Not on the red side

5 mins read


Around the wine world, regardless of country or region, there are wine makers known more for making one type of wine than another. Even though they make others as well. 

Champagne makers are known for their bubbles even though they sometimes produce still wines. 

New Zealand wineries are best known for their Sauvignon Blancs even though they make some terrific red wines. 

In California, Orin Swift Cellars is far better known for all their red wines. And yet, they make some excellent and unique whites.

In 1995, David Swift Phinney went to went to Florence, Italy with a friend. To “study.”

But, surprise, surprise, he discovered wine. Not just drinking it, but making it, as well. A few years later, in 1997, and after graduation, he got a job at Robert Mondavi Winery, as a temporary harvest worker. As hard as the work was, he decided it had to be for himself. 

In 1998, he founded Orin Swift Cellars. (His father’s middle name was “Orin,” and “Swift” was his mother’s maiden name.) Starting with two tons of Zinfandel, he made wine for himself and others. For 10 years. More travel, more success, more options financially and in the world of wine, he grew his brand to include a wide range of domestic wines as well as wines made from imported juice. 

Some brands he has sold, but he’s always moving forward. Today, maybe because he started with Zinfandels, and other big, bold reds, his reputation and success is hugely slanted toward reds. But he does do some spectacular whites that should be explored.

The Orin Swift Veldora is made from 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc, grown in the Tofanelli Vineyard in Calistoga. This is a canary yellow wine with vibrant aromas and flavors. Honeydew melons, peaches, citrus (lemon marmalade especially), rich cream, mango, fig, pineapple, and nectarine. It has a lively band of acidity, a hint of minerality, all wrapped in a silky, lush body. 

It is 95 percent fermented in stainless steel and 5 percent in French oak barrels. The label depicts church candles and statues of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Proceeds from this wine go to a charity that provides medical services to immigrants, mostly from the vineyards. Dave Phinney did think the vineyard work was that hard. For $29.99 at Bill’s Liquors

Orin Swift Mannequin is also from California. Sourced from several vineyards, these grapes, 100 percent Chardonnay, are allowed to stay on their vines until they turn golden brown. They are barrel fermented in new and slightly used French oak.

It is the blending of all the variations – vineyards, barrels, ripeness, nine months of sur lie aging — that make this wine such a unique Chardonnay. It has aromas and flavors that include Meyer lemon, honeydew, butterscotch, honeysuckle, jasmine, white pepper, fennel, pineapple, honey, nectarines, crème brûlée. And more. This label, and the wine’s name, comes from a Nicki Minaj song, Roman’s Revenge. Dave heard it on the radio in his car one day, and loved the line “You at a stand still, mannequin.” For $29.99 at Bill’s Liquors.

Corse white wine is named for Corsica, the French island where its grapes are grown. One hundred percent Vermentino. Corse is the result of three years of research and development to find the best vineyard sites to make a true “Corsican” style Vermentino.

These grapes are fermented in stainless steel tanks. Its aromas and flavors are huge, and lively and crisp. Fresh green apples, bittersweet almonds, Thai basil, and flowers. Well-suited to many different style cuisines, all year long. This label depicts the hand crafted shepherds’ knife used on Corsica. For $17.99 at Bill’s Liquors.

So, from the great red wine maker, three totally excellent and unique whites. Enjoy.

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