Location. Location. Location!

/ Updated on December 5, 2014

Orin Swift’s (not his real name by the way) avant-garde portfolio includes his “Location” wines – Argentina, California, Espania, France, and Italy- produced and bottled by locations.  We think they are some of his best.  David Swift Phinney (father’s middle name was Orin; mother’s maiden name was Swift) started Orin Swift Cellars back in 1998, after a study trip abroad to France and Italy.  The passion flourished at a brief stint at Robert Mondavi Winery.  Now, David has grown his company into a multinational brand that includes 300 acres of vineyards in the Southwest of France.  His international ambition led to projects in Spain, Italy, Corsica, Argentina and other locations around the globe.  David’s small team of friends and family winemakers are extremely discriminating when picking and blending their grapes.  Thus the old adage that winemaking is an art and science has never been truer.

Starting with the AR-2 Argentinian red wine, this is the quintessential blend of Mendoza Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Tannat. (“2” simply means the second release). Unlike some growing regions in the area that are flood irrigated, Locations AR-2 was harvested from drip system blocks on estate land.  Extremely well drained and alluvial in profile, the yields are low and the berries are small.  The winemaker describes this wine as “bursting with aromas of cassis, lavender, blueberry, and a subtle hint of cedar box.” Barrel aging in French oak for 10 months results in tannins with soft definition and weighty finish.  Have a nice cut of filet mignon with this wine because it has 14.5% ABV.  (In “Big & Concentrated.– The entire Locations series, except CA, can be found in this section at Teller).

Moving down the alphabet to California, sometimes considered a country unto itself when it comes to winemaking.  Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, and the Sierra Foothills were all sourced for this balanced red.  Five varieties go into CA-2: Tempranillo, Barbera, Petit Sirah, Syrah, and Grenache. Densely purple hued, the wine reveals pleasing aromas of wild flowers, dark berry fruits, dried herbs, and subtle, toasty oak.  An intense core of flavors includes black cherry, dark chocolate, roasted coffee, licorice, and boysenberry.  Soft and even tannins provide a pure finish that is everlasting.  You may need to eat half the cow when drinking this one, because it has 15.5% ABV.  Of all the Locations wines, this is the most expensive at $47.99.  It’s BIG alright!

Espania, his Spanish red wine is a wonderfully eclectic blend of Grenache/Garnacha, Tempranillo, Monastrell, and Carignan/Carinena. Okay, confession time, this is my favorite.  But then again, I think I was Spanish in my last life.  New sites on the Iberian Peninsula have enabled David’s winemakers to source super concentrated fruit from old vines with low yields, followed by judicious oaking, resulting in a balanced yet distinctive wine.  The winemaker describes this red as having an “alluring cast of blooming crimson and deep red shades . . . on the nose is intense dark cherry and exotic spice.”  The entry is rich with youthful berry compote, floral, and plum flavors, complimented with bright acidity.  The finish is expansive with a persistent mocha tinge and silky tannins.  Also at 14.5% ABV, I like to drink E-2 by itself or with a plate of olives and Manchego cheese.

2011 was the first vintage of the F-1 French red wine.  Grenache from the Roussillon, Syrah from the Rhone, and assorted Bordeaux varietals are blended in an original style that showcases the best of what this historic land has to offer.  During months of travel throughout storied growing appellations, winemaker Dave Phinney was able to secure prized vineyard sites to realize his objective.  Opaque with ruby accents, the wine is intensely perfumed with aromas of vivid wild berry, warm spice, plum, kirsch, lavender and subtle oak nuances.  The entry is juicy and penetrating with rich flavors of ripe blackberry, racy currant and blueberry that generously coat the palate.  The finish is long and clean with just the right amount of polished tannins to keep the fruit in focus.  15% ABV.  Would pair nicely with a modern take on a Cornish hen with wild mushroom, F-1 and tarragon reduction.

Last, but certainly not least, is the I-1 Italian red wine.  A first release, this wine contains varietals from Torricella and Manduria in Puglia, and Alba in Piedmont – Negroamaro, Nero d’Avola, Barbera, and native varietals from Puglia. Classically crimson and scarlet on the rim, the wine explodes with aromas of macerated raspberries, dried lavender, plum tart, and toasty oak accents.  The palate is immediately hit with super lush flavors of ripe berries and spice, supported with a dense core that has just the right amount of characteristic acidity.  The tannins are already velvety and soft which provide for a lingering finish with hints of minerality and some herbal notes.  14.5% ABV.  My favorite dishes to accompany this wine are lobster and shrimp risotto, or fusilli with baby octopus ragout.

Behind every good wine is a good winemaker. The next time you’re in downtown St. Helena, California, stop in at Orin Swift Cellars’ tasting room.  You won’t regret it. Teller Wines also carries his 2012 Abstract and 2010 Papillon (both in Big & Concentrated of course).

Catherine Hester

About the Author

co-owner of Teller Wines in Lewes, DE with her husband Kevin, is a world traveler and shares their adventures at various wineries while offering thoughts on why she and Kevin order particular wines for their customers. Learn more about the Hesters by clicking here. View all articles written by Catherine Hester

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