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…
This is the 2016 Juggernaut Hillside Cabernet and yes, for those of you asking, this guy can be swayed by cool branding. Check out this crazy fierce label! It’s as big as the wine itself, and you’ll do well to go looking for it in your favorite wine store / source.
The Juggernaut is produced by the Bogle family, and you know they’ve been at this game for quite some time. My winestore source said they’ve been growing grapes for winemaking since 1968 and in the Clarksburg area in particular. Here they combine grapes from the North Coast, Livermore Valley, Alexander Valley, and the Sierra Foothills–all hillside terrior and vineyards going into this luscious bottle. Obviously with all the hillside talk you have this inference of “hard growing” and “extreme” (and hell, isn’t just about every vineyard photo you see on some kind of a mountain?!?) but know for our purposes it ultimately translates into really nice, easy-drinking California cab. Yes hillside can mean fewer grapes and smaller berries, but that also means concentrated flavors and complexity in the wine itself.
Not every hillside wine gets this right, but the Juggernaut does. There is big, dark blackberry-type flavors in the 2016, and maybe just a whiff of vanilla too. I suspect the new French oak barrels (its aged 12-18 months) have something to do with that. The 2016 Juggernaut (I have two more of these) is really nice value for the price. It’s accessible wine, both for your wallet and your palate. I enjoyed over a couple of nights and will look forward to the next such occasion. Thanks for following Notes and feel free to share with a friend.