James Suckling 97 points - Amazing aromas of blueberry, blackberry, mineral and bark. Complex nose. Full body plus super integrated tannins with superb balance and depth. Coffee and chocolate too. Very long and mind-bending. A tribute to the vintage. Drink or hold. A long life ahead of it. A blend of 75% cabernet sauvignon, 10% merlot, 10% petit verdot, 3% malbec, and 2% cabernet franc.
Vinous 94 points - The 2012 Insignia is one of the most intense, powerful wines of year. Dark red and black fruit, smoke, mocha, French oak, spices and leather burst from the glass in an explosive red built on texture and structure. Readers will find very little of the early appeal of 2012 here.
94-96 Points (Dec 2014)
Wine Spectator 93 points - Packs a wallop, perhaps overly so, with extracted dark berry flavors and tannic muscle. The drying sensation on the finish distracts from the ripe blackberry, earth, cedar and gravel notes. Aromas of cassis, currant and blackberry offer more promise. Either way, this is built to cellar. Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc. Best from 2017 through 2030.-J.L. (Jul 29 2015)
Wine Advocate 96 points - Joseph Phelps’ flagship wines include the incredibly ageworthy Insignia. The 2012 Insignia Proprietary Red is composed of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot, 10% Merlot, 3% Malbec and 2% Cabernet Franc, all aged 24 months in 100% new French oak. The vintage was of such high quality and quantity that 17,500 cases were produced. A magnificent Insignia that will be bottled in several months, it boasts an opaque purple color as well as fabulous notes of graphite, blackberries, blackcurrant liqueur, camphor, barbecue smoke and spice box. Rich, full-bodied and opulent with plenty of tannin and structure lurking beneath the extravagant generosity of fruit, this stunning 2012 should drink well for 25-30+ years. (Oct 2014)
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With the release of the 1974 Insignia in the spring of 1978, Joseph Phelps Vineyards became the first California winery to produce a blend of the traditional Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot grape varieties of Bordeaux under a proprietary label. Considered innovative at the time, the Insignia name was selected to represent the finest available production in each vintage year, and became the first proprietary wine of California to place blending above either varietal or vineyard designation as a determinant of quality. It would not be followed until a decade later by the second such wine, Opus One, and Insignia has remained the benchmark of this category for over a quarter century.
Insignia is an opulent wine of concentration, complexity and structure, with a superb balance of finely tuned acidity and dense, velvety tannins. Cassis, liquorice and spice are abundant on the palate, with notes of eucalyptus and earth. The finish is sweet, elegant and extended.
Wine maker notes
Grapes from each vineyard are vinified in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, in contact with the skins, over an average period of 21 days. After malolactic fermentation, the blend is assembled within six month of harvest and aged approximately two years in new French oak barrels. The wine is then given a light filtration before bottling.
In the late 60s, Joseph Phelps was running one of the largest construction companies in the U.S. when he won the bid to build Souverain Winery (now Rutherford Hill) located a few miles outside of St. Helena. Enamored with the beautiful Napa Valley and contemplating a career change, in 1973 he bought the 600-acre Connolly cattle ranch in Spring Valley, and began planting vineyards. The winery was completed in 1974 and that same year the first Syrah was made, the first grapes were crushed at the new facility and the first Insignia was produced. It was a period of unparalleled activity, creativity, ingenuity, entrepreneurship and risk-taking and it put Joe Phelps on the map of top Napa Valley wine producers.
Nearly four decades later, the flagship wine, Insignia, is recognized as one of the world’s great wines. Twenty nine of 34 vintages have been rated ninety or more points by various wine publications. The 2002 vintage was awarded “Wine of the Year” by Wine Spectator Magazine. Over the years, the goal of becoming 100% estate grown resulted in carefully planned acquisitions of prime vineyards in the Napa Valley. Today, the Phelps estate consists of the Spring Valley Home Ranch outside of St. Helena, Banca Dorada in Rutherford, Las Rocas and Barboza vineyards in Stags Leap, Yountville Vineyard in Oak Knoll, Suscol Vineyard in South Napa and Backus Vineyard in Oakville.