Joseph Phelps Insignia 2004
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Tasted in October, 2007, the wine was mute, offering little aromatically except for teasing notes of blackberries and oak. That shyness extended to the taste, where strong, hard tannins provide an almost impenetrable coat of armor to what’s inside. But right down the middle of the palate is a deep, intensely powerful stream of perfectly ripened cassis that’s all the proof you need of ageability. This is a magnificently structured young wine, reminiscent of a fine young Pauillac. Best after 2012, and should have another decade after that, at least.
The 2004 Insignia (the first to be 100% from the estate vineyards) is a blend of 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, 12% Petit Verdot, and the rest Malbec. I had this wine several times in Napa, and it is a beauty. A flashy, exuberant style for Phelps, with dense ruby/purple color, a gorgeous nose of creme de cassis, incense, licorice, smoke, and spice, the wine has supple tannins, a flamboyant, full-bodied mouthfeel, and tremendous length. Despite its precociousness and up-front style, this wine should evolve easily for 20 or more years.
"Tight and complex, with a deep, potent core of ripe currant, herb, sage and dusty berry fruit, shaded by light toasty, cedary oak. Deftly balanced, intense and concentrated, this is young and closed in now, yet you can taste the depth and richness. Tannic. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec.
Bright ruby-red. Complex nose melds cassis, black cherry, lead pencil and cedar. Sweet and fat but with a firm structure and very good vinosity. There's a sappy quality to the currant, cedar and chocolate flavors. Boasts the density of the vintage's best examples but, in comparison to the Backus, the tannins hit the palate a bit earlier. The very long finish hints at cedar and graphite. I'd put this aside for a couple of years.
This is the first vintage of Insignia to come entirely from estate-grown fruit, from vineyards in St. Helena, Stags Leap, Yountville and Rutherford, as well as a small portion from Oakville. Phelps crafted the ripe fruit of 2004 into a luxury wine, something you might order at one of the new top-end restaurants in Las Vegas. It's all about lovely richness, generous and dense with nothing out of place. Think of sweet cherries and Spanish hot chocolate. Ready to enjoy.