Fall-Winter 2013/2014

        Since our last newsletter, the Joseph Phelps 40th Anniversary celebrations continued throughout the summer and into the fall harvest season. We had the pleasure of hosting our very first Phelps Preferred al fresco dinner on the winery terrace in July and began earlier than normal harvests in both Napa Valley and on the Sonoma Coast. We also hosted the world's leading wine critic, Robert Parker, for a complete Insignia Vertical Tasting at the end of August.
        As our anniversary year comes to a close, we are in the midst of planning an extensive remodel of the Joseph Phelps Vineyards Guest Center building in St. Helena and reflecting on everything that has transpired at the Home Ranch over the last four decades. We thank you for celebrating this historic milestone year with us and hope your holiday season is filled with good food and wine shared with family and friends.


2013 Napa Valley Harvest

The 2013 Napa Valley harvest began with the picking of Sauvignon Blanc on August 14th, which was two weeks earlier than in 2012. Our first reds were picked on September 13th at the St. Helena Home Ranch, which was approximately sixteen days earlier than the last three vintages. The dry growing season and nearly perfect weather pushed the vines forward almost two weeks, starting with bloom occurring early and veraison following a similar pattern.  The warm weather over Labor Day weekend pushed sugar levels in many vineyards; we carefully irrigated and waited for the rest of the flavors in the grapes to catch up with the sugars before picking. Our final day of picking took place on October 16th, again at the St. Helena Home Ranch. 

"The moderate weather all summer developed great flavor, color and tannin across the board. We had plenty of fermentation space and the flow of grapes was very consistent. Early tastings indicate that 2013 will be another very high quality year," said Director of Winemaking, Damian Parker. 

"There is a great purity of fruit in the 2013 wines, good structure and overall an excellent winegrowers vintage. Wines are all in barrel aging at this point and evolving beautifully," stated Winemaker, Ashley Hepworth.

We invite you to view a small collection of photos taken during the 2013 Napa Valley harvest by Clicking HERE

2013 Sonoma Coast Harvest

The Joseph Phelps Sonoma Coast harvest began early, with the first Pinot Noir grapes picked on August 29th at our Pastorale Vineyard. This is the first time we have ever picked in Freestone during the month of August (previously, the earliest pick day was September 1, 2009). Dry growing conditions throughout the spring and summer months paired with consistent afternoon sunshine created even, early ripening. The team picked our first Chardonnay grapes on September 9th and the final pick day in Freestone occurred on October 7th.

When asked to summarize the harvest, Director of Winemaking, Damian Parker, had this to say, "Much like 2012 we had another year of good yields and excellent quality. The spacing of the harvest allowed us the ability to handle all of the incoming fruit, but at times Justin (Ennis) and I had our doubts. The great weather allowed us to move between Pastorale and Quarter Moon vineyards almost daily, picking blocks at optimum ripeness in each. The quality of the fruit was so clean that sorting was reduced to removing a few leaves and leveling out the fruit for smooth destemming. I feel 2013 will be very much like 2012. There is excellent quality and concentration in the aging wines. We have amazing back-to-back vintages."

We invite you to view a small collection of photos taken during the 2013 Sonoma Coast harvest by Clicking HERE.

40th Anniversary Insignia Historical Tasting with Robert M. Parker, Jr.

On August 28, 2013, Joseph Phelps Vineyards hosted internationally famed wine critic and founder of The Wine Advocate, Robert M. Parker, Jr., for a complete Insignia Historical Tasting, vintages 1974-2012. As part of our ongoing fortieth anniversary celebration, Joe Phelps, Bill Phelps, Damian Parker and Ashley Hepworth joined Mr. Parker to taste through every vintage of Insignia produced, to date.

"To say I was honored to be at the table with Joe and Bob (Parker) discussing a wine like the 1974 Insignia, would be an understatement. I will always cherish that afternoon," said Winemaker, Ashley Hepworth. "I am continually impressed by how beautiful the 1974 Insignia is as well as the 1978, 1985, 1991, 1993, 1995, 1999, 2001 and 2002. It's impossible to pick just one favorite."

"The 1974 Insignia was truly amazing. My favorites from the other decades would be the 1985, 1994 and 2002. The 2012 is going to be spectacular," commented Director of Winemaking, Damian Parker. "2012 Insignia is only getting better and better with each day of barrel aging."

"I was so very pleased my father was able to attend the tasting," stated Bill Phelps. "Joseph Phelps Vineyards is one of my father's great accomplishments. For me, the tasting continued my love affair with the 1991 Insignia. I thought the 1974 and 2002 vintages were also stunning. 2007 Insignia onward were just incredible, but they really are still so young and have yet to reveal their full greatness."

The tasting was chronicled in a short video (view below) and Mr. Parker recently published his tasting report for The Wine Advocate's website. For those without a subscription to The Wine Advocate, we invite you to Clicking Here for a downloadable copy of the report, which includes three perfect 100 point scores for the 1991, 1997 and 2002 vintages of Insignia.


40th Anniversary Phelps Preferred Summer & Autumn Dinners

In July, we hosted our first al fresco Phelps Preferred dinner on the winery's back terrace overlooking the stunning vineyards and their ripening grapes. Chef Perry Hoffman of étoile at Domaine Chandon created an unforgettable menu to pair with Joseph Phelps Napa Valley and Sonoma Coast wines, including 2007 Pinot Noir, Pastorale Vineyard, 1987 Cabernet Sauvignon, Backus Vineyard, 1999 Insignia, 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley and 1993 Delice du Semillon with dessert. We were incredibly delighted to host Chef Hoffman, especially since it is a dual 40th anniversary year for both Joseph Phelps and Domaine Chandon. We invite you to view a collection of photos from the dinner by following this Link

In October, we had the pleasure of welcoming Chef Nai Kang Kuan of Morimoto Napa for our Autumn Phelps Preferred dinner. The spectacular sunset created the perfect mood for the evening's event. Special wine pairings included 1985 Cabernet Sauvignon, Eisele Vineyard, the 1996 and 2010 Insignia and 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon, Backus Vineyard. The finale of the evening was stunning grapevine statues adorned with an assortment of chocolates and cotton candy. It was a truly magnificent ending to our 2013 Phelps Preferred dinner series. We invite you to view a collection of photos from the dinner by following this Link

Renovation of the Napa Valley Guest Center

Joseph Phelps Vineyards is embarking on a major renovation project at the Guest Center in St. Helena, Napa Valley. The Guest Center’s interior spaces will be extensively re-purposed to further enhance the visitor experience. The building’s historic redwood exterior, designed in 1973 by renowned architect John Marsh Davis, and outdoor tasting areas will be largely unaffected by this renovation.

Construction is expected to begin in January 2014 and is targeted for completion during Spring 2015. Planned improvements include: a new reception area for check-in and retail sales, new private tasting salons, enhanced vineyard views, a new state-of-the-art kitchen, and several special display features, all designed with the quality of visitor experience in mind.

Preparations are already underway for our move to the temporary Guest Center, which will be located in the vineyard at the base of the hillside below our current facility. More details will be available soon about our January move and a Joseph Phelps experience like never before during our "Year in the Vines." 

In the meantime, the winery is open for visitation. Terrace Tasting visits and Exceptional Wine Experiences are available seven days a week, by prior appointment.
Above: Gallery Hall looking North toward the Barrel Chai. Top: Oval Room looking South.
Artistic rendering, subject to change.


Fall-Winter Releases

2010 Insignia, Napa Valley
84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot, 4% Merlot and 2% Malbec aged for twenty-four months in new French oak. The 2010 Insignia has an incredibly inky hue with layers of perfumed plum, dark berries, bergamot, mocha and graphite aromas followed by hints of spice box. The texture on the palate is ultra-concentrated and silky with blackberry flavors and a touch of black pepper, cocoa and curry spices leading to the lush, lingering and focused finish.

2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Backus Vineyard, Oakville, Napa Valley (call for availability)
100% Cabernet Sauvignon from our Backus estate vineyard in Oakville aged twenty-four months in new French oak. The 2010 Backus is loaded with aromatic violet and black cherry, with hints of dates, forest floor, graphite and allspice. There is a beautiful elegance and seamless integration to this wine that lends to rich black fruit up front on the palate, followed by an ultra long finish.

2010 Syrah, Larry Hyde & Sons Vineyard, Napa Valley
100% Syrah from the Larry Hyde & Sons Vineyard aged for eighteen months in 37% new and 63% two-year-old French oak (a mixture of puncheons and barrels). This is our second year working with this block from the Larry Hyde & Sons Vineyard. The 2010 wine offers perfumed aromas of violet, allspice, blackberry, plum and hints of dark chocolate. The balance of fruit and freshness on the palate captures the layers of dark fruit, cassis, graham cracker, licorice, nutmeg and white pepper followed by supple, rich tannins.

2010 Syrah, Napa Valley
100% Syrah from the Hyde Vineyard aged for eighteen months in 31% new and 69% two- to three-year-old French oak (a mixture of puncheons and barrels). The 2010 Syrah has aromas of sweet blackberry, fresh thyme, sage, cigar box, spicy black pepper and subtle hints of violet. A bold offering with bright fruit flavors of dark plum, chocolate and baking spices. Lush tannins lend to the brilliant texture and long, lingering mouth feel in this structured, yet elegant wine.

2012 Eisrébe, Napa Valley (375ml)
100% estate-grown Scheurebe from the estate in St. Helena. 2012 Eisrébe is layered with aromas of lemon verbena, yuzu zest, honeysuckle, tropical fruit and vanilla wafer. The luscious, concentrated flavors of floral infused citrus, apricot and honey lend to great freshness and a perfect balance of acid and residual sugar on the palate.

2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley (January 2014 release)
85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot and 2% Petit Verdot from 100% estate-grown Napa Valley vineyards aged eighteen months in  52% new oak barrels (58% French, 42% American) and 48% one- to two-year-old French and American oak barrels. 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon has beautiful aromatics of plum, cherry, currants, coffee, cocoa and hints of allspice, fresh thyme, tobacco and forest floor.

Recent Accolades

2010 Insignia, Napa Valley
97 Points & Cellar Selection, "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 its fabulous lushness, this is a wine to age. Depending on your taste, it will provide excellence from now until 2030." -Wine Enthusiast, Best of Year 2013

95 Points, "The stunning 2010 Insignia, which is now in bottle, was made from 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot and the rest from 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." -R.P., Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate, Oct. 2013

96+ Points, "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." -Antonio Galloni's Vinous, Nov. 2013

94 Points - Collectibles, "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." -J.L., Wine Spectator, Nov. 15, 2013

2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Backus Vineyard, Oakville, Napa Valley
96 Points, "Espresso, mocha, cloves, violets and plums all meld together in the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Backus Vineyard. Rich, sumptuous and layered, the 2010 boasts tons of depth and pure structure." -Antonio Galloni's Vinous, Nov. 2013

90+ Points, "It has Pessac-Leognan-like aromas of charcoal, scorched earth, crème de cassis, and a distinct loamy soil/earthy character as well as minerality." -R.P., Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate, Oct. 2013

2011 Pinot Noir, Freestone Vineyards, Sonoma Coast
93 Points & Cellar Selection,
"It has mouthwatering acidity and vastly complex flavors, ranging from ripe heirloom tomatoes, cola, pomegranates and cranberries, to ripe cherries and red currants." -Wine Enthusiast, Sept. 2013

2011 Chardonnay, Freestone Vineyards, Sonoma Coast
94 Points & No. 62 on Wine Enthusiast's Top 100 Cellar Selections of 2013 list, "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." -Wine Enthusiast, Sept. 2013

2012 Sauvignon Blanc, St. Helena, Napa Valley
91 Points, "The 2012 Sauvignon Blanc is beautiful, focused and full of energy. Pears, lemon oil, white flowers and mint flesh out in an inviting, layered Sauvignon Blanc endowed with gorgeous texture and personality." -Antonio Galloni's Vinous, Nov. 2013

2012 Eisrébe, Napa Valley
90 Points, "Green apple, 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." -Antonio Galloni's Vinous, Nov. 2013

2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley (January 2014 release)
92 Points
, "“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." -Antonio Galloni's Vinous, Nov. 2013

Holiday Entertaining

We are pleased to share another scrumptious recipe from Joe's granddaughter, Molly Anderson Sullivan. Molly's Pear Cardamom Upside-Down Cake will be a perfect addition to your holiday table and pairs beautifully with Joseph Phelps Eisrébe. We invite you to view and download the recipe HERE


The winery's Events Calendar is updated on a regular basis with upcoming events hosted around the country. Be sure to also visit our Joseph Phelps, Freestone Vineyards Guest Center on the Sonoma Coast, named one of the "Best Sonoma County Wineries to Visit" by Food & Wine magazine. We offer wine & food pairings in Freestone each second Sunday of the month. Phelps Preferred members and up to three guests are invited to attend Second Sunday events complimentary. We hope to see you soon.

Joseph Phelps 40th Anniversary Video