2018 Joseph Phelps Insignia

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Wine Critic Reviews for 2018 Joseph Phelps Insignia

Blackberry and black chocolate with mint, conifer and clove. Sweet tobacco, violets and flowers, too. Some graphite. Cool and complex. Full-bodied with ultra fine, dusty tannins and a wonderful, extremely long finish. Savory and refined. A classic-styled 2018. This needs time, but is so approachable and gorgeous. One of the best Insignias ever. Alive and changing all the time. 40% Stags Leap AVA. 87% cabernet sauvignon, 8% petit verdot, 3% malbec and 2% cabernet franc. Leave this for five or six years, but so wonderful now.

James Suckling | 99 JS
The 2018 Insignia checks in as 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec and the rest Cabernet Franc, from a mix of vineyards (mostly in the southern part of the valley) aged two years in new French oak. It has an incredible bouquet of cassis, currants, dark chocolate, lead pencil, and tobacco, and while it's unquestionably Napa, it has a regal, structured, almost Bordeaux-like vibe as well. Full-bodied, perfectly balanced, and layered on the palate, with silky tannins, this quintessential Insignia is up with the finest vintages of this cuvée I've tasted and is in the same realm as the 1997 (the first vintage I bought for my personal cellar), 2001, 2002, 2007, 2012, 2013, 2015, and 2016. 17,000 cases.

Jeb Dunnuck | 98 JD
This impressive blend combines 87% Cabernet Sauvignon with 8% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec and 2% Cabernet Franc, aging the whole for 24 months in 100% new French oak. Elements of cedar, sage, dried herb and underbrush meet rich red fruit and chalky tannins, with a dusting of cocoa throughout. Enjoy from 2028–2038.

Wine Enthusiast | 98 WE
The 2018 Insignia is a blend of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec and 2% Cabernet Franc. The vineyard sources this year include: 30% Las Rocas (Stags Leap District),18% Yountville (Oak Knoll District), 13% Banca Dorada (Rutherford), 18% Suscol (South Napa Valley), 14% Home Ranch (St. Helena), 12% Las Rocas (Stags Leap District), 7% Barboza (Stags Leap District). It was aged for 24 months in 100% new French oak barrels.

Deep garnet-purple colored, it comes storming out of the glass with powerful notes of blackcurrant cordial, stewed black plums and boysenberries, plus hints of cedar chest, graphite, menthol and wet slate with a fragrant waft of clove oil. The medium to full-bodied palate already demonstrates remarkable balance at this youthful stage, featuring a firm backbone of fine-grained tannins and bold freshness to support the tightly wound, crunchy black fruits, finishing long and spicy. 17,000 cases were made.

Robert Parker Wine Advocate | 97+ RP
The 2018 Insignia is racy and exuberant to the core. Soft and plush, with fabulous balance, the 2018 is such a showy wine today. Blackberry jam, leather, mocha, cloves and menthol build effortlessly. The 2018 can be enjoyed with minimal cellaring, but it also clearly has the potential to age. It is a total charmer today.

Vinous Media | 96 AG
This shows the excellence of the 2018 vintage in Napa made by seasoned winemaker Ashley Hepworth who, this year, celebrates 23 years at Joseph Phelps. The wine opens with a seductive, fruity and generous nose followed by a mass of concentrated blackberry flavours edged with creamy coffee and caramel tones. Instantly mouthwatering then there comes a kick of power with spice and black pepper surrounding the tongues and cheeks. Needs some time to integrate but this is a fine example of Cabernet with freshness, poise and power. A blend of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec and 2% Cabernet Franc from estate-grown Napa Valley vineyards: 30% Las Rocas Vineyard (Stags Leap District), 18% Suscol Vineyard (South Napa Valley), 18% Yountville Vineyard (Oak Knoll District), 14% Home Ranch Vineyard (St. Helena), 13% Banca Dorada Vineyard (Rutherford), and 7% Barboza Vineyard (Stags Leap District). Wines were aged for 24 months in 100% new French oak. Drinking Window 2025 - 2040.

Decanter | 96 DEC
This is richly layered, with cassis, crushed plum and blackberry puree flavors moving through slowly but steadily, while warm earth, ganache and black licorice notes follow along. Picks up a tarry edge on the finish as the fruit takes an encore. For fans of the muscular, fruit-driven style. Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc. Best from 2022 through 2036. 17,000 cases made.

Wine Spectator | 94 WS

Wine Details on 2018 Joseph Phelps Insignia

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Producer Joseph Phelps: When Joe Phelps stumbled across a 670-acre ranch on the east side of St. Helena; though, he knew it was far more than he envisioned, he fell in love and took possession with the anticipation of making “a little wine.” The land reminded the Colorado native of his home and decided that it was the right place to begin his endeavor. A former builder whose passion for wine led him to become an innovative Napa Valley producer and the first to bottle an expensive Bordeaux blend with a fanciful proprietary name.

At the time, Napa Valley was evolving from a sleepy agricultural community into a modern engine of fine wine production. With the likes of Robert Mondavi and Joe Heitz, with their entrepreneurial spirit to wine country and fine eye for talent, the region was transforming. Phelps joined the fray in 1973 and with the 1974 vintage released two wines that proved highly influential in the coming decades. Those two significant bottlings released by Phelps that year would become inspirational to producers throughout California.

The debut vintage birthed the first commercial American release of a Syrah wine. The leading Northern Rhone Valley varietal was well known in France, but not so much in California. Phelps sensed the possibilities in its bold, enveloping flavors and was instrumental in California vintners adopting Syrah. This also led to the planting of other Rhone varietals, such as Mourvedre, Marsanne, Grenache and Viognier; the introduction of these varietals to California has proved significant in the molding of modern California Rhone-like wines.

The second offering was the unveiling of the now infamous, Insignia. A wine that would become a Napa Valley icon and the foundation of Phelps portfolio. It was California’s first blend of traditional Bordeaux grapes and released under a proprietary name. Other successful and popular vintners, such as Opus One, Rubicon and Dominus began to follow suit. The implementation of a proprietary name as well as the introduction of Bordeaux and Rhone varietals would become historical and influential throughout Napa Valley and California.

Over the next 42 years, Joe Phelps would become one of the most respected figures in the California wine industry, building Joseph Phelps Vineyards into a critically-acclaimed winery internationally known for its iconic wines and unwavering commitment to quality. Sadly Joe passed away in 2015 at the age of 87; though, his legacy lives on through his son, Bill who is committed to delivering wines of unequaled character.

Phelps Insignia has become a legend itself, comprised mostly of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc. It has become synonymous with greatness and an impressive and innovate feat that has influenced the whole of California winemaking. In addition to the famed Insignia, Phelps produces a myriad of varietals including Cabernet Sauvignon, one which is from the prestigious Backus Vineyard, Syrah, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Noir, which also hail from successful and unique vineyards sites.

Joe Phelps left a mark on Napa Valley, one which is duly recognized worldwide. His vision and creative mind helped transform the fundamental ideas of winemaking in California, introducing varietals and wines that have become influential to California vintners. What started out as passionate attempt to make “a little wine,” evolved into an unprecedented advancement and game changing endeavor that would alter the minds of consumers and vintners alike.
Region California: With a history of wine production that dates back to the 18th century, California currently sits as one of the world's most prolific and reputable wine regions. With an area as vast as California, you can expect a colorful collage of terroir profiles, a series of microclimates, and micro-environments that give the wine a unique, memorable appeal. The region's produce is far from homogenized in that sense, and it would take you countless hours to sample all of it. While the region boasts scars from the Prohibition era, it went through what can only be described as a viticultural Renaissance sometime after the 1960s. At that point, California went from a port-style, sweet wine region to a versatile and compelling competitor on the world market. Today, no matter which way your taste in wine leans, you can find a new favorite producer among California's most talented.

Notable sub-regions include legendary names like Napa Valley and Sonoma County, places that any wine lover would die to visit. California's quintessential warm climate allows for incredibly ripe fruit expressions, a style that provides a stark contrast to Old World-inspired, earthy classics. Even where inspiration was clearly taken from staple French appellations, Californian winemakers put their own unique spin on the wine.
Subregion Napa Valley
Country US: As one of the most prolific and innovative wine regions in the world, America is a joy to explore. Most wine connoisseurs will agree that the nation's finest and most compelling wines are being produced today, which means that we have front-row seats to one of the most inspirational stories in wine history. While other regions tend to focus on specific wine styles and have somewhat strict rules as to which varietals you could grow, areas like California have few such restrictions in place. As a result, creative visionaries behind America's most reputable estates have been able to develop compelling, unique, and innovative styles, with a level of terroir expression that rivals even France's largest giants.
Type of Wine California Red: Whether it's Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah or Zinfandel, Californian red wine producers have a lovely habit of taking a varietal and expressing its essence in a unique, never before seen way. From Napa Valley to the regions south of Los Angeles, there's a red for everyone - and it's never too late to start exploring.
Varietal Proprietary Blend: Proprietary Blend is a general term used to indicate that a wine is comprised of multiple grape varietals which are either “proprietary” to the winery or is blended and does not meet the required maximum or minimum percentage of a particular varietal. This also is the case for the grape’s place of origin, especially for region, appellation or vineyard designated wines. There are endless examples of blended wines which are labeled as “Proprietary Blend” and in conjunction with each region’s stipulated wine laws and regulations makes for a vast blanket for wines to fall into. Perhaps the simplest example is California; if a wine is to be labeled as Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, it is required to have at least 75% of the varietal (Cabernet Sauvignon) and 85% of the fruit must be cultivated from the Napa Valley wine district. If the wine does not meet the requirements, it is then labeled as Proprietary Blend.

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