Orin Swift Sold to Gallo


Shocked there hasn’t been any action on this thread.

I’d be shocked if there are more than a tiny few here who care about Orin Swift wines.
This means as much to me as consolidation in the fast food industry.

P Hickner

He had already sold off Prisoner and I think Saldo to what would become Prisoner Wine Company, which Constellation bought up for another fortune.

Why not? Create a good business with a product that sells then sell it to somebody for a fortune and stay on as a high paid employee.

Hmm. Can I sell our store for 5 million and remain an employee at 150K a year? I don’t want to be greedy.

I hear Phinney’s next move is to buy land in Jura and make 15%+ ABV Poulsard.

I think it would have been neat to have tried The Prisoner back when production was 385 cases. But yeah having tried The Prisoner and Saldo they don’t really do much for me and I suspect the rest of his wines wouldn’t either. Good for him for containing to find success though.


Maybe I wouldn’t hate the Poulsard as much as I hate that D66.

My sister-in-law loved the Abstract red wine. I suppose I tasted The Prisoner only after production numbers had compromised the quality - or was it always disappointing?

As far as delectable Zin/Cab blends go, I did think the Storybook Mountain “Antaeus” was okay.

[rofl.gif] Winning

I’m a big fan of Saldo.

I guess I have a different view. I was introduced to David in various tastings in the early 2000s. Loved Mercury Head. Loved the prisoner and Saldo. Good for him. Fabulously wealthy through his own efforts in the wine business while still in his 40s. Started with nothing more than a dream.

Not compared to the Gallos.

BTW, does anyone know how the Gallo empire survived the inheritance tax?

I just glanced through the Wikipedia on the family - it looks like both the grandfather and one of the uncles committed murder-suicides on their wives.


Gallos. Gallows. I wonder if there’s any semantic commonality there?

It’s not hard to avoid the inheritance tax via trusts and other legal structures.

As for the dark history of the Gallos, the 1993 book Blood and Money is a very good read. It tells how they sold “Gallo”-branded grapes to home winemakers in the East during prohibition (home winemaking was legal and common among Italian-Americans; the Gallos had refrigerated boxcars with their names on the side).

Oh, and they made a little wine commercially, too, though that was not so legal.

I worked with Dave around '04-'09. Truly one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. He was just starting the project in the mountains of Spain (or France not sure).

I got tired of letting fruit hang to 30 brix. As much as I liked him it was hard to see my fruit go into some of those soupy sweet wines. Sure wish him the best, he’s got a talent for brand development and creating cool packaging.

I’d never read up on the Gallos before. It’s interesting what people take away from the same set of facts. The modern E&J Gallo enterprise itself might make crappy wine, but my own takeaway is that the three brothers themselves were truly remarkable. Two of them built the largest family owned winery in the world from basically nothing after their father and uncle killed themselves when they were in their early 20s. The third brother was only 13 when his parents died, was raised by his brothers, and then did his own thing and built America’s largest dairy operation.

Notwithstanding all of the legitimate criticisms that could be leveled at the three brothers (including their own falling out and litigation over the use of the “Gallo” name) That’s an amazing story.

Another interesting fact is that they have successfully passed the family business to the third generation. Each generation has preserved and expanded the business. We could start a very long list of family wineries that did not survive the second generation.

My first Prisoner was a 2004 and we fell in love with it. We bought a lot of his wine before it became too sweet and our palate changed. Now I have one bottle of Papillion and one Mercury Head left. The Pap needs to go soon, I may hold the MH a bit longer out of nostalgia.

My last bottle of Prisoner was a gloppy mess and heavily oaked. Would never buy again based on this experience. I expect the rest of the line to go the same way.

Agree that the prisoner was a damn tasty bottle of wine in the 2003-2005 vintages. MAYBE even through 2006.

Then it started to go downhill fast as production (and the price) escalated ridiculously fast.

Last vintage I tried was 2013 and it was a shell of its former self.

Too bad…but good for Dave Phinney for making a boat load of money off of the brand.

Mercury Head was great. Tried the 2013 I believe. Fantastic wine.