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Orin Swift Eight Years in the Desert Red Blend Review

Orin Swift Eight Years in the Desert Red Blend Review

Eight Years in the Desert is yet another wildly successful hit from Dave Phinney, the winemaker behind The Locations Series, the Orin Swift brand, and, perhaps most notably, The Prisoner.

After selling off the rights to The Prisoner back in 2010, only ten short years after the founding of the sensational superstar brand, Dave Phinney signed a non-compete agreement, stating that he would not produce another Zinfandel-heavy blend for eight years.

Now, Eight Years in the Desert made its debut in 2018, so I am certain that you can see where the brand got the inspiration for its name.

Orin Swift Eight Years in the Desert Red Blend Review

Some stores will have this bottle classified as Zinfandel, given that it makes up the lion’s share of the blend.

But a quick bit of research reveals that, like most of his bottles, Dave Phinney decided to add a bit of a “secret sauce” to the bottle.

In this case, that comes in the way of a bit of Syrah and Petite Sirah to add depth, body, and color to the wine.

Orin Swift Cellars 8 Years in the Desert

Orin Swift Eight Years in the Desert Red Blend

  • Brand: Orin Swift
  • Country: United States
  • Region: California
  • Wine Type: Red Wine
  • Varietals: Zinfandel, Syrah, and Petite Sirah
  • ABV: 15.6%


The wine is an inky-dark color, with bluish-purple hues that nearly stain your teeth just from taking a glance at the wine.

The legs form somewhat slowly but densely cling to the sides of the glass as they fall heavily and swiftly.


This wine is hedonistic throughout. Big jammy blueberries, dark cherries, and candied raspberries fill the nose, along with notes of anise, smoke, and a bit of a garrigue-like characteristic.

The aromas are incredibly intense, crashing out of the glass and into your nose like waves on the shore during a stormy day.


The flavors of this wine are just as decadent and delicious on the tongue as the smells are to the nose.

Notes of fresh blackberry pie, stewed blueberries, and overripe cherries present themselves front and center, readily taking up much of the flavor profile.

Following right along are notes of licorice, vanilla, charred oak, and an almost gamey smoked meat quality which I tend to associate with high-quality Syrah.

There is ample sugar here, but this comes across in the wine more like a pleasantly fruity sweetness than it does a saccharine, syrupy mess.

The finish is incredibly lengthy, and the storm of fruit, oak, and spices sit on your tongue for what feels like a blissful eternity between sips.

What Does Orin Swift Eight Years in the Desert Red Blend Pair With?

I would pair this one with braised short ribs or barbecued pulled pork sandwiches, preferably with a Kansas City-style barbecue sauce, lending a bit of sweetness and weight to the food, which will help it stand up nicely against the power of the wine.

I could also see going the route of a mushroom burger if you are not partial to meat.

Think something along the lines of a well-done portobello burger topped with melted gruyere cheese, caramelized onions, and a richer, heavier barbecue sauce.

What Wines Are Similar to Orin Swift Eight Years in the Desert Red Blend?

The most obvious answers here would be other bottles in the Orin Swift catalogue, such as Machete, Abstract, Papillon, or Mercury head.

One of the other contenders would be, of course, Dave Phinney’s original hit Prisoner Red Blend, which has a bit of heavier oak flavor to it when I compare the two.

You could also reach for a bottle of The Walking Fool, the newest Prisoner-style blend being produced by the Wagner family, the guys behind Caymus, among many other brands.

Final Thoughts

Overall I really enjoyed this wine. It is another excellent crowd-pleasing option from the Orin Swift brand, and there’s a little bit of something here for everyone.