“Time improves most things” a quote which can be debated in almost any scenario, including those concerning wine. Some wine simply will never get better with time, while some can improve drastically with some care and patience. This 2009 Joseph Phelps Insignia was not in need of large improvements, however 7+ years of deep slumber have softened this giant to the point of near perfection. I was fortunate to have tried this from the barrel and soon after bottling, both of which hinted at a big wine in need of some settling. Last year I opened one from the cellar and even with a long decant the wine was still young and precocious. All of the previous encounters screamed “lay this down for much longer”; but this time around the porridge tasted “just right” after a brief decant.
For those not familiar with one of Napa’s top offerings here is a bit of history. Starting with its release in 1978 (of 1974 vintage), Joseph Phelps has produced this Cabernet Sauvignon dominant, Bordeaux style blend on an annual basis. Their flagship wine has been a consistent top product for the region, even earning perfect scores of 100 over several vintages as recently as 2002 from Robert E Parker, a rare feat. These wines are 100% estate grown and every year it varies, as the winemaker takes the best of the best to blend these beauties.
For 2009, this is 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Petit Verdot and 4% Malbec from 100% estate-grown Napa Valley vineyards that break down as follows: Stags Leap District (26% Barboza Vineyard and 24% Las Rocas Vineyard), St. Helena (27% Spring Valley Ranch Vineyard), Napa Valley (11% Suscol Vineyard) and Oak Knoll District (6% Yountville Vineyard).
So what did it look and taste like? Off the decant the deep purple, fruit forward colour was vibrant. The initial nose had hints of cherry, blackberry and tobacco. The first few sips were full mouthed and chewy, with the fruit still very big and in your face. The cherry persisted with cassis, shades of vanilla and a bit of blackberry remained. The tannins were pleasantly firm to start and soft (yet long) to finish. I would highly recommend 25-30 minutes of decanting to start, as the wine is still quite youthful, and truly this wine could handle 3-5 more years of cellaring. With such amazing structure, phenomenal fruit and the excellent winemaking, the 2009 Insignia is a superstar in your cellar if you own it.
As a note, it is difficult to get Insignias in Canada, and sadly the LCBO in Ontario makes a large margin on them when they do have them. Currently they have 2008 and 2013 available, both of which are at hefty price increases. If you do have the ability to travel to Napa or somewhere in the United States that does not want to double/triple the costs, I highly recommend buying your personal allowance and bringing them back, they are one of those wines you will be richly rewarded with for your effort.
The CWG Subjective Rating is 97 out of 100.