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Prisoner Wine Company
West End Bar and Kitchen recently hosted a five-course Prisoner wine dinner. Photo via Facebook/Prisoner Wine Co.
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Prisoner lineup delights at West End wine dinner

When writing about Prisoner Wine Co., I find that it’s always worthwhile to remind and educate readers on how Prisoner gained notoriety in the wine world.

This would take us back to Dave Phinney, initially pursuing a career as a lawyer until he discovered his passion for wine during his college summer years in Florence.

In 1997, Phinney found himself at Robert Mondavi assisting with the harvest. One year later, he purchased small collections of zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon, syrah, petite sirah, and charbono fruit that he masterfully developed into an unusual, luxury high-end red blend called The Prisoner under his new Orin Swift wine label.

Later Phinney sold the Prisoner brand first to Huneeus Family Wines who then sold the Prisoner label to Constellation Brands.

Senior Editor Frank and I had a chance to get reacquainted with Prisoner wines at a recent Sal Ercolano Prisoner wine dinner at his West End Bar & Kitchen restaurant in Del Mar. Chris Miller, field sales manager for Constellation Brands, was on hand to narrate the dinner and provided a wealth of information on Prisoner wines.

Chris Miller and Sal Ercolano with Prisoner Wines
Chris Miller, left, field sales manager for Constellation Brands, and West End owner Sal Ercolano hold a magnum of The Prisoner red blend. Photo by Rico Cassoni

The wines were framed in a five-course dinner starting with Chef Noe mini bites, duck carpaccio, and an out-of-this-world Seafood Medley Lasagna with homemade noodles and a pink bechamel cream sauce with chunks of shrimp, salmon, and swordfish.

Both Mangio and I told Ercolano the lasagna needs to be added to the menu! The lasagna was paired with a pinot noir aged 16 months in 30% new French oak providing a subtle body for the seafood bechamel sauce.

The “Unshackled” sauvignon blanc, which was served earlier with the mini bites, proved to be an excellent companion for the duck carpaccio too, with its crisp minerality and brightness.

For the main course, guests were spoiled with veal osso buco in a red wine reduction along with polenta and root vegetables served with Prisoner’s new cabernet sauvignon varietal. The iconic “Prisoner Red Blend” was served with just a bit of the osso buco left. Both the cabernet sauvignon and red blend melded well with the veal.

As always, attendees had a chance to purchase wine at great discounts. Great Dinner Sal, Chef Noe, and Chris. More details at

Valle de Guadalupe 2022 Three Day Wine Excursion Getaway

I would be remiss if I didn’t include details of Ercolano’s 2022 Three Day Wine Excursion to Baja Mexico’s Valle de Guadalupe Special Getaway, April 30 – May 2.  The Valle de Guadalupe region was named a National Geographic UK Top 10 cool places to visit as its No. 2 spot.

The $900 price per person package includes transportation from San Diego to Valle de Guadalupe and back Maglen Resort and Winery accommodations (double occupancy), along with food and tasting experiences at a total of 9 wineries and restaurants featuring guided visits with winemakers and owners that includes tips at wineries and restaurants.

There are only a few spots left for this exceptional south-of-the-border excursion! Contact Sal Ercolano at 858-461-0622 for additional details.

Ercolano 2022 Wine Dinner Schedule

In addition to a phenomenal dinner, details on the Valle de Guadalupe trip, Ercolano also announced his 2022 Wine Dinner schedule for his Flora Bar & Kitchen and West End eateries. Drum roll, here they are:  January 25 & 26 – Daou Family Estates;
February: Chalk Hill Estate;
March: Jordan Vineyard & Winery;
April: Beringer Vineyards;
May: Duckhorn Vineyards;
June: Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars;
July: Cakebread Cellars;
August: Ferrari Carano Winery;
September: Chateau Montelena;
October: Penfolds;
November: Caymus/Wagner Family Wines;
December: (Full Circle) The Prisoner Wine Company.

Outstanding 2022 Lineup!

— Story by Tech Director/Writer Rico Cassoni        

Wine Bytes

— Kids of all ages, visit Santa’s Secret Garden at The Forum Carlsbad.  Santa will be located behind the Christmas Tree next to the Paper Source from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 4 to Dec. 19. Be sure to bring your cameras to take pictures with Santa at this no-cost event. Guests can skip the line and book a visit at

— Vittorio’s Family Style Trattoria in San Diego is hosting a Wilson Daniels Importer Champagne & Sparkling Wine Dinner at 6 p.m. on Dec. 30. Guests will enjoy a four-course dinner with dessert. The main course is braised short ribs with polenta paired with Gosset Grande Reserve Brut Champagne. The cost is $75. + tax and gratuity. Details at or 858.538.5884.

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. Reach him at [email protected]. Read previous columns here