Today when you think of California red wine, you likely think of luscious Bordeaux-style wines. These bold Cabernet Sauvignon-driven wines put Napa Valley on the map, and it all began in 1974 when Joseph Phelps created the very first proprietary red Bordeaux-style blend in California.
Originally, Phelps thought Insignia would be the best wine he produced each year, which could be white or red depending on the vintage. After a few years, he realized that Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot thrived in Napa Valley, and he dedicated Insignia as a Bordeaux-style blend with a minimum 50% Cabernet Sauvignon. Recent vintages are primarily Cabernet Sauvignon and do not include Merlot, but other wines in the blend may include Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc. The 2018 vintage was 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2019 was 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot, and 2% Malbec. Today, Insignia has become one of the most recognizable and award-winning red wines in California, with four vintages earning perfect 100-point scores from Robert Parker Wine Advocate.
Winemaker Ashley Hepworth crafts each vintage of Insignia from 100% estate-grown grapes. She carefully selects the finest fruit from Joseph Phelps’ vineyards across Napa Valley, from St. Helena to Oak Knoll District. This enables her to create a wine that represents the pinnacle of each vintage and fully expresses the region’s unique terroir. While each vintage is different, Insignia is known for its floral aromatics and notes of red and black fruit, chocolate, tobacco, cigar box, and toasty oak. It’s velvety yet powerful — and always perfectly balanced.
2019 Joseph Phelps Insignia
The 2019 vintage produced excellent Cabernet Sauvignon, which accounts for 93% of the blend; Petit Verdot and Malbec make up the rest. Of course, the grapes come from estate-grown vineyards, primarily Yountville in Oak Knoll District and Banca Dorada in Rutherford.
The wine aged for 24 months in 100% new French oak casks. It has notes of dried rose petals with red and dark fruit, including blackberry, black cherry, black currant, and raspberry, alongside dark chocolate, vanilla, and spice from the new oak casks. There’s also sweet tobacco and delicate dried rose petals in this fantastic vintage. The wine is full-bodied and approachable, despite its youth. It has the potential to age for decades, if you can wait that long to enjoy it. It will certainly gain more complexity with time but is so approachable now.
This vintage was a hit with critics. Jeb Dunnuck gave it 99 points, James Suckling named the 2019 Insignia as one of the top 100 US wines of the year, and Wine Spectator rated it 94. As always, we don’t recommend you get too caught up in wine scores, as they are so subjective.
La Patiala’s founder, Kristen Shirley, hosted an exclusive dinner and tasting with Hepworth to unveil the 2019 Insignia in New York City. Read more about the event here, and be sure to sign up to stay in the know about our future events.