orin-swift – cult wines from a cult winemaker

The wines of Dave Phinney and Orin-Swift Cellars capture the imagination in a way unlike almost any we know of. It all starts some of the most intriguing and compelling labels and packaging in the business. These never fail to entice you in as to what lurks beneath the cork! From the now infamous and slightly macabre “Prisoner”, to the stark black and white photograph of rough-hewn fingers in his “Papillion”.

The wines themselves of course deliver on their promise. They are unapologetically full-flavored and intense, yet with a backbone of structure that holds it all in place. Dave is not afraid to mix vineyards, varietals and even appellations to create the desired alchemy for each and every wine. He is ultra strict with his selection, however, and will always de-classify a wine or even skip a release entirely if it is not up to his standards.

The origins of Orin Swift began while Phinney was studying abroad at the University of Florence in Italy. Like so many other college students he was wondering what to do after graduation. Fortunately for Dave, his roommate at the time was from an old wine family in the Sonoma valley and put the germ of a dream in his head: “Why not get into the wine business?”

Dave had come to appreciate wine already and enjoyed the idea of being a part of what he perceived to be an honorable and honest profession. He returned to the States and tried to immerse himself in all aspects of the wine business, which was no easy task being in the middle of the desert at the University of Arizona. He ultimately found a professor in the agriculture department who was also interested in growing grapes. In the spring of 1997 the University planted a one-acre experimental block in the heart of Tucson, Arizona, a project which Dave played an integral part.

A few months later, he found himself working his first harvest for the Robert Mondavi Winery. The next year Dave started Orin Swift Cellars on a shoestring budget, “with two tons of purchased Zinfandel grapes and one pair of shoes” as his wife likes to say. Orin Swift has grown exponentially over the last few years adding Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and a blended white and red to the program.

Never one to rest on his laurels, Dave also recently purchased some vineyards and a winery in the steep hillsides of the Roussillon, near Maury in the French Pyrénées. There he produces a red wine called D-66 made predominantly from 60-100 year old Grenache, with a small percentage of Syrah and Carignane from soils of schist, granite and limestone.

We hope you enjoy these unique wines from one of California’s most imaginative, successful, yet extremely humble winemakers.

View Orin Swift Wines at Vine & Table

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  1. Pingback: Back to Reality. With A Nudge from Orin Swift. | WineEsquire

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