The Prisoner Red Blend (2018) Wine Review

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The Prisoner Wine Company The Prisoner 2018Back in the day I used to flinch at red blends that included more than three varietals. Gazing at labels listing multiple red grapes I would think there would be nothing but a tasteless blood bath of flavors in my glass as each grape type fought for supremacy.

How wrong was I? When I stopped being such a coward and sampled red blends with six grape types and upwards, I swooned. I found they were some of the smoothest, most elegant, and sexiest wines I had tasted.

The Prisoner Red Blend (2018 vintage) from the namesake winery in California’s Napa Valley is no exception. The flagship wine from this bold and innovative winery, The Prisoner is silky, balanced, and luscious. Made from a heady blend of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Charbono (aka Bonarda), Petite Sirah and Grenache, it is the perfect choice if you are ready to try an intriguing red that takes a gamble and wins.

A fascinating fact about this wine is its link to Napa Valley’s past. Inspired by the field blends crafted by early Italian settlers in the region, The Prisoner Winery pushes the boundaries of this traditional approach bringing it into the 21st century with a rich, full-bodied red of the highest quality. Winemaker Chrissy Wittman carefully selects its fruit from more than 80 vineyards tended by dedicated family growers, many of whom have been in this iconic wine region for generations.


Tasting Notes


Dark garnet with just a touch of light. The legs are fast and slow falling.


Aromas were discernible well before my glass reached my nose. Dark chocolate mingled with Bing cherry, roasted fig and a touch of clove hinting at what was to come on the palate. When I nosed my glass, I picked up a fair bit of alcohol. The ABV of The Prisoner is 15.2% which is on the higher side for a still red.


Unsurprising for a wine blended with six varietals, the mouth is a veritable opera of tastes and textures but like such a musical masterpiece, every flavor and feel has its perfect place. Raspberry, boysenberry, and pomegranate shine confidently throughout underpinned by a warm glow of vanilla.  Black fruits sweep in mid-palate and are there to stay with luscious plum, blackberry and black cherry alongside notes of earthy leather. Aging in a combination of 30% new French and American oak brings all the flavors to a big, seamless bloom that closes in a lasting, luxurious finish. Nice acidity with firm tannins, The Prisoner is a balanced, rounded, full-bodied wine.

Food Pairing

The Prisoner can hold its own with rich and powerfully flavored cuisine. Pair with grilled meat or BBQ dishes. It is also a great match for pasta with creamy sauces plus soft and hard cheeses.

Drinking Readiness

Has enough fruity flavor and depth to enjoy now and you can also cellar it for increased complexity.

  1. My favorite red right now (The Prisoner 2018), it’s deep, complex, and not sweet. In a close #2, love Banshee Mordecai red blend (2015): again complex and a bit sweeter (and lower $) than The Prisoner. Do you have other red blends that match The Prisoner that you’d recommend?

    1. Hi Andrea. I know – some of these red blends are to die for. Another that ticks some of The Prisoner boxes is Cooper & Thief Red Blend – we’ve just covered this one and notes will be on Best Wines Online soon so keep your eye out. If you want to go further afield, I’d suggest an Amarone della Valpolicella or Nero d’Avola for bottomless intensity. They aren’t blends and may not have the creativity that goes into such blends, but they’re deep and complex reds – especially the Amarone. Cheers!

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