Spotlight on Dave Phinney’s NV Locations “F”
“The question is – do you break the rules, and thousands of years of history and tradition, in pursuit of expressing freedom? We believe so. Welcome to Locations.”
I had the pleasure recently to taste through three of five “Locations” wines crafted by famed winemaker Dave Phinney. I did so during an interactive online webinar while Dave explained how Locations wines came to be, and how the various locations he sourced from were chosen.
I won’t get too much into mergers & acquisitions, but I will say that Dave Phinney rose to fame after he established Orin Swift Cellars in 1998 and began producing popular Napa Valley-based wines such as The Prisoner, Mercury Head, Machete, Palermo, and Papillion.
In recent years, he sold The Prisoner & Saldo brands to Huneeus Vintners (owners of Quintessa), and later Orin Swift Cellars to wine giant E. & J. Gallo.
He has since stayed on at the helm of wine production with both companies, while also retaining D66 (an Old Vine Grenache from Languedoc-Roussillon) and a value-driven portfolio of wines from various locations around the world, simply named “Locations.”
There are currently thirteen different Locations wines available for purchase. Most are labeled simply with letters designating the location that the wine is from.
They are all non-vintage, Phinney explains, because he cannot declare a vintage on wines where different vintages are being included, and also because of wine import/export laws in some countries which prevent him from doing so.
For this review, I decided to focus on the “F” Locations wine. This whopper of a red has 15% alcohol by volume and is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and assorted Bordeaux varietals. Phinney drew on a “network of growers from Rhone, Roussillon, and Bordeaux” to source the grapes for this wine.
The wine is extracted and juicy with lots of ripe strawberry, rhubarb, and cherry flavors. Balanced acidity rounds out the well-oaked and lightly spiced palate. The finish is a satisfying blend of red fruit and cocoa.
Wine Spectator gives this wine 89 points and Robert Parker gives it 91. While these wines are intended for immediate consumption, there is enough acid and structure for this wine to develop in the bottle over the next five years.
You can find Locations wines in various wine retailers throughout the country, retailing anywhere from $17-$25 per bottle. While I liked each and every different Locations wine, the “F” was probably my favorite, followed by the “I” (Italy).
All of the wines echo Phinney’s signature style of bold, extracted, value-driven juice that tend to be in the upper range of alcohol content. These wines are a good juxtaposition between Old World and New World wine styles in that the body and alcohol are reminiscent of a big California fruit bomb, while the dry palate and nuances of the wine include floral and Earthy notes that are often prevalent in European wine.
Phinney is breaking all of the rules in regard to vintage, terroir, and varietal blending when he makes these wines. Unrestrained by little details like centuries-old traditions or labeling laws, his primary focus is to deliver the best quality of wine that can be produced at a price friendly enough to make it an everyday drinking bottle. I think he achieves this nicely with “Locations” wines.