Begun in 1998 by David Phinney after a few years of working harvest in Italy and Napa, with the goal to produce wines that would turn traditional on its tail. Naming the brand after his parents (Orin for his father – his middle name, and Swift after his mother – her maiden name), Phinney started with just two tons of Zinfandel, he opted to take a chance on the unexpected, going against the classic Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon wine trend that was causing the region to see exponential growth in the later 1990s and early 2000s. His wines are big, powerful, high alcohol, fruit-forward blends, and consumers loved them. He quickly grew the brand, producing iconic wines that were unlike anything else in Napa, including The Prisoner.
He sold “The Prisoner” brand in 2009 to Constellation for close to $300 million, maintaining his Orin Swift name and other wines. But, part of the deal was that he was unable to make a similar Zinfandel blend until a contractual non-compete expired. In 2017 he introduced “8 Years In The Dessert” as his first Zin blend, named to signify the 8 years he was unable to produce the blend he had hung his hat on for so long.
Orin Swift Papillon ($70) is a “put hair on your chest” blend of Bordeaux varieties with a powerful 15.6% alcohol. Produced from both valley floor and mountain fruit grown throughout Napa, including dusty Rutherford, volcanic Atlas Peak, and luscious St. Helena, the Cabernet Sauvignon dominant wine is brawny and bold, but also nuanced, lush, and restrained. Highly aromatic, opening with purple flowers, brambleberry, blueberry pie, and cassis with woody herb, black licorice, and dark chocolate. Aged 15 months in 50+% new French oak, adding toasted cedar and vanilla, with an earthy and peppery note and finishing with dusty tannins and ripe black plum.
Stay away from pairing with light dishes or spicy dishes, instead enjoy with braised short ribs or pork belly, or molten lava cake with dark chocolate ganache.