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A Home for “The Prisoner”

The Prisoner Wine Company takes up residence in Napa Valley

From the moment its first 385-case lot was labeled, The Prisoner has been an outlier in the California wine industry. A leading representative of the shift starting in the late 1990s from single-varietal wines to unconventional blends, the brand and its dark, brooding label served as an antidote to the brighter imagery gallivanting across bottles when The Prisoner made its debut in 2000.

Given its track record and staying power, The Prisoner has long been primed for a dedicated winery to accommodate its growth: Since being acquired in 2016, The Prisoner Wine Company’s portfolio has more than doubled its offerings from its original five labels.

Last month, the company formally put down roots at last at its new Napa Valley facility, located on Highway 29 just south of St. Helena. Transforming an existing structure – the former Franciscan Winery – on the property, San Francisco architect Matt Hollis imbued the 40,000-square-foot space with an industrial aesthetic featuring high ceilings, a mix of metal finishes, and an 8-by-57-foot skylight in The Makery, a collection of four light-filled studios for local artists and artisans.

For many of the design elements, Hollis and interior designer Richard Von Saal, a Napa Valley native, drew inspiration from the distinctive branding that spans the company’s portfolio. Their interpretation of the label for the Zinfandel-dominant blend Saldo, for example, can be seen in the red accents interspersed throughout the space.

Graphic wall coverings reminiscent of vines reference cuttings, a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon blend, while the intricate wire sculpture suspended over the center island of the gender-neutral bathroom echoes the label for Thorn, a Napa Valley Merlot blend. Reclaimed wood from the Bay Bridge is also cleverly utilized throughout the building.

As they explore the new winery, those familiar with the look and feel of The Prisoner Wine Company’s branding will find themselves immersed as never before in the company’s ethos. First-timers, meanwhile, will experience a stylish departure from Napa’s typical rough-luxe décor.

Meet the Makers

Beyond the large tasting lounge and the open-view exhibition kitchen, the center of the new facility has been configured into the aforementioned studio space called The Makery, where various pieces have been commissioned exclusively for the space.

Conceived to unite craftsmanship and wine appreciation, The Makery will offer several experiences to consumers that incorporate close interaction with the artists and their respective wares, which, according to Property Director Brigid Harris, are inspired by Napa Valley and The Prisoner Wine Company’s wines.

These guest immersions include The Makery Journey, a 75-minute tour of the vineyard and culinary garden that concludes with a tasting of five wines in The Makery. From Thursday through Sunday, the winery also hosts a food and wine pairing aptly named The Makery Experience, which spans 90 minutes and couples small bites prepared by Executive Chef Brett Young with limited-release wines.

The initial lineup of makers occupying The Makery includes designers Aplat and Carrie Saxl; sculptor Agelio Batle; Napa-based Amanda Wright Pottery; ceramicist Holly McVeigh of RBW Handmade; Melanie Abrantes Designs, which specializes in items made from cork and wood; and Soap Cauldron, an artisanal bath and skincare company.

Among the artisanal food offerings, meanwhile, are organic, hand-milled pastas from Joshua Felciano of Bayview Pasta; Wine Lover’s Jelly, which sources Napa Valley wines for its products; and Tsalt Seasoning, which crafts salts seasoned with various ingredients, including Prisoner Wine Company wines.

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