The Prisoner 2017 Napa Valley Red Wine

Delightful was not a term I thought I’d use in describing this (yes) delightful wine.  Brooding (yes), because I had assumed from its (stellar) reputation as a “big, sexy, fruit bomb” (Robert Parker) and from the label-announced 15.2 percent alcohol that it would hold up its wine-soaked fingers and say, “Slow down, taster; small sips, much breathing through, and sucking within, your mouth.”

But delightful?  So it was–so immediately drinkable for so young and dense and rich (but not brooding) a wine.

We had opened the bottle to accompany a spicy Korean steak dish, thinking we would sip it slowly and not get through half a bottle.

The bottle was nearly gone before the steak had cooled but while the wine-smiles were still on our lips.

I hadn’t noticed that high alcohol content (well over the 14% minimum required for the almost always brooding Amarone) until after I’d been tasting this wine for about 20 minutes.  I was amazed.  There was none of the often aggressive alcoholic nose-attack in wines at this level.  There’s a gentleness (gentility?) to this wine that belies that statistic.

It’s a blend of five grapes, primarily Zinfandel, with Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Syrah, and Charbono.  This is not a field blend, because field blends are wines blended from grapes from the same vineyard.  This wine is made from grapes from over 80 Napa Valley vineyards.

I do wish that these grapes had been listed on the label.  Wine drinkers who will spend between $40 and $50 for this wine are probably curious (and sophisticated) enough to want to know what’s in it (and in what proportion).

Nonetheless, what’s in it (in whatever proportion), makes this a delightful experience of a big, food-inviting wine meant to be drunk early (and, perhaps, often).

Chef JJ Johnson on Identity

A barber with clippers; a writer and a favorite pen…a chef and a knife.