Orin Swift veteran Dave Phinney is best known for domestic wines like The Prisoner, but he recently got a taste for the international with its Locations series, a unique set of wines that got their start back in 2008. (The wines are unaffiliated with Orin Swift.)
In a recent tasting, winemaker Phinney outlined the inspiration for this increasingly large series of wines, each of which bears nothing on the label except a letter or two: Each is inspired by a country code sticker like you see on automobiles, and each denotes the place of origin of the wine within.
Note however that these aren’t hyper-targeted regions but rather entire countries or, in the U.S., states. Grapes can come from anywhere in those boundaries, and as you’ll see in the tasting notes below, all of the wines in the Locations series are mutts produced from fruit sourced from literally all over the country or region in question.
As well, the wines are nonvintage, though the back labels do carry a number indicating the place of the wine in the series. These are all from the fourth release.
Let’s dive in…
NV Locations “E” (Spain Red Blend) E4 4th Release – A blend of Grenache, Tempranillo, Monastrell, and Carignan, sourced from Priorat, Jumilla, Toro, Rioja, and Ribera del Duero. Fruit-forward, and not immediately Spanish in character, the wine offers distinct chocolate notes and cinnamon, before evoking some black pepper notes atop a core of red berries and rhubarb. Much friendlier than the more austere regions in that list would indicate; ready to drink now. B / $14
NV Locations “F” (France Red Blend) F4 4th Release – A blend of Grenache, Syrah, and assorted Bordeaux varietals from the regions of Rhone, Roussillon, and Bordeaux. This wine is also quite fruit-forward, but it takes a caramel spin rather than a chocolate one. Some vanilla builds alongside plenty of fresh red fruit as the modest finish grows, which ends the session with notes of violets and currants. B / $14
NV Locations “I” (Italy Red Blend) I4 4th Release – Probably the least iconically regional (a typical Italian wine would be seemingly be heavily based on Sangiovese), this is a blend of Negroamaro and Nero d’Avola from Puglia combined with Barbera from Piemonte in the North. That said, it’s the most well-structured of the wines, with dense graphite and licorice notes complementing a tough tannic core. Currants and plum work their way through the weeds, as does the herbaciousness driven by the Barbera. Nicely balanced and worthwhile. B+ / $15