Joseph Phelps Insignia (3 Liter) 2004
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 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. There are 10,000 cases of the 2004.
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. Best from 2010 through 2020. 9,000 cases made.
($200; cabernet sauvignon with 14% merlot, 12% petit verdot and 2% minerals) 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.