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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.v
A blend of 93% Cabernet Sauvignon 5% Petit Verdot and 2% Malbec the 2019 Insignia is deep garnet-purple colored. It needs a shake or two before the glass combusts with atomic scents of creme de cassis blueberry preserves and stewed black cherries followed by subtle suggestions of cedar chest pencil lead iron ore and crushed rocks plus a waft of cloves. Full-bodied rich and concentrated the palate delivers compelling poise led by firm fine-grained tannins and a lively line of freshness finishing with epic length.
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. - By Antonio Galloni on October 2022
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 17000 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. It was a gorgeous afternoon when I pulled into the parking lot at Joseph Phelps Winery. For those who haven't been it's tucked into a small side valley east of the Silverado Trail in Saint Helena a short ways up Taplin Road. The terrace overlooking the vineyards and old winery building are beautiful settings in which to taste and a high shelf in the interior is home to an impressive lineup of empty trophy bottles consumed by the founder. Winemaker Ashley Hepworth had been at Phelps for 23 years when I visited in February but she has since departed to start her own consulting business. Assistant winemaker Kelly Fields?18 years with Phelps?also joined us for the tasting and I believe she is staying on. I wrote in my notes at the time that they showed remarkable longevity for non-family members in a Napa winery?I hope I didn't jinx anything! Getting back to the wines this was primarily a look at the 2019s from bottle and the 2021s from barrel (or tank). Hepworth explained that they picked about one-third of the red fruit in 2020 but "couldn't make the wines work" so that wine was sold in bulk. From 2008-2016 the Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was actually all estate but it now includes some grower fruit to replace missing volumes from vineyards that are being replanted. The winery owns roughly 400 acres in Napa Valley with about 80 under redevelopment. According to Hepworth it's usually a bit under 50% new oak mostly French but includes a small proportion of American (less than 25%). The big boys here are Insignia and the Backus Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon both top-quality wines but made in contrasting styles. Insignia is a wine blended from several sites and typically quite lush meant to epitomize the ripeness and softness of the valley floor while Backus from a single vineyard is more structured. Both Backus and Insignia age in 100% new French oak. Given the attention to Cabernet Sauvignon at Phelps it would be easy to overlook the winery's long history with Syrah which Joe Phelps bottled as a varietal wine in 1974?the first in California. Today the Syrah is sourced from Larry Hyde in Carneros but it remains a terrific wine?and one that sells for about two-thirds of the price of the Napa Valley Cabernet. Co-fermented with a small amount of Viognier (like Côte-Rôtie) it's the unsung gem in the winery's portfolio. The 2021s look promising here as at so many of the wineries I've visited. Fields said overall yields were down about 10% from the 10-year average. May was chilly and rainy which got the vegetative growth off to a good start but then the summer was dry with no major heat waves. "Canopy management was key" according to Fields.