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Indulging in The Prisoner’s 2021 Unshackled Red Blend

As California’s signature grapes, Zinfandel and Petite Sirah form a forceful duo, ripening to intense ripeness under the California sun. Harnessed judiciously as 76% of this blend named Unshackled, their mighty flavors meet their match through blending with several supporting varieties bringing lift, layers and most importantly – balance. Resulting in a wine with richness intricately interwoven with finesse.

Exact Wine Name: 2021 Unshackled Red Blend
Producer: The Prisoner Wine Company
Country/Region of Origin: California, USA
Grape Varietals: Primarily Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache, Charbono, and a touch of Viognier (the exact blend changes slightly each year)
Type: Red Blend
Style: Dry, medium-bodied, fruit-forward, and approachable.
Vintage Year: 2021
Classification Status: N/A
Retail Price Range: $25-30 USD
ABV: 14.5%

Crafted by The Prisoner Wine Company and Winemaker Jen Beloz, the 2021 Unshackled Red Blend combines grapes from acclaimed vineyards across California.

Bold & balanced, it hits your palate with a punch of blackberry and plum, followed by layers of spice, mocha, and a hint of oaky intrigue. ✨


  • Rich and complex flavor profile
  • Full-bodied and well-balanced
  • Excellent value for money
  • Unique blend of grape varietals


  • May be too bold for some palates
  • High alcohol content
  • Limited availability in some markets


  • Drinkability 4.5/5
  • Food Pairing 4.0/5
  • Value for Money 5.0/5
  • Personal Preference 4.5/5

This provides a complex medley of fruit, floral, savory and spice notes from diverse microclimates and soils. Through meticulous selection, hand harvest and gentle winemaking techniques, excellence and varietal expression shine in the bottle.

Prisoner Red Blend Wine Tasting Notes

My first impressions of Unshackled involve its beautifully saturated appearance – the wine shows an impenetrable dense core that graduates outward to a bright ruby rim, suggesting remarkable intensity yet balance even at first glance.

Swirling the glass draws out effusive aromas of macerated cherries and plums, with subtle violet florals dancing above hints of baking spice and peppercorn. As James Suckling describes, there is certainly “loads of ripe black fruit” on the charming nose.

The initial silky sip floods the palate with mouthwatering waves of blueberry, juicy plum and marionberry, trailed by a delightful hint of mocha oak spice. True to Jeb Dunnuck’s praise, it delivers “a classic Cali blend profile” with the exuberant fruit expected from these sunny vineyards. There is no singular dominant flavor, as they seamlessly converge into a chorus. Firm fine-grained tannins provide structure for a long, smooth finish.

The 2021 Unshackled Prisoner Red Blend wine offers up a classic Cali blend profile, boasting loads of ripe blackberries, plums, and blueberries, as well as notes of violets, peppery spice, and a touch of mocha. Full-bodied, rich, and velvety on the palate, it has nicely integrated tannins and a great finish. Drink over the next 5-7 years.

While approachable now, I agree with Wine Spectator that some time in the cellar will allow spice notes to integrate further – they predict peak drinking between 2024-2028. But a bottle would be tempting to open tonight and I can attest the harmony is already singing.

The Blend and the Winemaker

Primarily led by Zinfandel (54%) and Petite Sirah (16%), the 2021 Unshackled incorporates Syrah (12%), Mourvèdre (8%), Grenache (6%) and splashes of Viognier, Charbono and more. This precise recipe strikes a balance that Director of Winemaking Jen Beloz fine-tunes each vintage based on tasting trials. With 17 years experience crafting rich concentrated reds for The Prisoner Wine Company, her deft blending creates complexity.

A philosophy major turned winemaker, Beloz focuses on structure and balance. Cold soaking prior to fermentation extracts color and flavor gently before the wine ages in oak. Using primarily French oak, with American and Hungarian barrels too, she dials in the perfect oak influence through the precise blend of forests, toast levels, age and size of each custom barrel.

unshackled red blend

The label design is inspired by the lyrics of the song Last Christmas by Wham!. The song is about a person who gave their heart to someone who didn’t appreciate it and broke it the next day. 🍷

Appearance and Bouquets

In the glass, vibrant saturation signals intensity as Unshackled’s dense center graduates outward to a bright ruby rim. Initial aromas burst with berry fruit – breaths reveal blueberry, black cherry, plum and exotic Acai. As seconds pass, intriguing scents emerge of violet, licorice and holiday baking spices – nutmeg, cardamom and black peppercorns – promising hidden dimensions likely echoing through the palate too.

Swirling unleashes the first succulent sip, as decadent waves of blueberry, marionberry preserves and cocoa envelop the palate. Lively acidity provides vibrancy, with muscular tannins adding grip, spice and structure carrying through the long harmonious finish. Hints of cinnamon oak and espresso emerge for those who linger. The deft balance between power and polish delights.

Food Pairings

Given the commanding richness, equally bold flavors make ideal pairings to stand up to Unshackled’s intense fruit. Sinking teeth into a rosemary-crusted lamb chop hot off the coals, the smoky char contrasts the cracked peppercorns and spice cake notes beautifully. Chili con carne and other meaty stews let layered capsicum spice mingle with Zinfandel’s inherent white pepper.

Among cheeses, nutty aged gouda pulls out the subtle oak sweetness and toasted qualities latent underneath . Equally unexpected, charred eggplant, honey-roasted carrots and tandoori spiced crispy tofu form surprisingly delightful plant-based pairings as the spices and smokiness find a savory home with the blend’s fruit.

When to Indulge 2021 Unshackled Red Blend

While velvety approachable already, cellaring between 2023-2025 allows supple tannins to resolve further as sweet tertiary notes like aromatic pipe tobacco develop and black fruit flavors concentrate. But in its exuberant youth, the heady dark fruit and vanilla make enjoyment irresistible. Storing bottles horizontally keeps liquid in contact with spicy American oak staves.

In summary, The Prisoner Unshackled Red Blend 2021 emphasizes bold rich fruit with a core of structure ready for ageing. Winemaker Jen Beloz works adeptly across acclaimed vineyards capturing concentration while harnessing varieties’ individual strengths for a harmonious chorus. Crack a bottle open with good company and hearty fare like rosemary lamb chops or eggplant off the grill and let the idle conversations stretch as the wine’s layers captivate into the night.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Unshackled red wine blend?

Unshackled is a full-bodied red blend crafted by The Prisoner Wine Company, led by Zinfandel (54%) and Petite Sirah (16%).

What scores has the 2021 Unshackled received?

It has received praise from critics, scoring 90-92 points from James Suckling, Jeb Dunnuck and Wine Spectator.

Is Unshackled considered a good wine?

Yes, reviews praise its bold, rich flavor profile and overall balance. It delivers a smooth, velvety drinking experience.