2019 Joseph Phelps Insignia
Jeb Dunnuck | 99 JD
Jeb Dunnuck | 99 JD
A very aromatic Insignia with pencil-shaving and graphite highlights to the dark fruit and blackberries. Full-bodied, yet tensioned and vertical, with very fine tannins that run deep and layered in the wine. Needs time to come together, but fantastic tension and structure. Try after 2027.
James Suckling | 98 JS
Smells ripe and heady on the nose, expressive and seductive. This is rich and bold, it’s edging on too much, with lots of wood on show in the slightly heavy texture, liquorice and coffee flavour and fullness in the mouth but there are such alluring and captivating aspects to this wine with striking details of rose, tobacco, blackberry, red berries and dark chocolate shavings on show. I like the fragranced aspects and the energetic acidity that gives lift and a sense of brightness but this is a strong, powerful and muscular wine that will need at least a decade to come around. Given enough time it will be beautiful. Ageing 24 months in 100% new French oak.
Decanter | 97 DEC
More elegant and refined than the Napa Cab, the 2019 Insignia features restrained cedar and vanilla notes (despite spending two years in 100% new French oak) and delicate herbal shadings accenting cassis and black cherry fruit. Full-bodied, velvety and somewhat open-knit on the palate, it turns plush and long on the finish, adding a touch of warmth. Production this year is approximately 17,000 cases, reflecting the increased volume coming from recently replanted vineyards. It’s remarkable what a good job they continue to do with this bottling year after year, without compromising on quality.
Robert Parker Wine Advocate | 96 RP
The 2019 Insignia is a bold, explosive wine. Sumptuous dark fruit, mocha, leather, sweet spice and tobacco are all amplified in an Insignia endowed with tremendous textural intensity and plenty of soft contours. I imagine the 2019 will age well for years, but it will also drink well with minimal cellaring.
Vinous Media | 96+ VM
A solidly built Cabernet with a very direct persona, as dark currant, warmed fig reduction and blackberry fruit paste are bolted together with licorice root and singed cedar. Features an espresso crema hint on the finish, which keeps this on the dark, muscular side. Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Malbec. Best from 2023 through 2038. 17,000 cases made.
Wine Spectator | 94 WS
Given two years in new French oak, this vintage blends 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot and 2% Malbec. Brooding black fruit is complemented by classic notions of cigar box, tobacco, iron and clove, with a leather texture that’s still got time to unfurl. Dense and chewy tannins provide a powerful imprint of intensity and ripeness matched in toasted oak. Enjoy best from 2029–2039.
Wine Enthusiast | 94 WE
Wine Details for 2019 Joseph Phelps Insignia
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: 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.
: 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.
: 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.
: 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.
: 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.