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Joseph Phelps Insignia 2010
Blend: 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot, 4% Merlot and 2% Malbec
This is, as always, a gorgeous wine, rich, balanced and delicious. It shows classic Napa Valley ripeness, with blackberry jam, plum, dark chocolate and sweet oak flavors. Plush and velvety doesn’t begin to do it justice. Despite its fabulous lushness, this is a wine to age. Depending on your taste, it will provide excellence from now until 2030.
The stunning 2010 Insignia, which is now in bottle, was made from 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot and the rest Merlot and Malbec. 11,060 cases were produced, and it achieved 14.9% natural alcohol. A gorgeously intense bouquet of lead pencil shavings, spring flowers, black currants, blackberries, and subtle smoke and foresty aromas jumps from the glass of this full-bodied, rich, concentrated wine with soft tannins, a multidimensional mouthfeel, and a long, rich finish displaying well-integrated acidity, tannin, alcohol and wood. This beauty is one of the top Insignias produced over recent years.
Firm, dense and deeply concentrated, this offers a powerful thrust of flavors, with mocha- and espresso-laced blackberry, black licorice and cedar notes, revving up on the finish. Pure, driven and persistent, this seems set for a long life. Best to cellar. Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot and Malbec. Best from 2015 through 2028.
It is a very rare outing in which Insignia does not rank among the best and nothing has changed in 2010. Right from the start, this latest effort impresses with its depth, its obvious polish and its vibrancy, and, while never wanting for ripeness, it is a wonderfully layered and patently sophisticated wine of real pedigree. Its ample, but decidedly fine tannins and its firm acid balance mark it as one that will evolve handsomely for a decade or two despite the fact that its refinement is sure to tempt early drinking, and it deserves to be set aside and patiently saved for special occasions.
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.
One of the world’s most classic and popular styles of red wine, Bordeaux-inspired blends have spread from their homeland in France to nearly every corner of the New World, especially in California, Washington, and Australia. Typically based on either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot and supported by Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and/or Petit Verdot, these are sometimes referred to in the US as “Meritage” blends. In Bordeaux itself, Cabernet Sauvignon dominates in wines from the Left Bank of the Gironde river, while the Right Bank focuses on Merlot. Often, blends from outside the region are classified as being inspired by one or the other.
In the Glass
Cabernet-based, Left-Bank-styled wines are typically more tannic and structured, while Merlot-based wines modeled after the Right Bank are softer and suppler. Cabernet Franc can add herbal notes, while Malbec and Petit Verdot contribute color and structure. Wines from Bordeaux can be bold and fruit-forward or restrained and earthy, while New World facsimiles tend to emulate the former style. In general, Bordeaux red blends can have aromas and flavors of black currant, cedar, plum, graphite, and violet, with more red fruit flavors when Merlot makes up a high proportion of the blend.
Since Bordeaux red blends are often quite structured and tannic, they pair best with hearty, flavorful, and fatty meat dishes. Any type of steak makes for a classic pairing. Equally welcome with these wines would be beef brisket, pot roast, braised lamb, or smoked duck.
While the region of Bordeaux is limited to a select few approved grape varieties, the New World is free to experiment. Bordeaux blends in California may include Syrah, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, or virtually any other grape deemed worthy by the winemaker. In Australia, Shiraz is a common component.