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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Orin Swift Papillon 2005

PapillonRutherford winery Orin Swift is known for making big wines. Its Zinfandel-based blend, The Prisoner (Zin, Cab, Syrah, Petit Sirah, Charbono and Grenache), is a favorite of fans of big, dark, rich wines.

Papillon is Orin Swift's first vintage of a Bordeaux style blend containing five of the six classic varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. It is every bit as big and luscious as its Zin-based sibling, with a huge nose of blackberry and cedar and a palate to match. Its tannins have already softened and the wine is spectacular poured right from the bottle, but a brief decant will open the aromas and flavors even more. It is well-balanced and powerful, and if it seems expensive at $55 then just glance over at the prices of the 2005 Bordeaux that might be ready to drink in 10 or 15 years, and consider that you could take Papillon home and enjoy it without having to consult an actuarial chart first.

If I have a quibble with Papillon, it's the label. Yes, it's arty, and it would look good on a gallery wall, and it's a movie reference, but as a wine label it's hideous. In fact — and I just happen to know this — the biggest thing a wine salesman has to overcome in selling this wine (and believe me, an unknown $55 wine is a hand-sell) is the label. If the customer is already familiar with The Prisoner and its merely grim label, it's easier — but otherwise it helps to suggest ways to get around the art. ("You could decant it! Or wrap it in a towel like they do at restaurants! Or pour it into a nice, pretty Far Niente bottle! Trust me, you'll like the wine a lot better than you do the label!")

I had a woman tell me once that she would never consider trying Toad Hollow Chardonnay because she thought that label was "gross." I'm afraid that the same thing will happen with Papillon, and that would be a shame — just remember that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, and the same principle applies to wine.
J. Silverheels Gray, 8:38 PM


I have to admit that I'm a label person. But I'm a designer, I can't help it!!
And actually I find the Papillon label's at least attention-grabbing. However, the price would immediately turn me off.
And how can anyone not like the Toad Hollow labels?! They're appropriate and artsy and just too cute.
Blogger Stacy, at 10:03 AM  
It's a clever play on "The Prisoner" theme over which Mr. Phinney apparently obsesses. We get it. We like it. Get over it.

Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:24 PM  
Yes, I get it too. But when I'm trying to sell the wine, I more often than not have to overcome customer resistance to the label. Fact.
Blogger J. Silverheels Gray, at 9:34 PM  

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