April 1st, 2016

Insignia Retrospective Tasting with Stephen Tanzer

Winemaker Ashley Hepworth recently hosted Stephen Tanzer of Antonio Galloni's Vinous for a 19-vintage Insignia retrospective tasting. The event culminated with 2013 Insignia, the winery's 40th vintage of this iconic Napa Valley wine. A few highlights from the tasting:

1999 Joseph Phelps Insignia - 95+ points: (the first vintage of Insignia made with some Malbec; from a late harvest providing long hang time): Dark red-ruby. Dark nose offers inviting notes of cassis, black cherry, cocoa powder, leather and game; the first of these wines to show a strong floral element. Juicy, gripping and extremely complex, with a beautiful sugar/acid balance contributing to the impression of inner-mouth spine and energy. A wonderfully elegant, European-styled Insignia that conveys outstanding flavor intensity and depth without any impression of weight. Finishes with suave tannins and terrific length. This still-youthful wine should continue to gain in complexity.

2010 Joseph Phelps Insignia - 95+ points: (a growing season with a late bloom and late veraison but more consistent temperatures than either 2009 or 2011): Bright, dark ruby. Very young, brilliantly pure aromas of dark fruits and strong minerality. Then wonderfully juicy but youthfully imploded, conveying an impression of weightlessness to its penetrating flavors of cassis, blackberry, minerals, dark chocolate and flowers. Savory, sappy, rather masculine wine with terrific precision and energy but still folded in on itself today. Finishes suave, vibrant and very long, with sophisticated fine-grained tannins in perfect harmony with the wine's fruit. Very little Suscol fruit went into the blend as it was too green, according to Hepworth.

2013 Joseph Phelps Insignia - 95 points: (this wine was bottled at the beginning of February and will not be released until September; from an earlier harvest than 2012, featuring higher tannin levels): Black fruits and violet on the nose, complemented by spicecake and nutty oak. Boasts outstanding purity and density of fruit but the wine's superb sweetness is nicely controlled by its sheer juicy concentration and spice character. Conveys great inner-mouth tension owing to its firm acidity and strong underlying minerality. A terrific early showing considering the recent bottling, with a high-pitched floral element that contributes to the wine's weightless impression. The tannins are beautifully integrated with the fruit but it's hard to imagine that this wine won't shut down at some point. The long, rising finish spreads out horizontally to saturate the palate. Winemaker Ashley Hepworth noted that it was warmer on the home ranch in 2013 than in 2012 but not everywhere elsewhere in Napa Valley.

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