The Prisoner Wine Company Opens Makery Tasting Space – Robb Report

No, you’re not mistaken: it’s chains that line the walls behind the bar. In the chimney nearby? A tangle of iron balls and chains. But even if the light fixtures overhead mimic pulley-lowered hoods on electric chairs, the prison imagery in Napa Valley’s new tasting lounge is less sinister and more of a shiny extension of the brand that now calls the stylish place home.

Created in 2000 by ever-inventive winemaker David Phinney, The Prisoner was a wine that arguably started a whole trend of high-end red blends (not to be confused with the jugs on the bottom shelf). Lush, ripe and well-made, the Zinfandel-based blend quickly became a cult favourite, and in later years was joined under The Prisoner Wine Society marked by a handful of other bottles with equally pointed labels (such as Blindfold and The Snitch).

Starting this month, longtime favorites, plus new bottles, are poured into The Prisoner Wine Company‘s ambitious remake of the former Franciscan winery on Highway 29 south of downtown Saint Helena. And utensils of captivity aside, the atmosphere is far from grim. Beautiful wooden plank walls soar towards a large skylight. Concrete elements and acid-stained reflective surfaces (mirrors, aluminum tables) create a “refurbished industrial” look, or “retro futurism”, as it’s called here in the classic Prisoner pun. .

Tasting menu

Photo: Courtesy of Prisoner Wine Company

Through the glass doors, it’s a first in Napa: The Makery is a private, light-filled tasting space lined with alcoves showcasing produce from local artisans and artisans, including, at the back, an impressive kitchen where the chef and team at the cellar—”makers themselves—prepare delicious small plates. In this gallery (with its own large glass roof), you can browse a rotating collection, like handmade jewelry, soaps wine-infused and pottery. Lest you forget the overall theme, however, a graphite skeleton sculpture rests on what looks like a whiteboard table to the side; flick a switch and the table shakes, which forces the skeleton to draw a free-form sketch of itself.

Prisoner Wine Company Tasting Room

Outdoor terrace

Photo: Courtesy of Prisoner Wine Company

The Prisoner Wine Company is rethinking tasting in a region that sometimes takes itself too seriously. Yes, the dark brand resonates through the experience, but the idea is to experiment, to have a little fun, to offer winey diversity in a bastion of cabernet houses. There are three ways, for the moment, to enjoy this creative space and its wines that everyone likes (in any case, you will be greeted with a glass of delicious Chenin Blanc on the podium at the front): seated tasting of four wines in the lounge ($45, including a delicious bite from the chef); “The Makery Journey: Tour & Tasting,” which includes a tour of the vineyard and culinary garden, plus a tasting at The Makery of five wines ($65); and “The Makery Experience: Wine & Food Pairing,” for which the kitchen team sends seasonal small plates paired with more limited release wines ($125). In the spring, look for an even deeper dive available, at a more exclusive price.

Prisoner Wine Company

Prisoner Wine Bottles

Photo: Courtesy of Prisoner Wine Company

Already a fan of The Prisoner? The 2017 ($49) – a blend of Zinfandel, Cabernet, Petite Sirah, Syrah and Charbono – is at the top of its game, with dark, jammy cherries and red berries headlining the fruit profile, along with warm spices and a touch of dark Chocolate. And new and noteworthy this year is the 2015 Dérangé ($100, and pronounced as, simply, dérangé, with a frank American accent), a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Merlot, Syrah and Zinfandel. Concentrated and lush, with lovely balancing acidity, this red leads with a moody, earthy quality followed by blackberry, cassis, black cherry, anise and fresh herbs.

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