Orin Swift “Slander” Pinot Noir 2014 – 92 Pts.


A short list of people that I have a man crush on:

  1. Brad Pitt (for his triceps in the movie Troy)
  2. Billy Joel (for “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” and “Piano Man”)
  3. Sam Palladio (those eyes are intense, plus he’s the only person I know for sure has made out with Clare Bowen)
  4. Johnny Depp (at least until a week ago)
  5. Kevin Love (“droppin’ dimes!”)
  6. Che Guevara (Rest In Peace)
  7. David Swift Phinney (one of the most amazing winemakers ever)

On our last trip to the Napa Valley, Sonja and I visited the Orin Swift tasting room in St. Helena. It’s not uncommon to hear people say they’ve met Orin Swift, so, in the spirit of sharing knowledge, here’s a pro tip: Orin Swift isn’t a person. Dave Phinney is the person. “Orin” is Phinney’s dad’s middle name, and “Swift” is Phinney’s mom’s maiden name. Sonja and I loved the tasting room; I was totally enamored with the detail. An entire wall is made of repurposed ship steel, while another is wood and another is stone. The staff there take great pride in their employer, and told me that in addition to making the wines, he also built the tasting room. Ever since then, I’ve been trying to get Phinney to give me an interview (I’d settle for a job). I’m confident he’ll cave eventually.

Last night, Sonja got Titus put to bed and I got out of a nearly two hour board meeting in time to share some wine and cheese. I pulled “Slander” out of the cellar. A Pinot Noir, Sonja and I had picked it up in the tasting room in March and it had been taunting me every time I went down to the cellar since then, daring me to drink it. Challenge accepted.

The 2014 Slander Pinot Noir from Orin Swift is, in a word, intense (sort of like the eyes of Sam Palladio). A beautiful, deep, dark red that wouldn’t at first lead one to guess the correct varietal, a nose of oak and leather masks the Pinot musk that usually lets the cat out of the bag, with bright fruits present, but only as an afterthought. The palate immediately reminded me of why we chose this Pinot Noir over others. Gorgeous, bold notes of chocolate, dark fruits, and hints of black tire rubber abound, leading into more fruits, a hint of vanilla (extract, not ice cream), and maybe some blueberry with a touch of spice to finish it off. The wine mellows in the glass, if you are patient enough to allow it, and might even decant well. A high ABV (15.2%) seems to shorten the finish, though not to any detriment.

Phinney’s wines are less about balance than they are about punctuation, and “Slander” is no exception. A Pinot lover is probably either going to love this wine for being a creative take on the varietal, or hate it for being such a deviation from the norm. Sonja and I love it. Keep your eyes peeled on the blog as I continue to harass…er…communicate with Phinney’s staff in the hopes of meeting up with him. Until then, imbibe a little Slander. 92 points on my scale, and highly recommended.

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