my very favorite wines, including cult classic The Prisoner (natch) plus the Cuttings (my favorite wine of the summer two years ago), and this really enjoyable Saldo. Each has been covered in Notes previously, but I really like sharing my love for them so apologies for if I repeat myself here in the 2017 Saldo California Zinfandel.
This bottle is a Friday night selection, a dark ruby gem that accompanies a new meal I’m making for the first time: a healthy version of a creamy butter chicken with white rice. The dish packs in onions, garlic, ginger, paprika, and curry, so the wine has to have enough legs to hold up to the Indian spices. I erred just a bit on the coconut milk used to offset the heat, but good wine helped overcome that oversight.
And the 2017 Saldo answers the bell. Yes, it’s a robust red that has notes of pepper and cherry (not really blackberry, black currant, or strawberry here) readily available, and little spice accents as well. Do you see why I thought it might accompany the chicken dish? The wine has a good mouthfeel; it’s substantive and rich but very smooth overall. Given the grapes used to create Saldo you’ll understand if I consider this as much as red blend as I do many of the zinfandels covered here in this blog.
Let us touch on the blend—because if you follow PWC like I do you know the wine is never a straight-up single vineyard, one varietal bottle. Their 2017 California Zinfandel is actually a combination of zinfandel (85%) and a petite sirah / syrah blend (15%), aged in both French and American oak barrels (25% new). Saldo is sourced from AVAs that include Dry Creek, the Sierra Foothills, Sonoma Valley, Mendocino, and Lodi; winemaker Jen Beloz (formerly of Ravenswood) selects fruit from Mattern, Aparicio, Teldeschi, Grist, Taylor, and Bismark Mountain Vineyard for this Saldo zinfandel blend.
Trying to understand the meaning of “Saldo”? We’ve covered that before and you can check out here if you have another moment. Me? I’m off to better things and say thanks as always for your readership.
Nearly two summers ago I had my first exposure to the Orin Swift Papillon. While Notes did not fully profile the wine at that time, it did make the Top 10–high praise given the 400+ bottles covered in these pages. I’m here to say the 2017 vintage continues that standard of excellence.
It’s a bordeaux-style blend, a new release that mixes five different grapes (cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, petit verdot, malbec, and merlot) sourced from throughout Napa Valley. After pulling the cork you’ll be greeted by big, rich scents of blackberry and pepper, and an inky reddish purple that’s probably the color of blood before it hits oxygen. My first sip was too soon–the wine had not yet had a chance to breathe and was slightly tart. After sitting for 15-20 minutes during a late-night dinner prep, the Papillon settled into a deep, flavorful dark fruit medley. Definite blackberry or black cherry scents wafting (maybe cedar or spice box?) heavenly from the glass…lip-smacking goodness.
This is from our winemaker friends at Orin Swift: “Intensely layered and decadent on entry, the wine exudes characteristics of black plum, boysenberry, kirsch and dark chocolate with a silky soft yet weighty texture. A prolonged finish of Provençal lavender, fig leaf and ripe currants close out the wine.”
The 2017, a very special gift that I appreciated on multiple levels, is aged for 15 months in French oak (43% new) barrels to very good effect. It delivers a nice, easy finish for a wine with so much gravitas. Special shout out for the great photo and my favorite company. The Phinney magic touch continues again for another year…
Napa Valley Cab–such a favorite of mine and even more so when it’s shared with interesting company. In my mind, great grapes are always paired best with great conversation. (Okay, okay…a perfectly grilled NY strip makes a strong argument too, I’ll grant you that…) And with that said, here’s the 2016 Sailor’s Grave Cabernet Sauvignon.
This vintage gets its backbone from Cabernet Sauvignon (76%) but also mixes in the Merlot (20%), Cabernet Franc (2%), and Petite Verdot (2%). I couldn’t recognize the Verdot in the equation, as the fullness of the Cab and Merlot really drive this red. It’s rich, and there are definite blackberry and black cherry flavors in the 2016 Sailor’s Grave. It’s more red, less inky, and less purple overall than the Buena Vista Sheriff that was recently profiled here in Notes. Little whiff of something else too that I can’t quite place…is it spice box? Leather? I am not sure but that’s okay…my mind is on other things even as I sample.
The first vintage of Sailor’s Grave Cabernet Sauvignon was released in 2010, and glad to taste that steady process of evolution and refinement here in the ’16. Really fun to get lost in a world of great ambiance, wine, and company. This time matters.
The Sheriff of Buena Vista has become one of my favorite red blends, and it’s made annual appearances on Notes. Feedback on the 2016, 2015, and 2013 are all here for easy access but know now each is a bold, full-flavored powerhouse. This is big flavors that you sort of need to balance against something as weighty–or not.
This vintage runs back the formula that worked so effectively in the 2016. I’m betting the response from consumers was such that the team at Buena Vista decided, “If it ain’t broke then don’t fix it.” Here is a mix of Petite Sirah (34%), Cabernet Sauvignon (33%), Grenache (14%), Syrah (11%), Petite Verdot (5%), Mission (2%), and Cabernet Franc (1%), and it conveys big blackberry and plum from your glass. Darker notes of chocolate and spice are pretty evident too. See what I mean about the overall weight of this bad boy?
Here’s how the winemaker sourced this year’s Sheriff: “The varietals that compose 2017 vintage are harvested from vineyards throughout the county, including the Sonoma Valley, Russian River Valley, Moon Mountain, Sonoma Mountain, Fountaingrove, Chalk Hill, Alexander Valley, and Rockpile. The individual varietals were aged separately for 10 months in a variety of new and neutral oak barrels before being blended prior to bottling.”
Hmm. No shout out to Dry Creek this year. This wine is aged in French, American, and Hungarian oak (15% new oak). I never see it on the shelves of my local wine stores but seems readily available through Buena Vista (I’m a tenured member and long-time fan). Tip of the cap to this good Sonoma County friend and enjoy.
Two of these bottles so far, and hoping for more in the future. This is the 2017 Saldo California Zinfandel, bottled in Oakville by The Prisoner Wine Company. Delicious stuff–Zinfandel primarily–but like many Phinney wines, it brings a few more threads into the braid. Let’s explore further…
For starters, it’s a combination of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Syrah grapes sourced from Dry Creek, Lodi, and Amador. Yes all favorites (the grapes and the AVAs) of this oenophile, and grounds well traveled here in Notes over the past seven years or so. Just check the filter to the left and you’ll see firsthand.
The 2017 vintage pours very dark in the glass, a red on the verge of purple, and shares with you a host of rich, earthy notes. The Petite Sirah and Syrah confer a bit of black pepper, and the Zin has plenty of cherry as you might expect. It’s fruit-forward and has soft tannins. There are some other subtleties in play but I cannot separate each of those for you here. Remember, the site tries to be unpretentious?
Having said that, research is part of the experience. A quick read on the Prisoner Wine Company website shows that Saldo means “here and there” in Latin (don’t remember any of that from my own rudimentary studies…) and it’s a tip of the cap to their red blend philosophy. The 2017 Saldo Zinfandel is aged in French and American oak barrels (25% new).
A refreshingly fruity red blend hiding as a Zinfandel. Enjoy!