Press Reviews
Press Reviews
★ 93 Points - Antonio Galloni's Vinous

Dark red cherries, tobacco and new leather wrap around the palate in the 2012 Pinot Noir Freestone Vineyards. A wine of presence and nuance, the 2012 stands out for its symmetry and overall sense of balance. I very much like the delineation and energy here. The Freestone is a blend of fruit from Quarter Moon (60%) and Pastorale (40%). It shows beautifully next to those wines, despite a significant difference in price. This is the hidden jewel in the range, there is little doubt about that.

★ (90-92) Points - The Wine Advocate

Its saturated dark ruby color is followed by abundant notes of Asian spices, strawberries, cherries, a hint of underbrush and a medium-bodied, rich mouthfeel with good acidity, but no oak poking through. Consume over the next 5-7 years. 

★ 3 Stars - The Press Democrat

Delicious tangy fruit, herbs and white pepper. Great acid, with a crisp finish. Striking.

★ 90+ Points - Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar

Good dark red with ruby tones. Dark aromas of plum, cassis and bitter chocolate, lifted by a pungent violet note. Not a fleshy style but pristine and vibrant, offering flavors of blackberry, spices and licorice pastille. Finishes with very good length and perfume but this wine really needs another year or so in the bottle to express its personality. 

★ 94 Points - PinotFile

Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. The nose is complex and persistent with hi-tone aromas of dark cherry, blackberry, forest floor, spice and red licorice. A seamless wine with serious extract of black raspberry and blackberry fruits nicely accented with spice and oak. The finish is remarkably intense, leaving quite an impression. Probably the most concentrated Pinot Noir ever from this very cool locale, yet displays the cool-climate vibrancy to support the fruit load. A beauty that will attract many fans.

★ 92 points - California Grapevine

Medium ruby with a purplish tinge; attractive, forward, deep, moderately intense, ripe black cherry fruit aroma with a hint of mocha; medium to medium-full body; rich, deep, firmly structured, red fruit flavors with some herbal notes and bright acidity; medium to medium-full tannin; lingering aftertaste. Shows good aging potential, deserving to be laid down for another three to five more years. Very highly recommended.

★ 92 Points - WineReviewOnline.com

This Joseph Phelps Pinot Noir offers a rich, layered palate that shows a complex array of red and black fruit aromas, earthy minerality, and excellent persistence through the finish. It finishes with a bit of heat on the back end, but otherwise this is a well-balanced, beautiful Pinot.

★ 92 Points - International Wine Cellar

Intensely flavored and creamy but not terribly sweet, thanks to a strong saline component and bracing finishing acidity. Like a liquid confection in the mouth... Finishes salty, tactile and very long, with a strong impression of solidity.

★ 92 Points - The Tasting Panel

A late-harvest Scheurebe with pure acidity and notes of vanilla wafers and shortbread; juicy and fresh, long and elegant.

★ 90 Points - Antonio Galloni's Vinous

Green apples, pears, mint, melon and white flowers all take shape in the 2012 Eisrébe, 100% Scheurebe from estate-owned vineyards. This pretty, perfumed sweet white is best enjoyed on its own or with fruit based desserts.

★ (91-93) Points - Antonio Galloni's Vinous

The 2012 Chardonnay Freestone Vineyards impresses for its cut, energy and tension. Lemon, white flowers, mint and crushed rocks are all very much alive in a wine that impresses for its vivid flavors and pure sense of mineral drive. I tasted the 2012 from tank just prior to bottling. 

★ (91-94) Points - The Wine Advocate

More tropical in nature, it is a juicy white displaying notes of pineapples, apricot marmalade, wet gravel and a hint of honeyed citrus. With crisp acids, a medium to full-bodied mouthfeel and a long finish, it can be drunk over the next 5-6 years. 

★ 92 Points - Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar

Inviting aromas of musky orange oil and hazelnutty, sulfidey lees. Savory and aromatic in the mouth, with vibrant acidity giving shape to the viscous mid-palate. Peach and spice flavors are complicated by minerals and earth. Finishes strong and perfumed. An excellent showing.

★ 93 Points - PinotFile

Light golden yellow color in the glass. A knockout nose features bright, fresh aromas of apple, yellow grapefruit, lemon zest and ocean air. Delicious and refreshing, with flavors of lemon curd, grapefruit, gooseberry and a hint of toasty oak. The finish is alive with lemon-driven, stony acidity and lasts and lasts. Bring on the oysters.

★ 4 Stars "A Standout" - The Press Democrat

This is a gorgeous Chardonnay with great complexity. Rich, with aromas and flavors of stone fruit, lemon, crème brûlée and brioche. Lingering finish. A standout. 

★ 90 Points - California Grapevine

Medium-light golden yellow; attractive, earthy, citrussy, pear and apple aroma; medium-full body; crisp, lemony, pear and apple flavors with complimenting, well integrated oak; lingering aftertaste. Well balanced and deserving a few more years of bottle aging. Very highly recommended. 

★ 90 Points, 1 Star - Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine

It has plenty of tactile presence, and both its aromas and flavors smack of citrus, toast, green apples and roasted nuts without being overtly fruity.

★ 96 Points - WineReviewOnline.com

The purchase of Freestone Vineyards some years ago was a stroke of genius by Phelps, allowing the Napa Valley winery to stretch itself with a serious peek into the world of Burgundian-style Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Almost since its inception the Phelps Chardonnays from the Freestone Vineyards have ranked among the finest in California, and this 2012 is no exception. It possesses that rare combination of power and elegance, with layered complexity, mouth-filling texture and, most important, backbone. This vintage exhibits aromas of lemon oil and spice, with mouth-watering acidity and a long, persistent finish.

★ 94 points, Cellar Selection - The Wine Enthusiast

Made from estate-grown fruit near the chilly Sonoma Coast town of Freestone, this is a fully layered wine, expertly balanced in acidity yet offering plenty of full-figured mouthfeel and viscous pleasure. It delivers an electric mix of Meyer lemon, minerals and brioche, and will please a diverse range of palates. –V.B.

★ 90 Points - Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate

The 2011 Pinot Noir Quarter Moon Vineyard reveals notes of charcuterie, cherry jam and hints of raspberries and lavender. This rich, medium to full-bodied, strong 2011 should drink nicely for 5-6 years.

★ 95 Points, Cellar Selection - The Wine Enthusiast

Credit the cool vintage for this Pinot's mouthwatering acidity. The wine is rich but pristine with fruit, a testament to Phelps' superb viticultural practices and attention to detail at the sorting table. It's dry and crisp, yet rich and delicious, with flavors of strawberry and raspberry jam, rosehip tea and cedar. The tannins give the wine a velvety grip. As good as it is now; it would be a shame not to cellar it. 

★ 91+ - International Wine Cellar

Good bright red with ruby highlights, the darkest of these three 2011 pinots. Highly spicy aromas of licorice and black tea. Savory and quite dry, with salty minerality currently holding the upper hand over dark berries. Gained sweetness and pliancy with aeration but this is in a much more muscular style than the Pastorale. 

★ 93 Points - International Wine Cellar

Good dark, bright red. Sexy nose combines crushed cherry, cranberry, brown spices and earthly undertones, plus some smoky oak. Sweeter, deeper and lusher than the regular Sonoma Coast bottling, with the bracing cherry and raspberry fruit flavors accented by pepper, cola and dusty herbs. At once sappy and generous, boasting excellent mid=palate lift. Finishes dry and broad, with terrific peppery persistence. 

★ 93 Points, Cellar Selection - The Wine Enthusiast

The vineyard is located in the western part of Sonoma County, near the little town of Freestone. The cool 2011 vintage lends mouthwatering acidity to the wine, brightening flavors of red apples, pomegranates and persimmons. Right now, it's juvenile and tight, with primary fruits that are unintegrated with oak. Give it at least eight years in the cellar, and it could be going strong at the age of fifteen. 

★ 93 Points - Antonio Galloni's Vinous

Just as beautiful in bottle as it was from barrel, the 2011 Pinot Noir Pastorale has developed beautifully over the last year. Silky on the palate yet wonderfully exotic in its flavors, the 2011 impresses for its balance and class. Orange peel, star anise and spices add nuance to the bright, cranberry-inflected fruit. This gracious, utterly impeccable Pinot is simply striking today. 

★ 93 Points, Cellar Selection - The Wine Enthusiast

The parts haven't fully come together yet in this age able wine. It has mouthwatering acidity and vastly complex flavors, ranging from ripe heirloom tomatoes, cola, pomegranates and cranberries, to ripe cherries and red currants. With flavors of oak and some hard tannins, it’s a natural for the cellar. Hold for at least six years.

★ 91 Points - Antonio Galloni's Vinous

The flavors are bright and expressive, while the savory notes typical of the cool year are very much evident, particularly some of the gamier nuances that have always been a part of this wine.

★ 91 Points - Decanter

Fresh, vibrant, cherry nose. Good attack, intense and lively, quite oaky but lacy, poised and long. Drink 2014-2020. 17.5 (91)

★ (90-93) Points - Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate

Its deep ruby/purple color is followed by sweet aromas of bouquet garni, mint, red and black currants, tobacco leaf and licorice, and a surprisingly intense, full-bodied mouthfeel with more richness and intensity than I would have expected from this vintage. It is also precocious and can be drunk upon release or cellared for 15 or more years.

★ (93-95) Points - Antonio Galloni's Vinous

The 2011 Insignia is showing beautifully today. The cool vintage has given the 2011 distinctively European leanings in both the flavors and structure. At the same time, there is tons of energy and pure vibrancy in the glass.

★ 92 Points - JamesSuckling.com

A balanced, delicious Insignia for early drinking. Aromas of currants, blueberries and licorice follow through to a full to medium body, fine tannins and a clean finish. Yummy. Drink or hold. 

★ 91 Points - Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar

Nicely perfumed nose offers scents of currant, plum, tobacco, mocha and dark chocolate. Plush and sweet on the palate... there's plenty of texture and depth here. Dark berry flavors are complicated by subtle tobacco leaf, menthol and dried herb nuances. Finishes plummy and sweet, with big building tannins and lots of sexy oak...

★ 93 Points - Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate

From the best block of the Freestone Vineyard, the 2011 Chardonnay Pastorale sees slightly more new oak (55%). This Corton-Charlemagne-like white wine reveals lots of wet stone, citrus oil, white peach and apple blossom notes with the wood component well-concealed, a rich, medium to full-bodied style, and a nicely layered finish that builds incrementally.

★ 92 Points - International Wine Cellar

More floral on the nose than the basic Freestone Vineyards release, offering flamboyant aromas of candied peach, apricots, nutmeg and clove. I like this wine's restrained sweetness and tactile finish. 

★ 93 Points - Antonio Galloni's Vinous

Volume and textural richness are the signatures of the 2011 Chardonnay Pastorale Vineyard. Layers of flavor build as the wine continues to open up in the glass. Today, the 2011 in nuanced, resonant and utterly impeccable in its balance. 

★ Forbes.com

These grapes grow a mere five miles from the Pacific Ocean, so ripeing is always edgy. Delightful nose of lemon cream and tropical fruits with an almost juicy, savory acidity on the palate followed by a rich and lasting finish. Knockout tasty. 

★ 94 Points - The Wine Enthusiast

The vineyard is in Freestone, a corner of southwestern Sonoma open to the cool maritime influence. The wine is brisk in acidity, and also pretty oaky, after spending more than a year in 60% new French barrels and 40% slightly older ones. But beyond the acidity and oak, you’ll find rich tropical fruit, apricot and orange flavors, wrapped into an ultraclean, vibrant mouthfeel, with mineral accents. -S.H.

★ 93 Points - Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate

Like all the Phelps Chardonnays and Pinots, the 2011 Chardonnay Freestone Vineyard went through a complete malolactic fermentation, and was aged in 40% new French oak for 13 months. It offers a steely minerality as well as abundant white currant, quince and citrus oil characteristics, medium body, wonderful intensity, and a complete, satisfying texture and mouthfeel.

★ 94 Points and #62 Top 100 Cellar Selections of 2013 - The Wine Enthusiast

What a roll Phelps has been on these past few cool vintages in this, its far Sonoma Coast vineyard. The wine is bright in mouthwatering acidity, and tantalizing, with a subtle vein of lime, golden mango, orange zest and honeysuckle. Firm minerals are enriched by toasty oak. The alcohol is moderate. As delicious as this wine is, it should develop nicely over the next 5-6 years. 

★ 92 Points - Antonio Galloni's Vinous

Today the 2011 Chardonnay Freestone Vineyards is quite a bit more exotic than it was a year ago. Sweet floral, honey and almond notes are beginning to develop in bottle, adding considerable nuance. Nectarine and apricot overtones flesh out on the inviting finish. This is a terrific showing for the 2011. 

★ 92 Points - Antonio Galloni's Vinous

The 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon emerges from the glass with mocha, tobacco, grilled herbs, smoke, licorice, incense and orange peel. An exotic, layered wine, the 2011 impresses for its length and pure persistence. The style is that of a cold year, which means the tannins are a bit firm and in need of further bottle age. This is a beautiful wine for the year, but also in its own right.

★ 91 Points - JamesSuckling.com

Aromas of terrcotta, clay, red earth, cocoa and berry. Full body with round, velvety tannins and a juicy finish. Very well done for 2011. Better in 2016.

★ Recommended - San Francisco Chronicle

A more vibrant style than I've tasted from Phelps in a while. Evocative of years past - and at more than 15,000 cases harvested from all over Napa, a sign of quality at scale. It's smoky, almost meaty, in its aromas, with lots of fresh plum and coffee. Well-suited to the vintage.

★ 92 Points - Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate

The 2010 Syrah Larry Hyde & Sons Vineyard wraps around the palate with deep, expressive black olives, cracked black pepper and spices. This is a decidedly ripe, fleshy wine but more on overt fruit rather than varietal character, but it is quite pretty just the same. The aromas and flavors retain significant purity throughout. 

★ 91 Points - International Wine Cellar

Exhilarating, sweet aromas of black raspberry, bacon fat and flowers reminded me of Cote-Rotie. Then fleshy and savory in the mouth, with lovely concentration to the dark berry and musky truffle flavors. Finishes with a serious spine of tannins but has the stuffing to balance it.

★ 90 Points - The Wine Spectator

Firm, dense and tightly wound, with drying tannins and a crushed rock edge to the beefy dried berry, sage and cedary oak flavors. Begs for cellaring. 

★ 92 Points & Cellar Selection - The Wine Enthusiast

Phelps’ basic 2010 Napa Syrah is good, but this single-vineyard bottling is considerably richer. It’s immense with flavors of Bing cherries, red currants, mocha and sandalwood, along with hints of bacon and black pepper. The tannins are such that you want to age it for about six years. Cellar Selection

★ 92 Points - Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate

The savory aromatics resemble those of the Pastorale, while the richness of the fruit has more similarities with the Freestone. It all adds up to another expressive, layered Pinot.

★ Robb Report Cellar Recommendation - The Robb Report

Silky in texture, the wine has a bouquet laced with notes of attar of rose, dried cherry, and espresso. The bright acids enliven its complex flavors of fresh cherry, pomegranate, cardamom, cinnamon, and anise.

★ 95 Points - Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate

The stunning 2010 Insignia, which is now in bottle, was made from 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot and the rest Merlot and Malbec. A gorgeously intense bouquet of lead pencil shavings, spring flowers, black currants, blackberries, and subtle smoke and foresty aromas jumps from the glass of this full-bodied, rich, concentrated wine with soft tannins, a multidimensional mouthfeel, and a long, rich finish displaying well-integrated acidity, tannin, alcohol and wood. This beauty is one of the top Insignias produced over recent years.

★ 94+ Points - International Wine Cellar

Captivating violet lift to the aromas of cassis, minerals, bitter chocolate, licorice and sexy oak... Boasts lovely clarity and lifts to its dark fruit, minerals and bitter chocolate flavors. Finishes with a serious brace of tongue-dusting tannins and outstandingly subtle, juicy persistence. A brilliant showing considering it was bottled just a month prior to my visit. 

★ 94 Points, Spectator Collectible Selection - The Wine Spectator

Firm, dense and deeply concentrated, this offers a powerful thrust of flavors, with mocha- and espresso-laced blackberry, black licorice and cedar notes, revving up on the finish. Pure, driven and persistent, this seems set for a long life. Best to cellar. Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot and Malbec. Best from 2015 through 2028.

★ 96 Points - WineReviewOnline.com

Insignia, a gloriously suave Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot and Malbec, remains one of Napa Valley's most acclaimed wines. And with good reason judging from the 2010. An explosive wine, its glossy texture is all the more amazing considering the wine's concentration and power. You know you are in for a treat with the first whiff as you pour. The panoply of aromas follows onto the palate. Long and layered, it is remarkably approachable now, though its impeccable balance means it will develop beautifully over a decade or so. Wow!

★ 96+ Points - Antonio Galloni's Vinous

Dark plums, graphite, pencil shavings, smoke and licorice all jump from the glass... The tannins are sweet, layered and impeccably balanced, which makes me think the 2010 will enjoy a long drinking window once it softens. The 2010 is a beautiful, silky Insignia, but it needs time. Drinking window: 2018-2030

★ 97 Points & Cellar Selection - The Wine Enthusiast

This is, as always, a gorgeous wine, rich, balanced and delicious. It shows classic Napa Valley ripeness, with blackberry jam, plum, dark chocolate and sweet oak flavors. Plush and velvety doesn’t begin to do it justice. Despite it’s fabulous lushness, this is a wine to age. Depending on your taste, it will provide excellence from now until 2030.

★ 93 Points - JamesSuckling.com

Aromas of blueberries, chocolate and licorice follow through to a full body, with soft tannins and a fresh finish. This is a luscious, delicious Joseph Phelps Insignia. Harmonies and forward now. Drink now or hold.