10 things you need to know about The Prisoner Wine Company

Born in Rutherford, Napa Valley, The Prisoner began as a little-known red blend created by winemaker Dave Phinney in 2000, but the brand quickly garnered a huge fanbase, becoming famous for its untraditional label and style.

Following the sale of the brand to Constellation, what was The Prisoner – the aforementioned red blend – became The Prisoner Wine Company, a winery brand that now offers its flagship label, along with 13 other varieties.

Want to know more about the unconventional wine brand? Read on for 10 things you need to know about The Prisoner Wine Company.

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It was inspired by a sketch from the 1800s.

The Prisoner Wine Company based its entire brand mission on a single sketch from the 1800s drawn by Spanish artist Francisco de Goya. The sketch, which was given to Phinney as a gift from her parents when she was 12, served as “visual protest against the injustice and brutality of the Spanish War of Independence.” The Prisoner Wine Company continues to draw inspiration from the design, using it as a constant reminder to never be complacent or restricted by rules and traditions.

The brand is all about blends.

The Prisoner Wine Company is best known for its unique blends. The brand’s flagship wine, a red blend made from Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Syrah and Charbono, was a big hit, and the brand has since released two additional blends: a red blend called To bother, and a white mixture called Headband.

It went viral, before it went viral.

When The Prisoner first came out in 2000, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram hadn’t been invented yet. Still, Zinfandel’s heavy red blend, with its creepy but Instagrammable label, has become hugely popular in Napa and beyond. At the time, dark labels like The Prisoner weren’t done, and most winemakers focused on single-grape varietals, making a red blend like The Prisoner unconventional for several reasons. Within 10 years the brand was sold to Huneeus Vintners. In 2016, it was again sold to Constellation Brands, a major beverage conglomerate.

It went from indie to mainstream.

When The Prisoner was first created it was a small label – Phinney only released 385 cases of wine in 2000. However, these days Dave Phinney is no longer involved with the brand. The Prisoner is now one of more than 100 brands owned by Constellation, and in 2017 the company produced approximately 165,000 cases of The Prisoner – a dramatic increase from its initial production.

He was an avant-garde.

Since The Prisoner’s rise in popularity, red mixes have become all the rage. Brands like Apothic have adopted Prisoner-style labels, while others even attempt to emulate The Prisoner’s bottle font.

The brand works with over 100 growers across California.

The brand does not have a single vineyard where it grows its grapes. Instead, to source the grapes for its blends, the brand turns to a variety of small California growers who grow unique varietals. The brand is constantly nurturing new relationships with winemakers across the state, which means its network of 100 producers will likely continue to grow.

Its tasting room is spooky.

The brand’s atypical tasting room follows suit with its dark and strange labels. The 40,000 square foot facility, located in St. Helena, Calif., is complete with graphite skeletons, neon signs reflecting the scratches on its To bother matte black bottles and pottery adorned with metal spikes and more.

You can visit The Prisoner from your couch.

Those unable to make it to The Prisoner’s Napa Valley Estate can still “tour” the winery through virtual wine tastings. These tastings are led by winegrowers and oenological educators, and can be enjoyed alone or in a group.

The prisoner was recently joined by two new inmates.

The brand recently launched two new Napa Valley wines under its “The Prisoner” label: The Prisoner Carneros Chardonnay and The Prisoner Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Both offerings carry similar labels to the original The Prisoner, showing images of chained inmates in dark, moody colorways.

Lady Gaga loves The Prisoner.

Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” can’t hide her love for The Prisoner. In fact, backstage at the singer’s Las Vegas residency is filled with The Prisoner wines.

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