Joseph Phelps Insignia Vertical Bring a bottle from your cellar collectors tasting at WWWB

Friday, October 20, 2017 - 07:30 PM

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"Oh I'd be a rich man if I had all the money I owe.
But to have that much, I oughta' help them sell my soul.
One and one make two, two and two make four,
That figure don't drive the rent man from the door.
Just got time for a little more wine.
Just got time for a little more wine."

A Little More Wine by Savory Brown

 

I like this guy, there's always time for a little more wine!   Until your time runs out and then there is no more wine for you!!  That’s why I always say- drink the good stuff first!!

One Napa Valley winery that I would consider to be a "first growth" if such a thing existed would be Joseph Phelps Winery and the wine of course - Insignia.

Insignia was the very first Bordeaux inspired blend that was made in California dating back to the 1974 vintage, before Opus One and long before any of the elite "Cult" wines of Napa that today garner $200+ in price upon release and more in the aftermarket.

We tasted many of these wines on this offering over the years and I will never forget the "collectors series" wine dinner we hosted at Cafe Maxx with former winemaker Craig Williams where we showcased 10 vintages of Insignia back to 1986 from local collectors cellars.  Every vintage on the table including the 1998 and 2000 were outstanding!  A testament to a great producer, their wines are excellent even in a difficult vintage.

Let me explain our “Collectors Series” tasting event is where we ask you, our “Wine Drinking People”, to come up with some wine from your wine collection to add to the party in exchange for your ticket to the event.  That’s correct the “Collector Series” tasting portion of the event is FREE, all it will cost you is one bottle of Joseph Phelps Insignia from your cellar!!

Let me explain further- this is a two part event:

The first part of the evening begins at 7:30pm, this is where we will be tasting through a vertical selection of Joseph Phelps Insignia. The price of admission is one bottle of Insignia from your cellar but here is the catch- we only need 1 bottles of each wine, so the longer you wait to respond the harder it will be to get a seat as you will have to go further back in time because the youngest vintages will be filled up by the first collectors who respond!

This event is limited to 16 tasters and the price of the tasting is one bottle of Insignia.  If you don’t have a bottle and would still like to attend you are in luck we have a dozen vintages in stock and they are listed on this offering.  The optional dinner is $55 + tax for reservations call 954-523-9463 or e-mail andy@winewatch.com.

 

**There are only 16 spaces available for this event.

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Joseph Phelps Insignia Vertical Collectors Tasting
at Wine Watch
Friday October 20th 2017
7:30pm

Here are the vintages that we have so far:

1994 Joseph Phelps Insignia
(98 points) The 1994 boasts an inky/purple color along with a glorious nose of black raspberries, blackberries and black currants that is still somewhat primary despite nearly 18 years in bottle. The Phelps team kept this cuvee in 100% new French oak for 28 months. Its magnificent structure, intensity and purity of fruit, ripeness, balance combined with authoritative power and the magnetic appeal of this full-bodied, Bordeaux-styled wine are extraordinary. This amazing effort is just coming into its best years, and should drink well for at least another 15-20 years.  eRobertParker.com #1113 Nov 2013

1995 Joseph Phelps Insignia
(98 points) A wine of great intensity and richness, it displays classic notes of licorice, barbecue smoke, creme de cassis, cedarwood and forest floor. Full-bodied with sensational purity, a multidimensional mouthfeel and a long, voluptuous finish with no hard edges, it has only reached mid-adolescence, and has at least two decades of life ahead of it. (RP) (11/2013) Robert Parker's Wine Advocate

1997 Joseph Phelps Insignia (Magnum)

2000 Joseph Phelps Insignia
(92 Points) Deftly balanced, with dark color and rich fruit. Elegant, with tiers of currant, mocha, blackberry and espresso bean. Firms up at midpalate and flexes its tannic strength on the finish. Best to cellar a year or two. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. Best from 2004 through 2012. 15,000 cases made. “JL Wine Spectator

2001 Joseph Phelps Insignia

2002 Joseph Phelps Insignia

2003 Joseph Phelps Insignia

2006 Joseph Phelps Insignia

(94-96 Points) Since 2004, 100% of the Bordeaux varietals used in the Insignia proprietary blend have been from estate vineyards. There are just under 15,000 cases of the 2006 Insignia, a blend of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot. Made in a dense, full-bodied, muscular style, it is less charming than the 2005, with high tannin, extract, and richness. The blackberry and cassis characteristics are accompanied by notions of damp earth, subtle oak, licorice, and forest floor. It, too will benefit from 3-4 years of bottle age, and should drink well for two decades or more.

2007 Joseph Phelps Insignia

(97-100) The 2007 Insignia (a 13,500-case blend of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, and 4% Petit Verdot) offers a seamless introduction to this flagship cuvee. Its inky/purple color is followed by aromas of creme de cassis, incense, crushed rocks, lead pencil shavings, cedar, and spice box. It possesses a massive, opulent mouthfeel, serious tannins, and no hard edges. This stunning effort should hit its peak in 5-8 years, and last 40 years. I would not be surprised to see it become the greatest Insignia to date and close in on a perfect score. In case you think the aging curves I have described are unrealistically long, I have the Joseph Phelps regular Cabernets from the mid-seventies as well as the Insignias in my cellar, and those wines are still drinking beautifully at 30 years of age. Today’s wines are better made. Wine Advocate # 186, Dec 2009

2008 Joseph Phelps Insignia

(95-97 Points) The blend of the 2008 Insignia, 89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Petit Verdot and 4% Merlot, is not terribly different from the 2007. However, I suspect the production will be a lot less given the frost damage in early spring. The color is an inky/purple and the wine shows lots of cassis, blueberry, graphite and floral notes, good acidity, stunning concentration and purity, and a long finish. Another great success for Phelps, the 2007 and 2008 Insignias may be the best back-to-back vintages they have produced since 1995 and 1994. The 2008 has some tannins to resolve whereas the 2007 has already assimilated them. It appears the 2008 will require 2-3 years of bottle age, but should last for three decades. Joseph Phelps’ flagship wine, which they have been making for 36 years, is the Insignia, which boasts a remarkable track record. Phelps, always a visionary, was the first to recognize that a blend of grapes could be better than a single varietal cuvee. Phelps produces a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Backus Vineyard situated on the eastern slopes of the Oakville Corridor overlooking Screaming Eagle and Rudd Estate. Wine Advocate

2009 Joseph Phelps Insignia

2011 Joseph Phelps Insignia

Menu
Charcuterie Selection: Brown Sugar Black Pepper Bacon, Beemster Gouda,
Grilled Colorado Lamb Chops with Jalapeno Mint Jam Sweet potato Souflee and kale chips

This event is limited to 16 tasters and the price of the tasting is one bottle of Insignia, the optional dinner is $55 + tax for reservations call 954-523-9463 or e-mail andy@winewatch.com.

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A brief history of Joseph Phelps:

Joseph Phelps, a Colorado construction magnate, came to the Napa Valley to build wineries for others.  Like everyone else who loves wine and visits this beautiful valley, he quickly succumbed to the romance of it all.  In 1972 he purchased a 600-acre ranch in the hills east of St. Helena and began planting it to different varietals.  The wooden cellars, on a west-facing slope of the home property, are a tribute to two arts, architecture and winemaking.  Two pavilions are joined by a closed bridge housing offices.  One pavilion contains fermentors - steel in an otherwise woodsy environment - and the other holds lofty racks of French oak barrels.  In addition to the home ranch, Phelps now owns vineyards in Stags Leap, Rutherford, Yountville, and the Carneros District.

The first Phelps wine to appear in the marketplace was a 1973 Johannisberg Riesling. That it was an immediate success was no surprise; the winemaker was Walter Schug, born and trained in Germany. Schug left the winery in 1983 to devote full time to his new venture, Schug Cellars. (His assistant from almost the beginning, Craig Williams, assumed the reigns as winemaker.)  The winery gradually began to produce a wide range of interesting, high-quality varietals - not only from its own ranch, but also from selected growers in the Napa Valley and in Sonoma County as well.  In fact, Phelps once made one of California's best Zinfandels from eighty-year-old vines in Sonoma's Alexander Valley.  However, the winery gradually began to trim its number of offerings and concentrate primarily on the Napa Valley for fruit sources.

The winery's truly monumental wines are usually red and are based on the cabernet grape.  In each vintage Phelps produces a regular Napa Valley Cabernet from grapes grown on several of the Phelps ranches as well as grapes purchased from independent growers.  Some of the Phelps regular Cabs have been outstanding; the 1975 (probably the winery's best ever), the 1977, and the 1980 were at the top of their price class in the Napa Valley.  In the middle 1980's Phelps acquired and developed two new vineyards in the Napa Valley - one in Rutherford along Manley Lane in the heart of the bench area and the other in the Stag's Leap District immediately north and adjacent to the historic Fay Vineyard.  These two ranches have provided the backbone for the Phelps regular Cabernet as well as a Merlot that was first produced in 1989.  Although we felt that the Phelps regular Cabernets had slipped in the years since 1980, beginning with the 1992 they have been again among the best in their price class.  In fact, the recent Cabernets are probably the best regular bottlings produced at this winery in nearly twenty years.  Although a portion of the fruit is purchased from independent growers, over half comes from the winery's Las Rocas Vineyard in the Stags Leap District and the winery's Manley Lane Vineyard in the Rutherford Bench area.  Really special, however, have been the vineyard-designated Cabernets (one from the Backus Vineyard and one from the Eisele Vineyard) and the super special Insignia bottling.  The Eisele bottling was discontinued after the 1991 vintage, because - unfortunately for Phelps - Milton Eisele sold his legendary vineyard to Bart Araujo (The Araujo Estate Cabernet has already garnered enormous critical acclaim under its new owners).   The Insignia bottling - the flagship of the winery and the first Meritage blend ever made in California (1974) - has been consistently fine for two decades.  However, beginning with the 1989 vintage, it has clearly been in the top handful of red wines produced in every vintage.

Over the last few years things have been turned upside down at Phelps Winery.  When long time president Tom Sheldon and long time winemaker Craig Williams were both forced to retire in May of 2008, a lawsuit followed.  Unfortunately Tom Sheldon died in July of 2008 of brain cancer, but both men were awarded their 40% stake in the winery that was given to them by Joseph Phelps in 1999.     In a binding judgment issued Sept. 9, 2008 retired Judge William Bettinelli ruled that Mr. Shelton is entitled to a total of $12,264,000 in damages and Mr. Williams is owed $11,856,000, according to the ruling.  Their attorney stated for the record; "Everyone in Napa knows what Tom Shelton and Craig Williams did for the Phelps brand and the Phelps family," said Hainline. "It is time for the Phelps family to do the right thing, honor their agreements and acknowledge how these two men made monumental contributions to enhance the status and reputation of Joseph Phelps Vineyards and their work was what made the winery successful." 

This lawsuit left a bad taste in the mouth of many people in Napa Valley, but on my visit to Joseph Phelps winery in July of 2009 the staff had their best foot forward and were moving on, trying to look toward the future.  Ashley Hepworth was promoted to winemaker in 2008, she has been with the winery since 1999 and we don't think that the style of the wines will change.

If you don’t have a bottle of insignia in your cellar and you would still like to attend this tasting we have a few bottles here at the store to offer you.

2012 Joseph Phelps Insignia Napa image

2001 Joseph Phelps Insignia Napa

2002 Joseph Phelps Insignia Napa
Price: $380.00    Sale Price: $320.00
Quantity in Stock: 2

2003 Joseph Phelps Insignia Napa
Price: $210.00    Sale Price: $170.00
Quantity in Stock: 3

(94 points) The 2003 Insignia (15,000 cases) performed much better this year than last, when I tasted it right after bottling. A blend of 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot and the rest Malbec and Merlot, it offers up attractive aromas of licorice, black currants, espresso roast, and background toasty oak. Full-bodied, opulent, and rich with outstanding depth, purity, and harmony, sweet tannin, and a long finish, it is approachable now, but will easily last for 20 years. Wine Advocate #168 Dec 2006

2004 Joseph Phelps Insignia Napa
Price: $230.00    Sale Price: $195.00
Quantity in Stock: 5

Robert Parker JR.'s The Wine Advocate (94-96 Points). The soft, opulent 2004 Insignia (a 10,000-case blend of 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, 12% Petit Verdot, and 2% Malbec) is already seductive and lush. Offering abundant quantities of cassis, incense, graphite, plums, blackberries, and black currants, it will be hard to resist young, but should age effortlessly for two decades or more. Wine Advocate #168 (Dec 2006)

2005 Joseph Phelps Insignia Napa
Price: $220.00    Sale Price: $180.00
Quantity in Stock: 3

2006 Joseph Phelps Insignia Napa
Price: $199.00    Sale Price: $165.00
Quantity in Stock: 3

(94-96 Points) Since 2004, 100% of the Bordeaux varietals used in the Insignia proprietary blend have been from estate vineyards. There are just under 15,000 cases of the 2006 Insignia, a blend of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot. Made in a dense, full-bodied, muscular style, it is less charming than the 2005, with high tannin, extract, and richness. The blackberry and cassis characteristics are accompanied by notions of damp earth, subtle oak, licorice, and forest floor. It, too will benefit from 3-4 years of bottle age, and should drink well for two decades or more.

2007 Joseph Phelps Insignia Napa
Price: $350.00    Sale Price: $275.00
Quantity in Stock: 8

(97-100) The 2007 Insignia (a 13,500-case blend of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, and 4% Petit Verdot) offers a seamless introduction to this flagship cuvee. Its inky/purple color is followed by aromas of creme de cassis, incense, crushed rocks, lead pencil shavings, cedar, and spice box. It possesses a massive, opulent mouthfeel, serious tannins, and no hard edges. This stunning effort should hit its peak in 5-8 years, and last 40 years. I would not be surprised to see it become the greatest Insignia to date and close in on a perfect score. In case you think the aging curves I have described are unrealistically long, I have the Joseph Phelps regular Cabernets from the mid-seventies as well as the Insignias in my cellar, and those wines are still drinking beautifully at 30 years of age. Today’s wines are better made. Wine Advocate # 186, Dec 2009

2008 Joseph Phelps Insignia Napa
Price: $195.00    Sale Price: $165.00
Quantity in Stock: 3

(95-97 Points) The blend of the 2008 Insignia, 89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Petit Verdot and 4% Merlot, is not terribly different from the 2007. However, I suspect the production will be a lot less given the frost damage in early spring. The color is an inky/purple and the wine shows lots of cassis, blueberry, graphite and floral notes, good acidity, stunning concentration and purity, and a long finish. Another great success for Phelps, the 2007 and 2008 Insignias may be the best back-to-back vintages they have produced since 1995 and 1994. The 2008 has some tannins to resolve whereas the 2007 has already assimilated them. It appears the 2008 will require 2-3 years of bottle age, but should last for three decades. Joseph Phelps’ flagship wine, which they have been making for 36 years, is the Insignia, which boasts a remarkable track record. Phelps, always a visionary, was the first to recognize that a blend of grapes could be better than a single varietal cuvee. Phelps produces a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Backus Vineyard situated on the eastern slopes of the Oakville Corridor overlooking Screaming Eagle and Rudd Estate. Wine Advocate

2009 Joseph Phelps Insignia Napa
Price: $210.00    Sale Price: $160.00
Quantity in Stock: 3

(93-96 Points) The 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Insignia is a big, generous wine that covers the palate with waves of dark red fruit. Today it is beautifully expressive and opulent yet also well balanced. An explosive finish rounds things out in style. This looks to be a relatively approachable Insignia. Floral, spicy notes round out the finish. In 2009 the blend is 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Petit Verdot and 4% Merlot. Anticipated maturity: 2014-2029. Wine Advocate #198, Dec 2011

2010 Joseph Phelps Insignia Napa
Price: $210.00    Sale Price: $170.00
Quantity in Stock: 3

(93-95 Points) The 2010 Insignia is striking. Cool, mineral notes frame a core of blue and black fruit, licorice, spices, smoke, and melted road tar as this stunning wine opens up in the glass. Totally alive in the glass, the 2010 captures the essence of this cold, late harvest. Hints of menthol, violets and crushed rocks all flow through to the incisive, vibrant finish. My sense is that the 2010 is still holding back much of its significant potential. The 2010 is 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot, 3% Merlot and 2% Malbec. Anticipated maturity: 2017-2030. Winemaker Ashley Hepworth has done a fabulous job with these new releases. While most of the attention at Phelps centers around the flagships Insignia and Backus, over the last few years I have been equally impressed with the straight Cabernet Sauvignon, a wine that delivers tremendous bang for the buck. In addition to these wines, I also tasted a few Syrahs from the 1970s. Today, Phelps is known for their Cabernet Sauvignons, but it is also worth remembering Joe Phelps was the first grower to introduce Syrah to the Napa Valley several decades ago.  Wine Advocate #204, Dec 2012

2011 Joseph Phelps Insignia Napa
Price: $220.00    Sale Price: $160.00
Quantity in Stock: 3

2012 Joseph Phelps Insignia Napa
Price: $225.00    Sale Price: $175.00
Quantity in Stock: 3

Wine Watch Review: Dark rich black currant and cassis berry fruit with notes of espresso dark chocolate, a very rich and well-endowed bouquet.  This wine is all estate grown from several appellations in Napa.  This wine is big and chewy on the tongue with a good amount of dark dense ripe black cherry and currant berry fruit, a firm hand of tannins and a long finish, echoing the earth and spice from the nose through the finish, even better on the second day.  Finish 50+  Most Excellent + A. Lampasone

 

 96 Points - Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate

The flagship wine of the estate in reds is their Insignia, which has been one of the great Bordeaux blends made in California since the debut vintage in 1974. It usually has 30+ years aging potential, even in lighter vintages, of which the 2012, 2013 and 2014 are decidedly not. The 2012 Proprietary Red Insignia, a final blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot and the rest Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc all from estate vineyards, was aged 24 months in 100% new French oak... and it’s a fabulous, classic Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. Inky purple to the rim, with notes of lead pencil shavings, incense, camphor, blackberry and creme de cassis, the wine is full-bodied, offering a multi-layered, textural, skyscraper-like mouthfeel, terrific purity, density and richness. All of this is achieved without a sense of heaviness or anything aggressive. This is a beauty to drink now and over the next 30 years.
 97 Points & Top 100 Wines In 2015 - JamesSuckling.com

Top 100 Wines In 2015 List: Amazing aromas of blueberry, blackberry, mineral and bark. Complex nose. Full body plus super integrated tannins with superb balance and depth. Coffee and chocolate too. Very long and mind-bending. A tribute to the vintage. Drink or hold. A long life ahead of it.

 96 Points - Antonio Galloni's Vinous

Just bottled, the 2012 Insignia is rich, voluptuous and racy to the core. Raspberry jam, mocha, wild flowers, spices and espresso are laced together in a sensual, enveloping Insignia that should drink well with minimal cellaring. I imagine the 2012 will reward readers with a long drinking window of pure pleasure. Today, it is a total knock-out.

Blend and Grape Sources: 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot, 3% Merlot, 3% Malbec and 1% Cabernet Franc from 100% estate-grown Napa Valley vineyards: Stags Leap District (28% Las Rocas Vineyard and 11% Barboza Vineyard), Napa Valley (22% Suscol Vineyard), Rutherford (16% Banca Dorada Vineyard), Oak Knoll District (12% Yountville Vineyard) and St. Helena (11% Home Ranch Vineyard).

Appellations: Napa Valley
Harvest Dates: September 13 - October 15, 2013
Winemaking Data: Vineyards were carefully monitored throughout the growing season for optimum, even ripening; keeping close attention on Insignia designated blocks. Grapes were held separate during picking, sorting and fermentation. This wine was aged for 24 months in 100% new French oak from coopers Taransaud, Dargaud Jaegle, Nadalie, Demptos, Marcel Cadet and Sylvain before bottling in January 2016.
Winemaker Notes: First produced from the 1974 vintage, 2013 Insignia marks the 40th vintage of our flagship Napa Valley wine. Deeply pigmented, the 2013 Insignia opens with heady blackberry and plum aromatics laced with baking spices, cardamom and espresso. Focused and fresh, this exceptionally concentrated wine showcases elegant tannin structure and a silky mouthfeel layered with dark fruit, sweet vanilla bean, cracked black pepper and bittersweet chocolate.
Vintage Notes: The 2013 growing season proved to be an excellent year in Napa Valley. It was slightly warmer than 2012, resulting in an overall earlier growing season. Lower than normal rainfall paired with moderate spring weather brought with it early bud break and bloom. Sunny skies throughout the summer months led to early veraison and harvest. Warm daytime temperatures followed by cool nights prior to harvest produced evenly ripened fruit with ideal hang time. There is great purity of fruit in the 2013 wines, good structure and overall an excellent winegrowers vintage. The first Insignia fruit was harvested from our Home Ranch in St. Helena on September 13th and the last from our Banca Dorada Vineyard in Rutherford on October 15th.

2013 Joseph Phelps Insignia Napa Magnum
Price: $543.00    Your Price: $478

2013 Joseph Phelps Insignia Napa
Price: $265.00    Sale Price: $233.00
Quantity in Stock: 4

(98+ points) The 2013 Insignia (their 40th vintage) is a blend of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot, and the rest Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc. This wine is aged 24 months in 100% new French oak barrels, and the production can vary from just over 10,000 cases to nearly 20,000 cases in a very abundant vintage. There were 12,300 cases produced in 2013, and this vintage of Insignia is certainly going to turn out to be one of the great ones. The wine offers a stunning inky blue/purple color, a gorgeous nose of blueberry and blackberry liqueur, pen ink, graphite, new saddle leather and barrique. The wine has fabulous concentration, a full-bodied, multi-layered mouthfeel, and tremendous finish with moderate tannin. It’s interesting to note that the Phelps winemaking staff had been gradually reducing the amount of Merlot in this wine over recent vintages. The 2013 should hit its peak in 5-7 years and last for 35-50. Wine Advocate (Issue # 227 - Oct 2016)