The Prisoner Wine Company was founded in 2000 by Dave Phinney, a winemaker with a flair for entrepreneurship. In the late 1990s he founded Orin Swift Cellars, which quickly earned compliments for its Zinfandels and other big, flavorful wines. Part of Phinney’s business model is a creative approach to labels, and his Prisoner labels were inspired by the etchings of Francisco Jose de Goya, a Spanish artist who documented the ravages of war. In 2010 The Prisoner Wine Company was purchased by Agustin Huneeus, a long-time wine industry executive who owns Quintessa in Napa Valley, among other wineries around the world. In 2016 Constellation Brands bought The Prisoner from Huneeus Vintners. Prisoner wines are made from grapes sourced throughout California. Jen Beloz is winemaker. Beloz worked at Ravenswood for a decade before joining The Prisoner Wine Company. Though the company makes several wines, its namesake wine is The Prisoner, a blend inspired by the tastes of the Italian immigrants who first made wine in Napa Valley. The Prisoner is generally a blend of Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petite Sirah and Charbono. Wine Advocate notes that Prisoner wines “are distinctive, creative blends of exceptionally high quality…. that deliver lots of hedonistic joy and satisfaction.”
Carneros AVA, also known as Los Carneros, is at the southern end of the Napa and Sonoma Valleys at the top of the San Francisco Bay. The 8,000 vineyard acres are mostly planted to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, both of which thrive in the district’s cool, marine climate. Carneros became an AVA in 1983 and it has attracted foreign wine companies along with local producers. It has been especially appealing to European producers of sparkling wines including the giant Spanish cava producers Codorniu and Frexinet, and the French Champagne house Taittinger. Codorniu in Carneros is called Artesa, and Frexinet’s Carneros brand is Gloria Ferrer. Taittinger calls its Carneros winery Domaine Carneros. The European producers also make still wines in Carneros.
This white variety originated in Burgundy, but is now grown around the world. Its flexibility to thrive in many regions translates to wide flavor profile in the market. Chardonnay is commonly used in making Champagne and sparkling wines.