Joseph Phelps, Insignia, Napa Valley, California 2011

Joseph Phelps


  • Drink: 2016 - 2035
  • Grape Variety: Cabernet Sauvignon


Joseph Phelps

See Decanter experts' rating, tasting notes and drinking window for Joseph Phelps, Insignia, Napa Valley, California 2011.

Joseph Phelps, Insignia, Napa Valley 2011

Star buys of 2015

Controlled and restrained yet boasting intense dark fruit, well-managed tannins and a beautiful structure. Boldly oaked with a long finish. Delicious and well made.

Tasters: Peter Richards MW, Sarah Jane Evans MW, Xavier Rousset MS


Decanter average score:
Phelps has been making this luxury cuvée for four decades, although it has undergone many stylistic changes during that time. Since the late 1980s it has been Cabernet-dominant, though given more spice and complexity with small additions of Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec. Since 2004 all the fruit has been sourced from six sites that form part of the Phelps estate. Insignia spends two years in new French oak. What is remarkable for a wine of this quality is that it’s made in large volumes, 27,000 cases in some vintages. In blind tastings Inignia almost always delivers, being both powerful and polished despite changes in the winemaking team.
Romain Bourger Deep and rich nose of cloves, pepper, smoke, coffee and black olives. Great complexity and structure with lovely ripeness and a long, fresh finish.
Stephen Brook Very oaky nose: charred and assertive but not unappealing, with black cherries, damsons and chocolate. Sumptuous wine with bold supporting tannins and good acidity. Concentrated, with spice and complexity and a long chocolatey finish. Strives to impress and pulls out all the stops.
Angela Mount Soft, polished and stylish with superb structure and dark chocolatey fruit. Oak dominates and strong tannins are fine grained, but there is great texture and an impressive style, which will evolve as it ages.
Price: UK – £129.95-£150 AG Wines, Berkmann, Private Cellar, Slurp, US – $109 – $119 Arlington Wine & Liquor,*
Drink: 2016-2035
Alc: 14.5%

*US stockist information from

Joseph Phelps

Missouri-born Joseph Phelps founded his namesake vineyard in Napa Valley in 1973 after buying a cattle ranch just off the Silverado Trail. He won early fame by making California’s first varietal Syrah.

Phelps was one of the first California wineries to produce a premium Bordeaux blend from its own grapes, and went on to pioneer Rhône varieties. Phelps’ best known wine is Insignia, a Bordeaux blend first bottled in 1974.
Over the years, the winery has been on a mission to use 100% estate grown grapes in its wines. Following several purchases, it owned eight vineyards from St Helena to Carneros as of March 2016.