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by Judy Crocker November 30, 2021 4 min read


Collectors Take Note – One of California’s Greatest Wines!


California produces amazing Cabernet Sauvignon, across many price ranges. I tend to champion those that offer outstanding value, however, there is no denying true greatness! Over my last 25 years of selling wine, I have seen the growth of the so-called “cult” wines. These are certainly show-stopping wines and prices can run anywhere from a couple hundred dollars a bottle to $1,000 a bottle on release. I feel there are three Napa Valley Cabernet-based wines that have a long track record of excellence, are just as stunning as the cult cabs, and while still expensive, can cost a fraction of what cult wines cost. Those wines for me are Dominus, Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and today’s featured wine, Joseph Phelps Insignia. I thought today was a good time to remind everyone that although we may not email these types of wines out often, we do still proudly sell them!



“Joseph Phelps was one of the great visionaries of Napa Valley. His legacy is one of extraordinary quality. He was one of the first to see the merit in blending, which his legendary Insignia, which first debuted in 1974, has proven year after year. It remains one of the world’s finest Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated blends.”

— Robert M. Parker, Jr.


Napa Valley was a fast-emerging wine region in the early 1970's. Joseph Phelps owned one of the largest construction companies in the United States but fell in love with Napa Valley and wanted to be a part of what was happening there. He purchased a 600-acre cattle ranch and planted vineyards in 1973. He came up with the idea to make the best wine his winery could possibly make each year. Depending on the vintage, it could be red or white, whatever varietal had excelled in that particular vintage. He named this wine Insignia, and by doing so, made the first Bordeaux Blend Napa Valley had ever seen.

The first vintage of Insignia, produced in 1974, was from purchased grapes. Over time, he was able to use more and more estate grown grapes, as his estate’s vines matured. The 2004 vintage was the first vintage that used all estate grown grapes. Today, Insignia is recognized as one of the world’s most iconic wines. The 2002 vintage was awarded “Wine of the Year” by Wine Spectator in 2005. Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate has awarded four perfect 100-point scores to the 1991, 1997, 2002 and 2007 vintages. Very few wines from Napa Valley have this type of track record.

This is a pre-offer and Joseph Phelps Insignia is due to arrive by the end of next week. I have been able to taste this wine back to the mid 1980’s and even though it is absolutely delicious and stunning to taste young, it has the ability to age effortlessly for 30-plus years. These ship in wood six packs. There also is a small amount of 1.5L magnums available; if you have an interest, please email and I will reply with pricing.



Joseph Phelps Insignia 2018 750mL


99 Points –
"Blackberry and black chocolate with mint, conifer and clove. Sweet tobacco, violets and flowers, too. Some graphite. Cool and complex. Full-bodied with ultra fine, dusty tannins and a wonderful, extremely long finish. Savory and refined. A classic-styled 2018. This needs time, but is so approachable and gorgeous. One of the best Insignias ever. Alive and changing all the time. 40% Stags Leap AVA. 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec and 2% Cabernet Franc. Leave this for five or six years, but so wonderful now." – James Suckling

97 Points – Wine Advocate
“The 2018 Insignia is a blend of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec and 2% Cabernet Franc. The vineyard sources this year include: 30% Las Rocas (Stags Leap District),18% Yountville (Oak Knoll District), 13% Banca Dorada (Rutherford), 18% Suscol (South Napa Valley), 14% Home Ranch (St. Helena), 12% Las Rocas (Stags Leap District), 7% Barboza (Stags Leap District). It was aged for 24 months in 100% new French oak barrels. Deep garnet-purple colored, it comes storming out of the glass with powerful notes of blackcurrant cordial, stewed black plums and boysenberries, plus hints of cedar chest, graphite, menthol and wet slate with a fragrant waft of clove oil. The medium to full-bodied palate already demonstrates remarkable balance at this youthful stage, featuring a firm backbone of fine-grained tannins and bold freshness to support the tightly wound, crunchy black fruits, finishing long and spicy.” - Lisa Perrotti-Brown

96 Points – Vinous
"The 2018 Insignia is a beautiful wine. It is also quite delicate and less bombastic than some recent vintages have been. Its hard to tell if that is just the personality of the year or if changes in farming and/or winemaking are also at play. I suppose time will tell. In the meantime, the 2018 is gorgeous Insignia with tons of potential. Blueberry jam, spice, menthol, dried herbs and licorice all develop in the glass, all lifted by the salivating acids of a long, cool growing season."- Antonio Galloni

Judy Crocker
Judy Crocker

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