One of the perks of being a Sommelier is getting to taste some of the most expensive wines from all over the world. Yeah, it’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.
Early in 2017, I had the pleasure of experiencing the 2014 Joseph Phelps Insignia during one of many on-the-job tastings. By far one of the most delicious wines I have ever tasted, it was no surprise to me that Wine Access chose Insignia as their Top Wine of 2017.
Get it straight from the vineyard for $250/bottle, WineAccess.com for $215, or check local stores for around $200.
“Out of the thousands of wines we tasted this year, the 2014 Joseph Phelps Insignia is our #1 wine of 2017. Our Master Wine Team rated it 97 points and we consider this our #1 favorite of the year for more than a few reasons. This powerful and dense 2014 is brimming with beautifully delineated black and red-fruit preserves, creamy and rich with sturdy tannins for a long cellar life. “I fully expect this wine to mature and gain such rich complexity as to warrant a perfect score,” our own Matt Deller MW said after re-tasting the 2014 Insignia this past week in our judging panel. And here’s something else to consider: The 97+ score from Wine Advocate is an indication that the score will likely be upgraded. Each Insignia that has earned a coveted Parker 100 points (1991, 1997, 2002) was upgraded — after time in the bottle.
Insignia stands with Opus One as one of Napa’s most iconic Bordeaux-style blends and the current release 2014 Insignia, “Is another beauty,” Parker wrote in his first review. Clearly, The Advocate is aligned with our belief that this wine is only going to inch its way toward perfection. Why? This past October The Wine Advocate upped the ante adding “1+” to the already glowing review, propelling the 2014 Insignia into 97+ point territory. “Incredibly elegant and fine in the mouth,” gushed the Advocate, while Antonio Galloni of Vinous called it, “a rich, explosive Insignia, the 2014 exudes pedigree,” and James Suckling praised its “beautiful depth and intensity” in his 97-point review.
Our relationship with the Phelps family dates back to the early 1990s, when we helped launch the 1994 vintage in NYC. Our allocations since have regularly disappeared in a flash. In the case of the stunning 2014 Phelps “Insignia,” the 41st vintage — which ranks among the four or five greatest Napa Valley wines of the year — it won’t last the day.
Its angular Old World structure has seduced international collectors and critics since the late California pioneer Joseph Phelps debuted the label in 1974. Ever since that offering, Robert Parker has shouted praise from the rooftops, posting six 100-point reviews (1991, 1997, 2002, 2007, 2012, and 2013 vintages) and declaring it to be “one of the world’s finest Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated blends.”
In 2014, the Phelps team pushed the vines to the limit during the sunny yet mild growing season, forcing each plant to compete for water reserves by leaving cover crop untilled, delaying irrigation, and thinning clusters. The result of their relentlessness is a powerful, full-bodied blend that’s elegantly approachable. A modern classic that will gather power in the cellar for decades.