Born in Rutherford, Napa Valley, The Prisoner began as a little-known red blend, created by winemaker Dave Phinney in 2000, but the brand quickly garnered a huge fan base, becoming famous for its untraditional label and style.
Following the sale of the brand to Constellation, what used to be The Prisoner — the aforementioned red blend — has become The Prisoner Wine Company, a winery brand that now offers its flagship label, plus 13 other varieties.
Want to know more about the unconventional wine brand? Read on for 10 things you should know about The Prisoner Wine Company.
It was inspired by a sketch from the 1800s.
The Prisoner Wine Company based its entire brand mission on a single sketch from the 1800s drawn by Spanish artist Francisco de Goya. The sketch, which was given to Phinney as a gift from his parents at age 12, served as a “visual protest against the injustice and brutality of the Spanish War of Independence.” The Prisoner Wine Company continues to be inspired by the drawing, using it as a constant reminder to never be complacent or restricted by rules and traditions.
The brand is all about blends.
The Prisoner Wine Company is best known for its unique blends. The brand’s flagship wine, a red blend made with Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Syrah, and Charbono, was a major hit, and since then the brand has released two additional blends: a red blend called Dérangé, and a white blend called Blindfold.
It went viral, before going viral was a thing.
When The Prisoner was first released in 2000, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram had not yet been invented. Yet the Zinfandel-heavy red blend, with its creepy yet Instagrammable label, became wildly popular in Napa and beyond. Back then, dark labels like The Prisoner’s weren’t done, and most winemakers focused on single-grape varietals, making a red blend like The Prisoner unconventional for multiple reasons. Within 10 years, the brand was sold to Huneeus Vintners. In 2016, it was again sold to Constellation Brands, a major beverage conglomerate.
It went from indie to mainstream.
When The Prisoner was first created, it was a small label — Phinney released only 385 cases of the wine in 2000. However, these days, Dave Phinney is no longer involved in the brand. The Prisoner is now one of more than 100 brands owned by Constellation, and in 2017, the company produced about 165,000 cases of The Prisoner — a dramatic increase from its initial production.
It was a trendsetter.
Since The Prisoner’s rise to popularity, red blends have come into fashion. Brands like Apothic have adopted Prisoner-style labels, while others even attempt to imitate the font on The Prisoner’s bottles.
The brand works with over 100 growers throughout California.
The brand doesn’t have a single vineyard where it grows its grapes. Instead, to source grapes for its blends, the brand turns to a variety of small-scale producers in California who grow unique varietals. The brand is constantly fostering new relationships with vintners across the state, meaning its network of 100 growers will likely continue to grow.
Its tasting room is creepy.
The brand’s unconventional tasting room follows suit with its dark and eerie labels. The 40,000-square-foot facility, located in St. Helena, Calif., is complete with skeletons made of graphite, neon signs mirroring the scratch marks on its Dérangé bottles, and matte-black pottery adorned with metal spikes and more.
You can visit The Prisoner from your couch.
Those who can’t make the trip to The Prisoner’s Napa Valley estate can still “visit” the winery through virtual wine tastings. These tastings are run by winemakers and wine educators, and can be enjoyed solo or with a group.
The Prisoner was recently joined by two new inmates.
The brand recently released two new Napa Valley wines under its “The Prisoner” label: The Prisoner Carneros Chardonnay and The Prisoner Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Both offerings don labels similar to the original The Prisoner, showing images of chained-up detainees in dark, morose colorways.
Lady Gaga loves The Prisoner.
Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” can’t hide her love for The Prisoner. In fact, the singer’s Las Vegas residency’s backstage is stocked with The Prisoner’s wines.