Fall-Winter 2012

Welcome back to the Joseph Phelps Vineyards Spring Valley Times! We look forward to bringing you news from our Napa Valley and Sonoma Coast wineries with Fall-Winter and Spring-Summer editions on an annual basis. 

Joseph Phelps 40th Napa Valley harvest picking on August 28, 2012.

2012 Marks The 40th Joseph Phelps Vineyards Napa Valley Harvest

The building excitement for our 40th Napa Valley harvest throughout the growing season culminated on August 28th when the vineyard team picked over 13 tons of Sauvignon Blanc at the Spring Valley Ranch. It was a perfect morning, clear skies and cool temperatures as the sun rose in the East. The first truck of fruit arrived at the winery’s original crush pad (now the Guest Center) at approximately 9:30 a.m. for a traditional blessing of the grapes led by Bill Phelps and Damian Parker. Long-term employees were singled out for their many years of service, including German Corro “The Maestro” (1974), Constantino Corro (1975), Evelyne Deis (1975), Miguel Loyola (1981), Nino De Rivera Anuar (1981), Damian Parker (1981), Hugo Corro (1982) and Bruce Beatty (1982).

 “I am honored to carry on this tradition that began with my father and our dedicated team in 1973,” said Bill Phelps just prior to a sparkling wine toast attended by Joseph Phelps staff.

Director of Winemaking, Damian Parker, a thirty-one year veteran at Joseph Phelps Vineyards, had this historical harvest perspective, “Every harvest is different, yet when a milestone year comes up like this one, it reconfirms in my mind the commitment by the Phelps family to making great wine. Someone asked me what were my most memorable harvests, and really, they all are. Every year brings something new and exciting, whether it’s a new challenge in the vineyard, the weather not cooperating, or a new piece of equipment to master. It all becomes part of the history, the legacy we have been entrusted to carry on. I’m honored to be a part of this team each day.”

In the following weeks, Viognier was picked at both the Spring Valley estate and the Larry Hyde & Sons Vineyard in Carneros and our first red grapes were picked on September 28th at Backus Vineyard in Oakville. The final pick day was on October 29th at our Banca Dorada Vineyard in Rutherford.

“Overall flavors came out of the fermentations faster than recent vintages with more flashy fruit characteristics and roundness on the palate. The Syrah’s are lush with classic white pepper notes and beautiful seamless texture.  2012 Insignia is looking to be exceptional. I am anticipating all five Bordeaux varietals to be included in the blend, like in 2011.  Each of these varieties had great quality this year.  Weather was on our side this year, allowing flavor development and concentration in each vineyard and each block of every variety to show very well,” noted Winemaker, Ashley Hepworth.

The last tanks were drained and pressed by the end of November, finishing up an extraordinarily successful 40th Napa Valley harvest at Joseph Phelps Vineyards.


Our 2012 Joseph Phelps Vineyards Sonoma Coast Harvest

The Freestone team gathered for a blessing of the grapes. 

The 2012 Joseph Phelps Vineyards Sonoma Coast harvest at our Freestone winery was equally spectacular to our efforts in Napa Valley. The growing season was blessed with warm days and cool nights for ample ripening of the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. Fruit was able to hang until acid and sugar levels were ideal without the hindrance of poor weather conditions looming on the horizon. The first Pinot Noir blocks were picked on September 12th at the Pastorale Vineyard followed by a blessing of the grapes led by Bill Phelps and Damian Parker.

Picking continued most mornings at Pastorale or Quarter Moon Vineyard for the next month. The final blocks of Pinot Noir were picked on October 13th and the final Chardonnay grapes arrived at the crush pad on October 15th.

Assistant Winemaker, Justin Ennis, observed, “At this point, the Pinot Noirs have started their malolactic fermentations and nearly all of the Chardonnays have completed primary fermentation. In tasting the Pinots from barrel, the quality seems to be excellent at this early stage. We have very high quality wine to work with from the 2012 vintage.”

“We had a great crew this year. Everyone worked so well as a team. I couldn't be happier with the results,” said Director of Winemaking, Damian Parker.



The First Vineyard Designate Syrah From Joseph Phelps Vineyards

Fall 2012 marked the release of our first-ever vineyard designate Syrah, sourced from the Larry Hyde & Sons Vineyard located in the Carneros sub-appellation of Napa Valley. We began working with this vineyard in 2009 and starting with the 2011 vintage, it is under a long-term estate vineyard contract.

This new wine continues the Phelps Syrah legacy that began nearly forty years ago with the first varietal Syrah bottling in California since the pre-prohibition era. Produced from the 1974 vintage, our first Syrah was sourced from a Christian Brothers vineyard on Zinfandel Lane. This vineyard was the one remaining French Syrah planting left in California from the 1935 experimental propagation by Professor Harold Olmo of the University of California at Davis. Christian Brothers had traditionally blended the Syrah with other red varieties, never bottling Syrah separately. Phelps has produced Syrah in every vintage since 1974, sourcing from both estate and grower fruit in Napa Valley, Los Carneros or Monterey County.

The Larry Hyde & Sons Vineyard is comprised of clay loam soil from the Haire series and situated on a hilly vein of old terraces with close proximity to the marine influence of the San Pablo Bay. It receives morning fog and mild afternoon temperatures for a long, even growing season. The vineyard was planted in 2001 and 2006 and field budded with a variety of Syrah and Viognier selections. The five acres of Syrah will be used exclusively for the Phelps Larry Hyde & Sons Vineyard Syrah bottling while the two acres of Viognier will be blended with Viognier planted at the Spring Valley St. Helena estate to produce our Napa Valley Viognier. Additional information about this vineyard is available Here, and to learn more about the 2009 Joseph Phelps Syrah, Larry Hyde & Sons Vineyard, please visit our Current Release Wines on the website.


Holiday Entertaining

Entertaining during the holiday season is a fun and festive way to catch-up with friends and family over delicious food and wine. We recently asked Chef Allie Wolfe Phelps to create the ultimate holiday party recipe to pair with Insignia. This version of Beef Sliders with Creamy Goat Cheese and Crispy Fried Shallots will undoubtedly be a big hit at your next event. The sliders are equally delicious when paired with Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, if you choose to save the Insignia for another occasion. Enjoy!


Fall Releases

2009 Joseph Phelps Insignia, Napa Valley
83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Petit Verdot and 4% Malbec from 100% estate-grown Napa Valley vineyards. The 2009 Insignia has a beautiful deep garnet hue with incredible depth and concentration. Aromas of freshly crushed blueberries and blackberries intertwined with baking spices, cigar box and attractive floral notes are followed by seamless tannins, texture and finish. This wine is focused and fresh, with a youthful showiness.

2009 Joseph Phelps Syrah, Napa Valley

100% Syrah from the Hyde Vineyard. The 2009 Syrah is deeply colored and has heady aromatics of blueberry syrup, plum, vanilla cream, hints of gardenia, spicy white pepper and nutmeg. Layers of fruit, and sweet, well-structured tannins finish this wine brilliantly

2009 Joseph Phelps Syrah, Larry Hyde & Sons Vineyard, Napa Valley

100% Syrah from the Larry Hyde & Sons Vineyard in Carneros. The first vineyard designate Syrah produced by Joseph Phelps Vineyards. The inky, bold color of this wine paves the way for beautiful classic Syrah aromas of white pepper, licorice, allspice and marshmallow. The seamless and complex finish is layered with silky, lush tannins and lingers on the palate as it continues to evolve.

2009 Joseph Phelps Cabernet Sauvignon, Backus Vineyard, Oakville, Napa Valley SOLD OUT
100% estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignon from our Backus Vineyard. This wine shows classic Oakville graphite, forest floor and dark fruit characteristics with an elegant tannin structure. Beautiful, creamy texture and minerality showcase the dark plum, blueberry and cassis flavors with notes of violet and allspice that follow through to a long, smooth finish.


Recent Press Accolades

2009 Joseph Phelps Insignia, Napa Valley
96 points
, "This wine continues a long-standing tradition, showing a mastery of the art of blending. Right out of the bottle, it's a soft, smoothly tannic wine that's rich in blackberry jam, black currant, blueberry, raspberry, dark chocolate and spice flavors." -Wine Enthusiast, Dec. 31, 2012

2010 Joseph Phelps Chardonnay, Freestone Vineyards, Sonoma Coast
92 points, "Pure, clean and focused on snappy green apple, floral, honeysuckle and mineral flavors. The sheer vibrancy gives this a unique personality, ending with a long, mineral-laced finish." -Wine Spectator, May 2012

94 points, "Bone dry, minerally and brisk in mouthwatering acidity, this has subtle yet rich flavors of tropical fruit, citrus, green apple and honey." -Wine Enthusiast, Oct. 2012

2009 Joseph Phelps Syrah, Larry Hyde & Sons Vineyard, Napa Valley
93 points, "This wine, which is from the Napa side of the sprawling Carneros appellation, is superb. It’s soft, rich and chocolaty, with a rich vein of ripe blackberries, but it also has a tannic structure and dry finish that make it balanced and complex." -Wine Enthusiast, June 2012

2010 Joseph Phelps Pinot Noir, Freestone Vineyards, Sonoma Coast (Releasing January 2013)
93 points
, "This shows the power and purity of the winery's coastal Pastorale and Quarter Moon vineyards, in this cool vintage that allowed for long hang time. It's very fine, complex and enjoyable now." -Wine Enthusiast, Dec. 31, 2012

New Faces at Joseph Phelps Vineyards

A number of talented individuals joined Joseph Phelps Vineyards in 2012. New to our Napa Valley Wine Educator staff are Tom Miller, Zane Griffiths, Logan Smyser and Gary Geiger. Their friendly hospitality and extensive wine knowledge strengthen our fantastic guest center team. Added to our outside Sales efforts in California is Will Phelps (grandson of winery found Joe Phelps and son of winery President Bill Phelps), who is the second member of his generation to join Phelps, following the appointment of his cousin Elizabeth Neuman in 2011. Desi Rigdon is our new Events Coordinator who helped to create the hugely successful Phelps Preferred 40th Harvest Dinner in October. Lastly, Richard De Haro joined our Napa Valley Cellar Specialist team prior to this year's milestone harvest.

Left to right, top row: Tom Miller, Zane Griffiths, Logan Smyser, Gary Geiger, Will Phelps. Bottom row: Desi Rigdon, Richard De Haro.

Upcoming Events

Be sure to visit our Events calendar for upcoming dinners and wine festivals in your area. Also, don't forget to join us each Second Sunday of the month at our Joseph Phelps Freestone Vineyards Guest Center in the coastal hamlet of Freestone, where we host something special each second Sunday of the month, from wine and food pairings to live music and art shows paired with our new tasting menu that includes both Sonoma Coast and Napa Valley wines from Joseph Phelps.

We look forward to seeing you in 2013 as we celebrate our 40th Anniversary!