Wine Of the Week: Gestalt Wine Company Cabernet Sauvignon

Famed winemaker Dave Phinney—who founded The Prisoner brand—launches an experiential wine line.

(Photo: Gestalt)

Dave Phinney has a distinct understanding of vibes. Twenty-something years ago, he founded The Prisoner, a line of Napa-born red blends that quickly built a fervent fan base. In 2016, he sold it to Constellation brands for $285 million. He founded Orin Swift in 1998 and a similar following grew, thanks to provocative labels and bold profiles. In 2018, E. & J. Gallo snapped up the brand for an undisclosed sum.

He’s back with a brand-new wine project called Gestalt. But the format doesn’t follow the standard wine brand playbook. Instead of selling individual bottles, Gestalt offers an experiential wine membership. Wine drops happen quarterly and bottles are shipped not in standard brown boxes, but immersive, art-driven boxes. 

While The Prisoner and Orin Swift were both creativity-driven brands, Phinney is using Gestalt as a way to shimmy out of the traditional winemaker role. He’s liberal with his application of his secret sauce — he’s weighing in on the wine, yes, but also directing vibes and consulting on packaging, the art objects and records included in each box, and the brand’s magazine

True to Phinney’s credentials, the wines are great. His last release, Circles and Squares, plays with Napa Valley Cabernet; past releases have explored Sonoma Cabernet Franc and Santa Cruz Pinot Noir, allowing Phinney to flex his credentials outside the boundaries of a brand. $349

Kate Dingwall is a WSET-trained sommelier and spirits writer. Her work has appeared in Wine Enthusiast, Eater,, and Food & Wine, and she pours wine at one of Canada’s top restaurants.