One of the Napa Greats

Today’s Story: Joseph Phelps Vineyards

Joseph Phelps Vineyards was founded in 1973 by Joseph Phelps and remains a family-owned and operated estate to this day. Though Phelps’ background is in construction and entrepreneurship, he grew an early interest in wine and established vineyards on a 670 acre former cattle ranch in Napa Valley. In 1998, Joseph’s son Bill joined the winery as Executive Chairman after a career in law and his sisters Leslie, Laurie, and Lynn later joined the Board of Directors. In 2016, family members Elizabeth Neuman and Will Phelps joined the winery team as third generation employees set on continuing the legacy Joseph started in 1973.

Today, the Phelps family owns and farms 425 acres of vineyards across St. Helena, Rutherford, Oakville, Stags Leap District, Oak Knoll District, South Napa, and Carneros as well as 100 acres over two vineyards on the western Sonoma Coast. As stewards of the land, the Phelps family practices sustainable farming in an effort to improve the long-term vitality of their vineyards and soil. Some of these efforts include olive and fruit trees planted on the Home Ranch in St. Helena (as well as fruit trees in the Backus and Las Rocas Vineyards); bees on the Home Ranch to sustain the plants, trees, and vines; chickens on the Home Ranch to provide natural fertilizer to the soil; owl and bluebird boxes constructed in every vineyard; sheep brought in to mow cover crops and naturally fertilize the soil; composting grape skins and stems for use in the vineyards; and solar panels at the winery to offset energy needs.

Today’s Wine: 2010 Insignia

84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot, 4% Merlot, 2% Malbec; 14.5% ABV

The 2010 Insignia is opaque deep ruby in color with a bit of purple at its core. I let this open in the decanter for about an hour to hour and a half before drinking any. Once the wine opens up, the nose is incredibly complex and changes over time with aromas of blackcurrant, cassis, smoked meat, tobacco, cigar box, thyme, black truffle, forest floor, graphite, crushed rock, violet, and a hint of oak. The palate is similarly complex with notes of blackberry, blueberry, red fruit, cedar, tobacco, damp earth, mushroom, pepper, slight baking spice, chocolate, and a touch of vanilla. This wine is full-bodied with medium acidity, velvety medium (-) tannins, and a long finish. I could smell this wine all day and was blown away by how elegant and ever-changing this is with air.

Price: $215. Not a cheap bottle of wine, but for premium Napa that goes up against the great wines of France this is well worth the price. Pair this with steak, lean game, or grilled lamb.

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