Spring-Summer 2014

Since our last newsletter, the Home Ranch in St. Helena has been a flurry of activity. First, our move to temporary spaces at the base of the hillside below the historic Guest Center in mid-January, followed by the initial renovation construction work that included the careful movement of the oak ovals for safekeeping along with selective demolition of interior walls and flooring throughout the winery building.

In February, we promoted one of our own, Justin Ennis, to Winemaker in Freestone, and said farewell to an original when Evelyne Deis retired at the end of March.

The 2014 growing season has absolutely flourished after a dry, mild winter followed by late spring rains to quench the parched earth. Frost was of no issue this year and we saw an early bud break and bloom, both were approximately two weeks ahead of normal. Our vineyard teams in both Napa Valley and Freestone are carefully monitoring shoot growth in all areas to keep the crop balanced as we move into the next crucial phase of the 2014 growing season. All indications thus far point to an early harvest. Our winemaking and vineyard teams aren't making any Labor Day weekend plans. Cheers to another year of spectacular wines!

If you are planning a visit to wine country this year, we look forward to hosting you at our Napa Valley Temporary Guest Center during our “Year in the Vines” or at our Sonoma Coast outpost in the hamlet of Freestone where we hold Second Sunday wine and food pairings on the second Sunday of each month.

Guest Center Renovation Update

The renovation construction site is a hub of activity and we are really seeing change within the Guest Center walls. Intricate steel beams framing the new Gallery Hall are in place, framing for the new kitchen has begun and general Terrace resurfacing are just some of the areas taking shape on the hillside. We invite you to visit our dedicated Renovation page on the winery's website for the latest construction news and updated architectural renderings. Stay tuned for further updates later this summer and we look forward to our Grand Re-Opening in Spring 2015. Above; artist's rendering (subject to change).

Backus Vineyard Replanting Update

In early April our vineyard team began preparations for replanting the three acres of land at Backus Vineyard that the team cleared after the 2012 harvest. In preparing the land for a replant, the team performed several "ripping" of the soil passes at a three foot depth in three different directions to remove large rocks and rootstock debris. Once the former vineyard debris was removed, trellis and irrigation lines were mapped out on the hillside in May. The actual replanting will begin toward the end of June and we expect this section of the vineyard to bear fruit again in 2017. Above; Backus Vineyard after one pass of soil ripping. Below; Laying out the vineyard posts.


Omar Perez Takes First Place In Napa County Pruning Contest
We often highlight our hardworking vineyard teams during harvest, but each new year brings the much anticipated Napa County Pruning Contest, hosted by the Napa Valley Grape Growers Association. This year's 1st Place Champion in the 13th Annual Napa County Pruning Contest was Joseph Phelps Vineyard Specialist, Omar Perez. His meticulous skills and speed bested over fifty other participants in this annual competition. Congratulations Omar! A job well done, as always.

Joseph Phelps Vineyards Promotes Justin Ennis to Winemaker in Freestone
At the end of February, Justin Ennis was promoted to Winemaker at our Freestone estate on the western Sonoma Coast. In his new role, Justin is responsible for all day-to-day winemaking activities at the Joseph Phelps Freestone winery, working closely with Vice President, Director of Winemaking, Damian Parker, in crafting all Sonoma Coast Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for Joseph Phelps Vineyards.

Justin joined the Joseph Phelps team in 2007 as Cellarmaster in Freestone, after nine years as Cellarmaster for William Selyem Winery in Healdsburg, as well as Harvest Supervisor and Cellarmaster for wineries in New Zealand and Argentina, respectively. In 2011, he was promoted to Assistant Winemaker in Freestone. 

“This is a well-deserved promotion for Justin. He has a strong background in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay production and understands the cool climate growing region of the western Sonoma Coast,” said Damian Parker. “He is a talented winemaker with a wealth of knowledge.”

“I feel very fortunate to be working with such amazing vineyards. Pastorale and Quarter Moon Vineyard have developed into magnificent fruit sources,” said Justin. “I couldn’t ask for a better team and look forward to continuing the Joseph Phelps winemaking legacy here on the Sonoma Coast.”

Join us in congratulating Justin and look for him at various wine events where Joseph Phelps Pinot and Chardonnay will be featured, including the upcoming West of West Wine Festival

Evelyne Deis Retires
Joseph Phelps Vineyards said farewell to an original this past March when Executive Assistant, Evelyne Deis, retired after thirty-eight years of exemplary service. Originally from Paris, France, Evelyne moved to Napa Valley in the fall of 1975 with her husband, Ken Deis, and was hired by Joe Phelps on December 15, 1975. Her job would consist of general day-to-day office tasks, as requested by Joe. In the early years, Evelyne had varied duties from receptionist, transcriber of dictation from Joe, order fulfillment, inventory tracking, bookkeeping and tour guide, to name just a few. Thank you, Evelyne, for your many years of dedication to Joseph Phelps Vineyards. You will be missed.

Exclusively Phelps Preferred Weekends
During our Year in the Vines, we decided to close the winery on four separate weekends in order to welcome our Phelps Preferred wine club members for Exclusively Phelps Preferred Weekends. Our first two events, held in March and April, were an opportunity for members to taste our spring releases and the 2012 Insignia barrel sample while enjoying local food truck fare and listening to live music in a relaxed setting among the vines at our interim Guest Center.

The next two Exclusively Phelps Preferred Weekends will be held on October 25 & 26, 2014 and November 15 & 16, 2014. The winery will be closed on both of these weekends to non-Phelps Preferred members, so please plan visits accordingly. To view a selection of photos from the first two events, please CLICK HERE

Auction Napa Valley 2014
Once again, Auction Napa Valley bidders made the often seemingly impossible, possible in 2014. In just a few short days, generous bidders from around the globe helped our fellow vintners raise a record breaking $18.7 million dollars for local Napa Valley charities. Our own Barrel Auction lot, a unique 2012 Insignia Auction Napa Valley Special Cuvée, was among the top earning lots at Friday's Barrel Auction. A full report of the weekend's activities can be viewed HERE and we hope you will save the date for next year's Auction Napa Valley to be held June 4-6, 2015. Pictured: Joseph Phelps winemaking team members Kelly Fields, Damian Parker and Ashley Hepworth.

August 1-3, 2014: West of West WOW Wine Festival
Join us on the West Sonoma Coast, August 1-3, 2014, for the West of West WOW Wine Festival (WOWFest). Now in its fourth year, WOWFest begins on Friday, August 1st with Winemaker Welcome Dinners. We invite you to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Joseph Phelps Vineyards on the western Sonoma Coast with winemakers Justin Ennis and Damian Parker as they host an intimate multi-course meal paired with a selection of Joseph Phelps wines. View the evening's menu HERE. Seating for this dinner is limited and all tickets are sold exclusively through the West Sonoma Coast Vintners

The weekend continues on Saturday, August 2nd with morning seminars, the first of two Grand Tastings and the Grand Dinner Celebration at the Barlow in Sebastopol, CA. Finally, guests are invited to return to the Grand Tasting tent on Sunday afternoon for a second opportunity to taste through the wines of the West Sonoma Coast. For further details and tickets, please CLICK HERE. We hope to see you in August for this must-attend wine weekend.

Phelps Preferred "Discover Down Under" Cruise ~ February 18-28, 2015
We invite our Phelps Preferred wine club members to join us aboard Oceania Cruises' Marina for a trip of a lifetime. The 16-night cruise from Sydney to Auckland has just a few spaces available. Planned on-board events include private tastings, winemaker dinners hosted by Director of Winemaking, Damian Parker & Director of Hospitality, Stephen Pavy, as well as private shore excursions exploring the wine regions of Australia and New Zealand (optional). Complete details, pricing and booking information are available by visiting the Food & Wine Trails website HERE or by calling 800-367-5348. We look forward to hosting our Phelps Preferred members "Down Under" for a one-of-a-kind adventure.

Spring-Summer Wine Releases

2012 Joseph Phelps Pinot Noir, Freestone Vineyards, Sonoma Coast (Summer 2014 release)
100% Pinot Noir from our Freestone Vineyards (60% Quarter Moon and 40% Pastorale Vineyard).  An exceptionally fruit expressive wine with a core of black cherries and blackberries, lingering Freestone spice and notes of forest floor and tangerine peel.

2011 Joseph Phelps Pinot Noir, Pastorale Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
This special bottling from a tightly spaced sloping section of the Pastorale Vineyard showcases the distinct characteristics of the Freestone growing region. Lush and round with silky texture and considerable weight, this is an impressive effort boasting dark fruit, plum and white pepper with hints of mushroom and dark chocolate throughout to the long finish.

2011 Joseph Phelps Pinot Noir, Quarter Moon Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
In 2011, the best blocks from the vineyard were chosen for this blend, an even mixture of clone 459 and Calera. Expansive raspberry, cranberry, savory herbs and dried rose petal aromas followed by ultra-concentrated tangy red cherry, black currant, earthy minerality and peppery spice on the palate.

2013 Joseph Phelps Sauvignon Blanc, St. Helena, Napa Valley (Summer 2014 release)
100% Sauvignon Blanc from our St. Helena Home Ranch. This wine shows bright Mandarin orange blossom, lemon curd, citrus and honey aromas. Full, ripe flavors of Meyer lemon, pear, honeydew melon and vanilla cream fill the mouth with a streak of minerality through to the nicely balanced long citrus finish.

2012 Joseph Phelps Chardonnay, Freestone Vineyards, Sonoma Coast
100% Chardonnay from our Freestone Vineyards. This wine opens with stone fruit, fragrant white flower, crushed rock and lemon zest aromas. Nicely balanced with a creamy texture and lush mouthfeel, the Meyer lemon crème brûlée, apricot and nutty toasted brioche flavors culminate in a long, opulent finish marked by sweet fruit and citrus.

2011 Joseph Phelps Chardonnay, Pastorale Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
The grapes that went into this limited production wine came from the best block of Chardonnay planted at the Freestone estate. Fragrant aromas of white flower, honeysuckle, lemon zest and stone fruit captivate the senses followed by tangerine oil, lemon tart and notes of Bosc pear on the palate. Firm, bright acidity frames a long, viscous finish filled with creamy vanilla, spice and citrus.

2013 Joseph Phelps Eisrébe, Napa Valley (375ml)
100% estate-grown Scheurebe from our Spring Valley Home Ranch in St. Helena. The 2013 Eisrébe has aromatic layers of honey, apricot, marmalade and tropical fruits. The texture is viscous with flavors of peach, lemon meringue and vanilla crème brûlée that tie in perfectly with the fresh, bright and lingering palate.

Recent Accolades

2011 Joseph Phelps Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
91 points,
"Aromas of terracotta, clay, red earth, coca and berry. Full body with round, velvety tannins and a juicy finish. Very well done for 2011." -James Suckling, jamessuckling.com, May 2014

2012 Joseph Phelps Pinot Noir, Freestone Vineyards, Sonoma Coast
93 points
"A wine of presence and nuance, the 2012 stands out for its symmetry and overall sense of balance. This is the hidden jewel in the range, there is little doubt about that." -Antonio Galloni's Vinous, Feb. 2014

(90-92) points, "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..." -R.P., Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate, Dec. 2013

2011 Joseph Phelps Pinot Noir, Pastorale Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
93 points
"Silky on the palate yet wonderfully exotic in its flavors, the 2011 impresses for its balance and class. This gracious, utterly impeccable Pinot is simply striking today." -Antonio Galloni's Vinous, Feb. 2014

93 points & Cellar Selection, "The cool 2011 vintage lends mouthwatering acidity to the wine, brightening flavors of red apples, pomegranates and persimmons." -S.H., Wine Enthusiast, March 2014

2011 Joseph Phelps Pinot Noir, Quarter Moon Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
95 points & Cellar Selection
"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." -S.H., Wine Enthusiast, March 2014

90 points, "The 2011 Pinot Noir Quarter Moon Vineyard reveals notes of charcuterie, cherry jam and hints of raspberries and lavender." -R.P., Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate, Dec. 2013

2012 Joseph Phelps Chardonnay, Freestone Vineyards, Sonoma Coast
(91-94) points,
"More tropical in nature, it is a juicy white displaying notes of pineapples, apricot marmalade, wet gravel and a hint of honeyed citrus." -R.P., Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate, Dec. 2013

(91-93) points, "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." -Antonio Galloni's Vinous, Feb. 2014

92 points, "Peach and spice flavors are complicated by minerals and earth. Finishes strong and perfumed. An excellent showing." -Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, May/June 2014

2011 Joseph Phelps Chardonnay, Pastorale Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
94 points
"... you'll find rich tropical fruit, apricot and orange flavors, wrapped into and ultraclean, vibrant mouthfeel, with mineral accents." -S.H., Wine Enthusiast, June 2014

93 points, "This Corton-Charlemagne-like white wine reveals lots of wet stone, citrus oil, white peach and apple blossom notes... a nicely layered finish that builds incrementally." -R.P., Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate, Dec. 2013

93 points, "Today, the 2011 is nuanced, resonant and utterly impeccable in its balance." -Antonio Galloni's Vinous, Feb. 2014

Joseph Phelps Insignia Video with Robert Parker