Orin Swift Cellars is in St. Helena, Napa Valley. It was founded in 1998 by David Swift Phinney, who named it after his father, Orin, and his mother, whose maiden name was Swift. Phinney at first purchased grapes and did custom crushes, but he now owns about 400 acres of vineyards in northern California and more in the South of France. He makes a number of blends, notably The Prisoner, a Zinfandel-based wine that often earns high ratings from reviewers. With unusual labels and names, his blends range from traditional Bordeaux blends to white wine such as the 2010 Mannequin, made of Chardonnay, Viognier, Semillon, Muscat and Marsanne.
Napa Valley AVA is the most famous winemaking region in the United States and one of the most prestigious in the world. With nearly 43,000 acres of vineyards and more than 300 wineries, it is the heart of fine wine production in the United States. Winemaking started in Napa in 1838 when George C. Yount planted grapes and began producing wine commercially. Other winemaking pioneers followed in the late 19th century, including the founders of Charles Krug, Schramsberg, Inglenook and Beaulieu Vineyards. An infestation of phylloxera, an insect that attacks vine roots, and the onset of Prohibition nearly wiped out the nascent Napa wine industry in the early 20th century. But by the late 1950s and early 1960s Robert Mondavi and other visionaries were producing quality wines easily distinguishable from the mass-produced jug wines made in California’s Central Valley. Napa Valley’s AVA was established in 1983, and today there are 16 sub-appellations within the Napa Valley AVA. Many grapes grow well in Napa’s Mediterranean climate, but the region is best known for Cabernet Sauvignon. Chardonnay is also very successfully cultivated, and about 30% of the AVA’s acreage is planted to white grapes, with the majority of those grapes being Chardonnay,