Jordan and I are huge fans of Orin Swift’s “Prisoner” Zin blend, so when our Saturday tasting buddy Kevin Delin raved about Swift’s just-released 2005 Meritage “Papillon,” we were in no position to exercise restraint and resist popping a bottle. By that point, having just finished off a flight of foreign and domestic Pinot Noirs which ran a little hotter than we might’ve guessed, our combined B.A.C. was a bit loftier than would’ve been requisite for us to say, “gee, $56 is really too much to spend on a bottle we’ve never heard of until forty-five seconds ago.” So it was that we threw fiscal responsibilty to the wind and made our way home with our trophy wine.
“Papillon” is the product of wunderkind Dave Phinney via his vanity label Orin Swift (check out Vinifico for a brief descripion of the shingle). It’s an intriguing Bordeaux blend of 63% Cab followed by diminishing proportions of Merlot, Cab Franc, Petite Verdot and Malbec. The slightly precious label was photographed by post-modern photographer Greg Gorman… but that’s not really what we were interested in. To our credit, we allowed the Napa Valley monster to decant for a little under an hour; given the circumstances, that’s pretty impressive. Once we could no longer wait, we headed out to the wine porch and poured a couple of glasses. Thankfully, Doug was on hand to visually document the whole thing.
Jordan’s first impression on the nose was an unfortunate combination of blackberries and soy sauce. I didn’t think he was too far off, so I resolved to open the bastard up, and really gave it the washing-machine treatment in the glass. It wasn’t too long before reassuring dark chocolate notes began to emerge; emboldened, we ventured into the pal.
Initial berry notes on the tongue were tempered by an off-putting alcoholic element; at 15.1%, this puppy is no Juicy Juice. Again, we resorted to vigerous, maniacal swirling of the glass, and finally, the resplendant flavors began to reveal themselves. Delicious dark chocolate, tobacco, even some fresh-ground pepper on the back end, all shuttled through this beautifully full-bodied silkiness. We remembered Kevin’s wise musings: “the longer it sat in my glass, the better it was.” Word is bond.
By the bottle’s unfortunate end, the dark chocolate had melted into milk chocolate, and the massive berries were bursting with ripeness. The moral of the story? Allow this wine to decant, decant, decant. You figure, ok, Napa Cab in the $50-$60 range, give it a half hour and it’s ready to go. Here’s our advice: do not underestimate this wine. Treat it like a big boy. It will deliver in spades.
Again, for $56, this is not a wine you want to drink lightly. But if you’re in the market, and you’re willing to invest some time in the bottle, this is a solid buy and a really beautiful expression of what California is doing with Meritage right now. For the price, many of us would just as soon not fight our way through the intracacies of a Bordeaux when we can just bathe in this kind of opulence instead.
The Young Winos of LA… edutoxicating Los Angeles since 2005.