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February 22, 2016

Joseph Phelps Insignia 2013

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Joseph Phelps’ Insignia is one of the truly great iconic Napa wines, capable of appealing to almost all wine lovers, embodying a Bordeaux style with Napa flair. In 2013 they have created a wine to rival their perfect scoring 2002. Parker has already awarded the 2013 96-100 points, far higher than the 2002’s original 92-95 – it is very likely the 2013 will be a future 100 point Parker wine!

Parker has proclaimed that ‘2013 for many wineries in Napa and Sonoma has produced the finest wines I have tasted in 37 years.’ This rings true for Insignia 2013, Parker says it ‘’could turn out even better than the 2012’. We released the 2012 last year for £685 and it already trades for £800. The 100-point 2002 retails for £1,500 per case of six bottles, the 99 point 2007 costs £1,620 – if you are lucky enough to locate them! At £815 per case Insignia 2013 is a fabulous opportunity for future consumption or investment. As one of the leading Napa Estates Insignia’s price compares wonderfully to its peers, it is the most cost effective way to experience 2013 Napa in all its ‘classic of power, intensity and equilibrium’, Parker.

The table below represents 6x75cl cases of Insignia vintages which have been awarded 96 points or above from Robert Parker. The vintage premium is evident, making Insignia a prime candidate for investment.

Vintage Score Price 
2013 96-100 £815
2012 96 £800
2007 99 £1,620
2002 100 £1,500
1997 100 £1,800
1991 100 £2,100

Insignia is a true Bordeaux blend incorporating all five varietals. The 2013 Insignia has a higher percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon up to 88%, the remainder 5% Petit Verdot, 3% Merlot, 3% Malbec and 1% Cabernet Franc. It is notable also that production in 2013 has been reduced to 13,500 cases nearly 1/3 less than in 2002.

Founded in 1974 by Joseph Phelps, Insignia has become one of the most revered Napa wines, winning Wine Spectator’s #1 Wine of the Year in 2005. In fact, it is held in such high esteem by critic Robert Parker that in 2014, to mark the winery’s 40th anniversary, he visited the estate for an historic tasting of each Insignia vintage from 1974-2012, awarding the 1991, 1997, and 2002 vintages each a perfect 100 points points – proving that the best California Cabernets can stand the test of time. On his website, Parker reported on the tasting, noting that the event was, ‘one of the most historical vertical tastings I have ever done… I had the privilege of tasting every vintage from 1974 to 2012.’

The critical acclaim and accolades are beyond anything founder Joe Phelps could have expected, or even desired for himself or his winery. Shy and introspective, Joe Phelps moved from Colorado to Napa in the late 1960s to help construct the former Souverain winery. Falling under the spell of Napa’s beauty, he decided to switch careers, plant a vineyard and build his own winery. Phelps’s estate was completed in 1974 in time for harvest. Released in 1978, the first vintage of Insignia was ground breaking for Napa Valley as up until then wines had generally been released as single varietals – Chardonnay or Merlot – or as California brands of dubious titles, such as ‘California Hearty Burgundy,’ rather than simply with a proprietary label such as ‘Insignia.’

Since 1974, Insignia has been produced in every vintage; in the early years Phelps purchased fruit from other independent growers but since 2004 100% of the fruit has come from his own estate.  Joe’s son, Bill, now runs the winery, with Ashley Hepworth – a talented young winemaker who earned her stripes at Ch. Angelus in St. Emilion before working at Joseph Phelps – continuing the legacy of producing world-class wines and earning praise from both Robert Parker and Antonio Galloni.

Robert Parker, Wine Advocate, 96-100 Points 

The flagship wine of the estate in reds is their Insignia, which has been one of the great Bordeaux blends made in California since the debut vintage in 1974. It usually has 30+ years aging potential, even in lighter vintages, of which the 2012, 2013 and 2014 are decidedly not. The 2013 Proprietary Red Insignia was scheduled for bottling after my visit. A blend of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest smaller proportions of Petit Verdot, Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc, this is a smaller cuvée of about 12,300 cases. This could turn out even better than the 2012, although the final judgment will have to take place from bottle. An amazing, inky purple color offers up notes of pen ink, white flowers, blueberry and blackberry liqueur. Nicely coiled, its tense, but rich and extracted palate is full-bodied with layers of concentrated fruit, well-integrated wood, acidity and tannin, and a finish of a good 40-45 seconds. This stunner should hit its prime in 5-6 years and last 30-40 years. 

Joseph Phelps Insignia 2013 - 96-100 pts Parker 6×75 – £815 IB £992.76 incl duty and VAT

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