2009 Joseph Phelps "Insignia" Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
*Three Stars* It is quite clear by now that 2009 is proving to be a standout year for Cabernet, but within the crowd of outstanding wines, this one holds its head just a bit higher. It is, as Insignia always is, a wine of exceptional crafting and polish, and yet in this outing, it seems to have an extra measure of richness and fruity strength, not to mention plenty of grippy structural tannins. There is an almost brooding aspect about it that suggests that it is not yet even close to showing all that it has, and it looks very likely to be among the more age-worthy and longest lived Insignias of recent years. Bravo!
This wine continues a long-standing tradition, showing a mastery of the art of blending. It's made using grapes that are sourced from at least six vineyards scattered from Yountville to St. Helena. Right out of the bottle, it's a soft, smoothly tannic wine that's rich in blackberry jam, black currant, blueberry, raspberry, dark chocolate and spice flavors. The wine, which contains small amounts of Petit Verdot and Malbec, is so powerful, it easily carries the 100% new French oak. Just gorgeous now, and it should develop bottle complexity for at least the next 10 years.
A gorgeous, totally voluptuous wine, the 2009 Insignia bursts from the glass with exuberant blue and black fruit, grilled herbs, cloves and cassis. In 2009, the Insignia is silky and polished, yet there is considerable underlying tannin that needs time to soften. Layers of fruit flow effortlessly to the huge, structured finish. I imagine the 2009 Insignia will enjoy a broad drinking window. It is striking today, but also clearly has the stuffing to age for many, many years. The 2009 is 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Petit Verdot, 4% Merlot. Anticipated maturity: 2017-2029. (AG)
Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar
(from what Hepworth described as "a tough vintage featuring rollercoaster weather"): Bright dark ruby. Rather brooding aromas of cassis and licorice. Very young, even a bit medicinal today, conveying intense black fruit and chocolate flavors and an element of thickness leavened by fresh acidity. This extremely primary wine finishes very long but strongly tannic, with its finishing fruit currently dominated by its spine. This wine was easier to taste upon its release in late 2012 and still needs a lot of time in the cellar. The winery started doing longer maceration in 2008 and 2009, said Hepworth, who also told me that there was heat in September but that the fruit in many spots was not fully ripe when four inches of rain fell in mid-October. Insignia, however, was made with fruit that was in by then. Phelps rushed to pick in Suscol owing to some mold growth but declassified the affected fruit. "In 2009 we learned not to wait too long to pick," said Hepworth, who rates 2009 and 2011 the trickiest vintages since she took over winemaking responsibilities in 2008. (ST)
A solid core of fruit, with currants, minerals, fresh mint, and stones. Full bodied and chewy. The mid palate should fill in later.
Wine & Spirits
Extravagantly rich, this seems to be perfumed by its tannins. Its heady, gravelly power and spicy black fruit is cut short in the finish, yielding to the wine’s alcohol. With several years in bottle, this will be ready to decant for a thick cut rib eye.
Combines deep, ripe dark berry fruit with crushed rock, cedar and lead pencil notes. A step back in richness and complexity for Insignia, this is built for cellaring. Tannins have a green, bitter edge. Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Malbec. Best from 2014 through 2024. (JL)
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate
This deep ruby/purple-colored offering is an elegant, medium-weight wine with sweet red and black currant fruit, dark cherry, loamy soil and foresty characteristics as well as ripe tannin. This should be an early maturing Insignia that evolves quickly, but positively over the next 10-12 years. (RP)
Opaque ruby. Juicy, pure fruit with a luscious berry character. Scented spice from oak is quite apparent, but not overdone. Firm, ripe tannins give firm structure. A very good impression of Bordeaux, from the right bank, perhaps? 17.5/20 points (RH)