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Joseph Phelps Backus Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2002

Cabernet Sauvignon from Oakville, Napa Valley, California
  • RP96
  • WE95
  • CG95
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Winemaker Notes

The 2002 vintage has the distinctive rich color we've come to associate with this vineyard, followed by a nose of licorice, minerals and dark roast coffee. Concentrated mineral and rich black fruit flavors predominate, and a seamless finish contributes to the wine showing exceptionally well, even at this early stage.

Critical Acclaim

RP 96
The Wine Advocate

The 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon Backus Vineyard is a massive, youthful blockbuster with an opaque purple color as well as firm tannins (despite the general openness and ripeness of the 2002 Napa Cabernets). Almost overly rich, it has a long evolution ahead of it given its firm tannins and off-the-charts concentration and extract. One has to admire this cuvee for its extraordinary structure and multidimensional personality, but at present, even with airing, the primary aromas of new oak, loamy soil, graphite, incense and black fruits are all one can expect. In the mouth, the wine remains brutally tannic, but there is enough stuffing to easily balance out the wine's structure. It is a young, possibly great wine for the ages, and I would not hesitate to put my money where my mouth is. This 2002 should be absolutely amazing in 25-30 years.
Rating: 96+

WE 95
Wine Enthusiast

Right up there with the best of the '01 Napas. Smooth and polished, with a velvety mouthfeel that conveys cherry and blackberry flavors, without heavy extract. Oak plays a supportive role. The overall impression is of elegance, power and extreme balance.

CG 95
Connoisseurs' Guide

From first sniff to finish, this head-turning young wine is nothing less than a classic expression of all that is best in Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Its juicy, concentrated aromas are rich in cassis and plentiful sweet oak while finding highlights of mineral and black soil terroir, and its very deep, keenly fruited flavors follow suit. Despite a bit of tannic hardness that is entirely in keeping with its varietal and age, the wine is wonderfully well-balanced and offers plenty of promise for an increasingly supple future if allowed the six to ten years of cellaring that its depth and beauty have surely earned. Kudos to Phelps for its one-two combination of stunners.

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Joseph Phelps

Joseph Phelps Vineyards

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Joseph Phelps Vineyards, , California
Joseph Phelps
Joseph Phelps Vineyards is a family-owned winery committed to crafting world class, estate-grown wines. Founded in 1973 when Joe Phelps purchased a former cattle ranch near St. Helena in the Napa Valley, the winery now controls and farms nearly 375 acres of vines on eight estate vineyards in St. Helena, the Stags Leap District, Oakville, Rutherford, Oak Knoll District, Carneros and South Napa Valley. In 1999, the Phelps family added 100 acres of vineyard property near the town of Freestone on the Sonoma Coast, where Phelps now grows Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Phelps is best known for its flagship Napa Valley blend of red Bordeaux varietals, Insignia, first produced in 1974. Awarded Wine Spectator's "Wine of the Year" in 2005, Insignia is widely regarded as a qualitative benchmark for California winemaking.

Australia

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A large, climatically diverse country producing just about every wine style imaginable, Australia is often misunderstood by consumers. It is not just a source of blockbuster Shiraz or inexpensive wine with cute critters on the label, though both can certainly be found here. It is impossible to make generalizations about a country this physically massive, but most regions are concentrated in the south of the country and experience either warm, dry weather, or more humid, tropical influence. Australia has for several decades been at the forefront of winemaking technology and has widely adopted the use of screwcaps, even for some premium and ultra-premium bottles.

Shiraz is indeed Australia’s most celebrated and widely planted variety, typically producing bold, supple reds with sweet, jammy fruit and performing best in the Barossa and Hunter Valleys. Cabernet Sauvignon is often blended with Shiraz, and also shines on its own particularly in Coonawarra and Margaret River. Grenache and Mourvèdre (often locally referred to as Mataro) are also popular, both on their own and alongside Shiraz in Rhône blends. Chardonnay is common throughout the country and made in a wide range of styles. Sauvignon Blanc has recently surged in popularity to compete with New Zealand’s distinctive version, and Semillon is often utilized as its blending partner, or in the Hunter Valley, on its own to make complex, age-worthy whites. Riesling thrives in the cool-climate Clare and Eden Valleys. Sticky-sweet fortified wine Rutherglen Muscat is a beloved regional specialty of Victoria. Thanks to the country’s relatively agreeable climate throughout and the openness of its people, experimentation is common and ongoing and there is a vast array of intriguing varieties to be found.

Pinot Noir

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One of the most difficult yet rewarding grapes to grow, Pinot Noir is commonly referred to by winemakers as the “heartbreak grape.” However, the greatest red wines of Burgundy prove that it is unquestionably worth the effort. More reflective than most varieties of the land on which it is grown, Pinot Noir prefers a cool climate, requires low yields to achieve high quality, and demands care in the vineyard and lots of attention in the winery. It is an important component of Champagne and the only variety permitted in red Burgundy. Pinot Noir enjoys immense popularity internationally, most notably in Oregon, California, and New Zealand.

In the Glass

Pinot Noir Is all about red fruit—strawberry, raspberry, and cherry. It is relatively pale in color with soft tannins and lively acidity. It ranges in body from very light to the heavier side of medium, typically landing somewhere in the middle—giving it extensive possibilities for food pairing. With age (of which the best examples can handle an astounding amount), it can develop hauntingly beautiful characteristics of fresh earth, autumn leaves, and truffles.

Perfect Pairings

Pinot’s healthy acidity cuts through the oiliness of pink-fleshed fish like salmon, ocean trout, and tuna. Its mild mannered tannins don’t fight with spicy food, and give it enough structure to pair with all sorts of poultry—chicken, quail, and especially duck. As the namesake wine of Boeuf Bourguignon, it can even match with heavier fare. Pinot Noir is also very vegetarian-friendly—most notably with any dish that features mushrooms.

Sommelier Secret

Pinot Noir is dangerously drinkable, highly addictive, and has a bad habit of emptying the wallet. Look for affordable but still delicious examples from Germany (as Spätburgunder), Italy (as Pinot Nero), Chile, New Zealand, and France’s Loire Valley and Alsace regions.

ENGBACKUS_2002 Item# 119591

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