Evolving aromatics present themselves first with black and white pepper, then a ripe fruit core of brambly raspberry and sweet persimmon, finishing with savory notes of allspice, clove and fig leaf. Boisterous yet elegant on entry, the wine shows its plush layers with distinctive strawberry preserves, blackberry and raspberry pie topped with fresh crème. Round, ripe tannins close the palate menacingly with well-integrated acidity and enduring energy.
Zinfandel started this entire journey for Orin Swift. Two tons in ‘97 that stuck and since then, it hasn’t gotten much easier. It would become a common occurrence for years because of the difficulty fermenting Zinfandel in our style; its humbling in many ways. But every year, we get better. The 2019 Zinfandel was blessed with ideal growing conditions across the state, similar to the 2018 iteration. Syrah and Petite Sirah also benefited from the growing season. Sourced
from premier California growing regions, the 2019 8 Years in the Desert is a quintessential exemplar of drinkability, perceived sweetness and complexity.
Blend – Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah
About Orin Swift
The history of Orin Swift Cellars dates back to 1995 when on a lark, David Swift Phinney took a friend up on an offer and went to Florence, Italy to spend a semester “studying”. During that time, he was introduced to wine, how it was made, and got hooked. A few more years of university led to graduation and eventually a job at Robert Mondavi Winery in 1997 as a temporary harvest worker. Deciding that if he was going to work this hard, it would eventually have to be for himself, he founded Orin Swift Cellars in 1998; Orin is his father’s middle name and Swift is his mother’s maiden name. With two tons of zinfandel and not much else, he spent the next decade making wine for others as well as himself and grew the brand to what it is today.
About 8 Years in the Desert Label
With uneven ripening, high alcohol and a propensity to rot, Zinfandel isn’t the easiest grape to grow. This didn’t put longtime Zinphomaniac Phinney from making his first ever wine from it in 1999, of which he released 99 cases.
It wasn’t an easy ride – Phinney lost a third of his crop after spraying sulphur late in the year, while a heat spike fried the morning side of the vines. Finding his stride a year later, Phinney released his first vintage of The Prisoner, a blend of Zinfandel, Cabernet and Petite Syrah, in 2000.
Featuring a Goya etching on the label, the wine was an instant hit and grew to become an 85,000-case brand. In 2008 Phinney sold The Prisoner brand and agreed with its buyer not to make Zinfandel for eight years.
“Like a child who only wants to do what he’s told not to do, I began to plot my return. At the time 2016 seemed like an eternity away,” says Phinney who agonised for months trying to come up with a name and label worthy of his long-awaited comeback.
While waiting for inspiration to strike, Phinney wrote a book of short stories, the first of which was called Eight Years in the Desert. Without trying he’d found the name and label concept (a black-and-white desert landscape overlayed with pale pink sky) for his beloved Zin, which he’s enjoying working with again. “It’s a bit like riding a bike, only the bike is now a motorcycle and the rider has a lot more experience,” he says.