Spring-Summer 2013

2013 marks the fortieth anniversary of Joseph Phelps Vineyards! From Insignia retrospective tastings with internationally renowned wine writers, to hosting a two-night sold-out Phelps Preferred Spring Dinner with Chez Panisse, our biggest and best Insignia Weekend ever in May, and raising $490,000 for our local Napa charities during this year's Auction Napa Valley in June, 2013 has already afforded us a multitude of opportunities to celebrate Joe Phelps and the extraordinary wines of Joseph Phelps Vineyards. Cheers to the next forty years!

The future site of Joseph Phelps Vineyards (March, 1973). 

Joseph Phelps Vineyards Celebrates 40th Anniversary

Joe Phelps first visited Napa Valley in the late 1960’s when his family’s firm, Hensel Phelps Construction Company was commissioned to build the Souverain Winery (now Rutherford Hill). After an extensive land search, Phelps purchased a 600-acre former cattle ranch from Pat Connolly in March, 1973. Grape contracts, vineyard planting and winery construction quickly followed with founding winemaker Walter Schug. The 1973 harvest consisted of Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Johannisburg Riesling grapes, all custom crushed at nearby wineries. The Joseph Phelps winery was completed in time for the 1974 harvest, which yielded the grapes for the winery’s landmark first Syrah bottling along with the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot that would become the first Insignia blend.

Today, Joseph Phelps Vineyards remains a family-owned winery crafting estate-grown wines from 375 acres of vines on eight estate vineyards in St. Helena, Stags Leap District, Oakville, Rutherford, Oak Knoll District, Carneros and South Napa Valley.  In addition, Phelps produces Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from two estate vineyards on the Sonoma Coast near the town of Freestone, California. 

“We have so much to celebrate this year,” said Bill Phelps, President of Joseph Phelps Vineyards. “My father’s dream of starting a winery has more than exceeded our family’s expectations. The Joseph Phelps name and our flagship wine, Insignia, enjoy worldwide acclaim. This is a celebration of everything Joe and our dedicated team has worked for all these years.”

Joseph Phelps Vineyards, present day.

40th Anniversary Events

40th Anniversary Insignia Tastings
Joseph Phelps Vineyards took our 40th Anniversary Party "on the road" early this year. Bill Phelps was joined by Joe's granddaughter, Elizabeth Neuman, and distinguished wine media professionals at The NoMad Hotel in New York City for a twelve vintage tasting of Insignia, including the rare 1976, 1985 and 1991, to name just a few. We sincerely thank those who joined us that cold March day, as it was truly an afternoon we will cherish for many years to come. Recent articles about Joseph Phelps Vineyards from some of our guests that day includeElin McCoy for Bloomberg, Ed McCarthy for WineReviewOnline.com and Tyler Coleman (Dr. Vino) for WineSearcher.com. Additional photos from this event may be viewed Here. (Pictured: Bill Phelps & Jancis Robinson in NYC).
In late February, Mike McEvoy traveled to Vancouver, British Columbia to participate in the Vancouver International Wine Festival, where he ran into none other than Joseph Phelps founding winemaker, Walter Schug (pictured at right with Mike). In April, Mike hosted another 40th Anniversary Insignia tasting event for media in Montreal, Quebec. Finally, both Bill and Mike traveled to San Juan, Puerto Rico in early May to conduct a two-night complete Insignia vertical tasting, vintages 1974-2010. It was yet another event to remember!

Phelps Preferred Spring Dinner with Chez Panisse
Joe Phelps and Alice Waters have shared many a meal over the last forty years. Joseph Phelps Vineyards even produced the first Chez Panisse house wine, a 1975 Zinfandel. We were so pleased to welcome Chez Panisse Chef Samantha Greenwood and her team to Joseph Phelps for not one, but two, sold-out dinners, a first in Phelps history. The wines selected for the dinner included 1982 Joseph Phelps Cabernet Sauvignon, Eisele Vineyard, 1991 Cabernet Sauvignon, Backus Vineyard, both the 2002 and 2005 Insignia, and the 1979 Joseph Phelps Johannisberg Riesling, Selected Late Harvest for the dessert course pairing. It was a weekend of food, wine and conversation we will never forget. To see photos from the dinners, please visit this Photo Album link. Additionally, read more about the dinner in Pig Blog and Examiner.com

Insignia Weekend
The 40th Anniversary Insignia Weekend Celebration was by far the biggest and best gathering of Phelps Preferred members, to date. The three day celebration, highlighted by barrel samples of 2011 Insignia and large format library vintages of both Insignia and Cabernet Sauvignon, Backus Vineyard, paired with a delicious array of local artisan foods, live music and warm sunshine, set the stage for a perfect weekend. Thank you to everyone who joined us in celebrating our 40th Anniversary. We invite you to view the 2013 Insignia Weekend photo gallery HERE. Also, visit Wine Discoveries blog for a recap of the festivities. 

Auction Napa Valley - Joseph Phelps Raises $490,000 For Local Charities
Auction Napa Valley has given over $110 million to local Napa County charities since its humble beginnings in 1981. Joseph Phelps Vineyards proudly donates to this auction each year. To mark our 40th Anniversary, the winery honored Joe Phelps and all that he has accomplished at Joseph Phelps Vineyards.
The weekend began with a Joseph Phelps 40th Anniversary Pig Roast & BBQ for select Auction attendees on Thursday, May 30th, followed by the Barrel Auction & Marketplace on Friday and the Live Auction on Saturday, June 1st. The Joseph Phelps Vineyards 40th Anniversary Extravaganza Live Auction Lot #28 contained 40 bottles of Phelps wine, one from each of the first forty vintages (1973-2012), a trip to Italy with hosts Bill & Andrea Phelps, that will include an exclusive experience with the Gaja family at their Barbaresco estate, and to round things out, a private dinner back in Napa Valley prepared by celebrity chef, Michael Chiarello, at the Joseph Phelps St. Helena estate. Bidding in the Live Auction tent was incredibily generous all afternoon. When the gavel fell on lot #28, the staggering final bid was $450,000, the fifth highest bid of the afternoon behind Screaming Eagle, Harlan, Dana and the Fund In Need lots, respectively. Additionally, the Joseph Phelps Barrel Auction and E-Auction lots both finished in the top ten.
Auction Napa Valley raised a record $16.9 million for healthcare and youth education nonprofits in Napa County this year. Such an achievement could not have happened without the generosity of the auction attendees, our fellow vintners, the Napa Valley Vintner staff, volunteers and this year's Auction Napa Valley Honorary Chairs, the Staglin Family. See additional Auction Napa Valley photos HERE.

Replanting at Backus Vineyard in Oakville

In April, we embarked on a small replanting project at Backus Vineyard. Just over three acres of the remaining old vine Cabernet Sauvignon at the property were removed for replanting. We spoke with Director of Vineyard Operations, Phillippe Pessereau, about this project.

Joseph Phelps Vineyards: Phillippe, tell us a little about the section of Backus Vineyard being replanted?
Phillippe Pessereau: We are replanting 3.2 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon that were originally planted in 1975. The vineyard will have 17 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon (down from 20 acres) along with one acre each of Malbec and Petit Verdot for the time being.

JPV: Is this the first significant replanting at Backus?
PP: No, we actually replanted the entire section around the smoke house in 1999, updating vine spacing and row direction to East-West, following more closely to the sun’s movement across the sky each day. We are eager to do the same thing with this last original vineyard section at Backus. It will be planted very similarly to the section right above it on the hillside.

JPV: What is the approximate timetable for the replant?
PP: Well, we pulled the vines in mid-April and started investigating the soil contents soon after to help with our replanting plans. 2013 is all about cleaning the section and prepping for the rootstock planting in 2014. With Mother Nature’s permission, the newly planted vineyard will likely see its first harvest in 2017. 


Spring-Summer 2013 Releases

2012 Joseph Phelps Sauvignon Blanc, St. Helena, Napa Valley
100% Sauvignon Blanc from our Spring Valley vineyard in St. Helena. The 2012 Sauvignon Blanc opens with aromas of honeysuckle, Meyer lemon zest and notes of pear and jasmine, with underlying minerality that follows through perfectly to the palate. The wine is focused with flavors of lemon meringue, key lime and a hint of green pineapple leading to a balanced finish with beautiful acidity and a creamy texture.

2011 Joseph Phelps Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast
100% Chardonnay from our Freestone Vineyards on the Sonoma Coast. This Chardonnay opens with a bright bouquet overflowing with apple, honeysuckle, white flower and Meyer lemon zest laced with notes of crushed rock and toasted Brioche. Fresh and lively with balanced minerality and a creamy texture, the wine boasts tart green apple, lemon custard and honeydew melon flavors throughout. 

2011 Joseph Phelps Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast
00% Pinot Noir from our Freestone Vineyards (59% Pastorale Vineyard and 41% Quarter Moon Vineyard) on the Sonoma Coast. Bright cherry, cranberry, currant and sweet baking spice aromas leap from the glass followed by notes of blackberry, white pepper, cassis and rose petals. A rich, full mouth feel paves the way for concentrated raspberry and Bing cherry along with Freestone’s characteristic tangerine peel. 

2011 Joseph Phelps Viognier, Napa Valley (limited availability)
100% Viognier from our Spring Valley vineyard in St. Helena. The 2011 Viognier has vibrant aromas of apricot, Meyer lemon zest, orange blossom, candied ginger and hints of jasmine and gardenia. The palate is a symphony of bright acidity and stone fruit with an underlying unctuous texture. Supple and generous, the lingering finish is kissed with honey.

Recent Press Accolades

2009 Joseph Phelps Insignia, Napa Valley
95 points, "A gorgeous, totally voluptuous wine, the 2009 Insignia bursts from the glass with exuberant blue and black fruit, grilled herbs, cloves and cassis." -A.G., Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate, Dec. 2012.

2010 Joseph Phelps Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
94 points, "The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon is beautiful. The 2010 possesses stunning textural depth and richness, not to mention phenomenal overall balance." -A.G., Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate, Dec. 2012

91 points, "Sweet and pliant in the mouth, with currant and black cherry fruit flavors complicated by tobacco, herbs and spicy oak." -Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, May 2013

2011 Joseph Phelps Pinot Noir, Freestone Vineyards, Sonoma Coast
(90-92) points, "Gorgeous dark red cherries, savory herbs, licorice and mint are woven together in the 2011 Pinot Noir Freestone Vineyard. Wilder, gamier notes appear later, adding complexity on the inviting finish." -A.G., Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate, Feb. 2013

90 points, "Red berries, pungent brown spices, black tea and flowers on the nose, accented by peppery herbs. At once ripe and dry, offering moderate depth and complexity but excellent energy to the red fruit and spice flavors." -Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, May 2013

2011 Joseph Phelps Chardonnay, Freestone Vineyards, Sonoma Coast
(91-93) points, "Lemon, crushed rocks, pastry and white flowers take shape in a layered, vibrant Chardonnay that impresses for its intensity and persistence." -A.G., Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate, Feb. 2013

90 points, "Sappy aromas of peach, fresh apricot, tangerine and honey. Sappy, juicy and dry, offering considerable early appeal to its savory flavors of citrus and stone fruits and spices." -Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, May 2013

Warm Weather Recipes

We are pleased to share two new recipes with you from Joe's granddaughter, Molly Anderson. The first, Crab and Avocado Toasts, will serve as a delicious starter to any summer gathering, and the second, Wild Salmon with Herb Butter and Vegetables, would be a perfect meal on any evening with family and friends. Both recipes pair well with our Joseph Phelps Chardonnay, Freestone Vineyards. Enjoy!

Upcoming Events

Our Events Calendar is updated on a regular basis with upcoming events around the country. Be sure to also visit our Joseph Phelps, Freestone Vineyards Guest Center in Freestone for monthly Second Sunday events. We offer wine & food pairings in Freestone each second Sunday. Phelps Preferred members and up to three guests are invited to attend these events complimentary. We hope to see you this summer.

Joseph Phelps Vineyards 40th Anniversary Video