Unshackled by Prisoner Wine Dinner – February 2023

Luckily the menu was different from the January 2022 wine dinner by the same name, as were some of the wines. You can read my very limited reviews on that post. Apparently, I didn’t have my trusty notebook yet so I took minimal notes on the phone. (link)

The Unshackled brand, according to the rep, is meant to be a more affordable wine line in the Prisoner portfolio. With most wines in the $18-$22/bottle range (depending on where you shop) it definitely meets that criteria.



Wine Pairing: Unshackled, Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, California

This was paired with clam chowder in January 2022, where I declared it a “pantry wine” (though I hadn’t coined that term yet).

This time around it was with the hors d’oevres, and my very first note is:

BANG! In your face flavor!

Technically the first note is “soft gold” as I try to note the color first, but I wrote bang in all caps rather large at the top of the page.

It’s very bright with a sharp scent – rather citrus forward with a chardonnay type finish. My dining companions agreed it tasted like Squirt… The bacon made it sweet, while it didn’t do much for the jalapeño. It was really good with the tomato/basil which makes the wine soft (lessens the citrus bite) but only “meh” with the shrimp – which took it back to sharp. The empanada (puff pastry bite) made it smooth.

I confirmed my original rating of “pantry wine” but gave it a Tuesday night or a Friday on the porch. (With a note to check the price – it’s about $20/bottle – so perfect pantry wine for when friends drop by unexpectedly.)

First Course


Wine Pairing: Unshackled, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California

I wasn’t nearly as enamored with the chardonnay as I was with the Sauvignon Blanc. The rep said it had “stone fruit like pear or white peach.” I don’t know about you, but I didn’t think pear was a stone fruit. Pretty sure they have to have large pits and not small seeds to qualify.

Unfortunately, while he was talking, I was smelling butter and acid – something metallic.

Let me just start by saying – this was not my favorite pairing. It got better as it warmed up – but it was an excellent example of how food changes wine. One of my dining companions said it was a great example for vegetarians who can’t see how meat changes wine. I love a good wedge salad, but this wine did not go with it until you got to the super sharp lettuce core and then it paired well. It even smoothed it out a bit to be an average chardonnay that’s drinkable. This is a Monday/Tuesday wine that is still looking for its food soulmate.

Second Course


Wine Pairing: Unshackled, Pinot Noir, Napa Valley, California

This ruby colored, fruit forward (cherry / raspberry / stone fruit) scented pinot noir was a bit dry on the tongue. Unfortunately, the rep provided no commentary on the reds, so I can’t compare my notes to theirs. However my companions were mixed on their opinions – one found it to have too yeasty a scent, another said it tasted like a cherry Slurpee.

The shrimp’s spice paired well with the wine and it wasn’t too bad with the polenta. This is a wine I would let breath. It improved after about 15 minutes after being poured. Mixed ratings for it. I gave it a pantry wine rating – good enough to have around to go with most things, but not something I’d drink everyday. It also got a Wednesday rating and a Sunday “with family you like” rating.



Wine Pairing: Unshackled, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California

This wine also made an appearance at the January 2022 wine dinner. But I didn’t have much commentary on it at the time.

It’s a deep garnet color with an acidic first scent. Luckily it tastes better than it smells. One dinner companion said it smelled like loam, which when you say that I think Scotch. It was explained as “earthy garden dirt scent after rain.” I can get behind that description.

It’s a bit on the cherry Kool-Aid sweet flavor for me. The steak brought out the cherry flavor and the wine enhanced the spice. Another red that was better as it breathed. It went well with the scallop and was good with the mashed potatoes. This is a wine that needs food.

Interestingly enough, when I looked this one up, I learned it’s actually a blend – Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Sirah, Syrah, and Merlot. That might explain the mixed reviews it received.

Dessert and Final Thoughts


Paired With: Grand Marnier

Dessert was amazing – and I wish I could have enjoyed the Grand Marnier.

All in all the Unshackled wines are good. We summed it up by saying it was “chicken ranch wine.” If you don’t know what that means – perhaps this says it better:

We wanted the wines to taste like romance, not sex.

Basically, we’d rather spend the extra money and drink the Prisoner wines, they have more nuances and are more refined (romance) compared to the everyday price point…

Curious on the Chicken Ranch – read more about it here. (Texas State Historical Association)

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