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Joseph Phelps Insignia 2013
Blend: 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot, 3% Merlot, 3% Malbec and 1% Cabernet Franc
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. Rating: 98+
The mighty Insignia shows a vibrancy of purpose and craft in this, its 40th vintage, combining 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot, 3% Merlot, 3% Malbec and 1% Cabernet Franc. Together they find a higher calling of perfumed violet, dark plum and berry along with graphite and an edginess of dried herb. Firm, structured tannins show tremendous potential for aging and decanting. This is a near-perfect effort from a blockbuster vintage. Editors' Choice.
Another outstanding Napa Valley wine from the superb 2013 vintage, the Joseph Phelps Insignia—a blend of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot, 3% Merlot, 3% Malbec, and 1% Cabernet Franc—shows up with a big-time performance. The wine exhibits exceptional ripe fruit flavors—black currants, cassis, and blueberries. The finish delivers endless pleasure and long-term cellaring potential. (Tasted: October 10, 2016, San Francisco, CA)
Extravagant aromas of crushed blackberries, mint, eucalyptus and flint. Full body, round and velvety textured. Rich and flavorful finish. Lusciousness with form. Reserved palate. Very attractive now but better in 2020.
The 2013 Insignia is just as magnificent as it has always been. Refined and polished to the core, but with all of the power of the vintage, the 2013 simply has it all. Crème de cassis, lavender, plum and exotic spices infuse this deeply expressive edition of the Phelps flagship wine. The 2013 is remarkably silky for such a big wine.
Insignia has been built as a regional blend since its first vintage in 1974, becoming an estate-grown wine in 2004. It’s based on cabernet sauvignon grown in six vineyards, from Suscol in the south to sites in Oak Knoll, Stags Leap and Rutherford, up to Phelps’s Spring Valley Home Ranch in St. Helena. Ashley Hepworth has fine-tuned the style, so Insignia is still a rich wine, but now, especially in 2013, shows the kind of firmness of structure that makes the richness profound. This vintage is fresh and lively, even while it is dense and powerful, as if the power is coming out of the black raspberry fruit as well as the bright, sparkling-fresh mineral tones of the tannins. Delicious now if you give it several hours in a decanter, this is destined to evolve into a classic.
Rich and full-bodied, but exhibiting the lift of a brighter red. The dark berry flavors give this an elegant mouthfeel and ease the tannic strength. Tempting now but worth cellaring. Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc. Best from 2018 through 2032.
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 highly regarded regions for wine production and tourism, the Napa Valley is the AVA that brought worldwide recognition to California winemaking. The area was settled by a few choice wine families in the 1960's who bet that the wines of the area would grow and flourish. They were right. The Napa wine industry really took off in the 1980's, when vineyard lands were scooped up and vines were planted throughout the county. A number of wineries emerged, from large conglomerates to small boutiques to cult classics. Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely the grape of choice here, with many winemakers also focusing on Bordeaux blends. Whites are usually Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Within the Napa Valley lie many smaller sub-AVAs that lend even more character specifics to the wines. Furthest south is Carneros, followed by Yountville, Oakville & Rutherford. Above those two are St.-Helena and the valley's newest AVA, Calistoga. These areas are situated on the valley floor and are known for creating rich, smooth Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay. There are a few mountain regions as well, nestled on the slopes overlooking the valley AVAs. Those include Howell Mountain, Stags Leap District, and Mt. Veeder. Wines from the mountain regions are often more structured and firm, benefiting from more time in the bottle to evolve and soften.
A crisp, refreshing variety that equally reflects both terroir and varietal character, Sauvignon Blanc is responsible for a vast array of wine styles. A couple of commonalities always exist, however—namely, zesty acidity and intense aromatics. The variety is of French provenance, and is important in Bordeaux and the Loire Valley. It also shines in New Zealand and California, while Chile and South Africa are excellent sources of high-quality, value-priced Sauvignon Blanc. High-quality Sauvignon Blanc is also produced in Washington State, Australia, and parts of northern Italy.
In the Glass
From its homeland in the Loire Valley, where citrus, flinty, and smoky flavors shine through in Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume, to Marlborough, New Zealand, where it is pungent, racy, and “green” (think grass, leaves, gooseberries, and bell peppers) and tastes of grapefruit and passionfruit, Sauvignon Blanc has something to offer every wine drinker. In Bordeaux, it is typically blended with Sémillon and Muscadelle to produce a softer, richer style. In California, any of the aforementioned styles can be emulated.
The freshness of Sauvignon Blanc’s flavor—from bell pepper and cut grass to passionfruit, gooseberry, and ripe kiwi lend it to a range of light, summery dishes including salad, seafood, and mild Asian dishes. Sauvignon Blanc settles in comfortably at the table with notoriously difficult foods like goat cheese and asparagus. When combined with Sémillon (and perhaps some oak), it can be paired with more complex seafood and chicken dishes.
Along with Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc is the proud parent of Cabernet Sauvignon. That green bell pepper aroma that all three varieties share is no coincidence—it comes from a high concentration of pyrazines (an herbaceous aromatic compound) inherent to each member of the family.