DEPARTMENT 66 BY DAVE PHINNEY
LANGUEDOC-ROUSSILLON, FRANCE 2018
Why Buy: If you ever had the pleasure of savoring a bottle of The Prisoner, you know Dave Phinney. That titanic red was the lynchpin of Orin Swift Cellars, which Phinney brought to world renown. The man Forbes calls a "Napa wine legend" has mounted a thrilling follow-up act with Department 66 — an Old World venture that is producing some of the most brilliant wines of his storied career, like this 95-point, 94-point, and 93-point trio: intricate, balanced, and altogether seductive blends made from 80- to 100-year-old vines.
What They're Saying: Decanter swooned over all three. Reviewing the Pharaon, which Phinney regards as his “reserve” wine, the publication awarded 95 points and called it “rich and heady … utterly broad and expansive,” a big red framed by satiny, featherweight tannins.” It extolled the 94-point Others as “brooding,” “balanced,” “expressive,” and “layered.” As for the Grenache, the 93-pointer impressed the magazine with its “brandied cherry and rich cedar aromas,” “voluminous body and weight,” and “wealth of spices on a long finish.”
The Story: Department Number 66 is the French term for the Pyrénées-Orientales, a region of Roussillon in southwest France, a rising star in the wine world. It is here, in the town of Maury, that Phinney has planted the flag of his latest venture. The winemaker was so blown away by the incredible depth and complexity of the old vines he encountered on a 2008 visit to the region — all growing on steep schist hillsides veined with minerals from an ancient sea floor — that he made a purchase of land essentially on the spot, forgoing weeks and months of careful, considered deliberation.
Our Tasting Notes:
* 2018 Pharaon: Old-vine Grenache and Syrah, harmoniously woven, with tannins that portend extend aging. You're greeted immediately by a trove of rich, concentrated fruits, which modulates into a softer, more elegant middle, savory with dried spices and mountain herbs, before taking you to the lengthy finish. A wine of great character and charm.
* 2018 Others: At less than $19 a bottle, this supple, dimensional blend of Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Mourvèdre and Lledoner Pelut is an extraordinary value; you’ll feel as though you’re drinking a wine 2 and 3 times as expensive.
* 2018 Grenache: A powerhouse of a wine, dark and dense, with excellent aromatics and, for a wine of such size, a wealth of grace notes, including a welcome minerality and a fresh acidic lift at the end.
ABV: 2018 Others, 15.5%; 2018 Grenache, 15.5%; 2018 Pharaon, 15.5%.
Fun Fact: Fifteen years ago, when Phinney visited Maury for the first time, he called his wife to tell her just how enchanted he was by the region and its people and its grapes. "Don't do anything stupid," she told him. He plopped down money for 40 acres not long after.
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*Offer NOT valid in-store. This offer is made pre-arrival, with wines estimated to be delivered to your preferred store in Winter 2023 (Dec. 21st - Mar. 20th, 2024). All sale prices are the lowest available at Total Wine & More and ONLY valid through Concierge Sales. No further discounts or coupons may be applied. Offer not valid in KS, MI, NY, or TN. This offer is for ONE WEEK, or until sold out, and will expire on Sunday, October 1, 2023.