Search Articles

Please Share

FacebookTwitterDiggDeliciousStumbleuponGoogle BookmarksRedditTechnoratiLinkedin

Sponsors

Search for Events

Wine of the Day via RSS

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Connect

  • Facebook: norcalwine
  • Linked In: FredSwan
  • Twitter: norcalwine
 

Sponsors

Wine of the Day

2001 Joseph Phelps Insignia Napa Valley

Some of Napa Valley’s iconic Cabernet Sauvignon have been accused of amping up ripeness, and alcohol, in order to gain favor with reviewers. However, many of the premier wines have remained remarkably consistent and get high scores just the same. Joseph Phelps Insignia proprietary blend is a good example.

The exact blend — both varietal and vineyard percentages — will vary a bit from year to year. So will the Brix level at harvest. That’s natural and necessary given variations in weather. But the Brix, and resulting alcohol levels, don’t change dramatically and they show the ups and downs of vintages rather than a steady drive toward greater ripeness. The average sugar level always seems to fall within about half a percent of 25. Use of 100% new French oak has been consistent as well.

The grapes for the 2001 Insignia fell right in the middle of the range at 24.8 degrees Brix. The resulting wine is a moderate 13.9% alcohol and still exhibits good balance between fruit, alcohol and tannins after seven years in bottle. For notes on a riper vintage, see my review of the 2002 Phelps Insignia.

I pulled one from my cellar on Tuesday to see how it is doing. I opened it at a restaurant and had it decanted at the table. I got a quick test pour and, after a brief swirl, the wine left strongly pigmented legs on the side of the glass. It is still pure ruby in color with medium plus intensity.

The first and most prominent aromas are fruit: black currant and black cherry. These are followed by dark flowers, cocoa, spice and oak. In the mouth, the 2001 Insignia has medium-plus body with fairly strong tannins, grainy and grippy. Flavors resemble the nose with dark chocolate, black cherry, spice, oak. Over time, blackberry emerged.

Phelps’ 2001 Insignia is developing gradually and gracefully. The fruit is still fresh and the wine has a lot of years left. In fact, as the tannins are not yet close to being fully resolved, it is still a wine that wants food. With braised short rib as an accompaniment, the wine was silky. Without, not so much. This discrepancy became more pronounced as the wine aerated in glass and decanter with the oak becoming more prominent after nearly two hours. Given more time, the fruit may well have come storming back. But I can’t swear to that as the wine disappeared to quickly.

Short-Rib-at-Wente-Vineyards-Restaurant
Short Rib at the Restaurant at Wente Vineyards

2001 Phelps Insignia is a very good wine. If you like fresh fruit, drink it now with a meal or hold it for up to five years. If you prefer more tertiary flavors, you will need to be more patient. Highly recommended.

2001-Phelps-Insignia

2001 Joseph Phelps Insignia Napa Valley
Rating: Highly Recommended
Drink: Now through 2020
Release Date: Spring, 2004

Retail Price: $119 to $268 online

Blend: 89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec
Origin: Stags Leap and Rutherford, Napa Valley
Aging: 22 months in new French oak barrels

Alcohol: 13.9%

Closure: Cork

The wine above was purchased. It was not tasted blind.

If you enjoyed this article, please share it! Icons for popular sharing services are at the right above and also below.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Photos by Fred Swan. Copyright 2010 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

2006 Franciscan Magnificat Napa Valley

Like the Franciscan Cuvée Sauvage which I reviewed last week, the Franciscan Magnificat is an a careful assemblage of many separate small-lot fermentations. In this case, more than two hundred separate components are considered for inclusion. All of them are Bordeaux-varietal red wines. The final mix for the 2006 Magnificat was 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 3% Malbec and 1% Petit Verdot. The grapes came from a number of locations throughout Napa Valley.

The wine is dark ruby in color with pigmented legs. Initially, aromas were of black currant, earth, cafe au lait, and spice. With extended decanting, the fruit changed to black cherry. Sage and vanilla came through in place of the earthier notes. The body is medium-plus but there are plenty of drying, chalky tannins. Flavors include black cherry, chocolate, deeply toasted wood and bourbon. A few years of bottle age should see the tannins smooth out and the finish extend from it’s current medium length. Given it’s tannins, the 2006 Franciscan Magnificat will best be enjoyed now with food. You’ll want unctuous meat, but heavily charred meat will overwhelm the flavors. I would go for Wagyu flank steak cooked rare or a beef cheek braised very slowly in red wine. Drink now through 2017. Highly Recommended.

2006-Franciscan-Magnificat-Napa-Valley

2006 Franciscan Magnificat
Rating: Highly Recommended
Drink: Now through 2017
Retail Price: $50.00

Blend: 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 3% Malbec, 1% Petit Verdot
Origin: Napa Valley

Aging: 18 months in oak barrels: 50% new, 78% French
Alcohol: 14.5%

Closure: Cork

The wine above was purchased for review. It was tasted blind in a flight of six Bordeaux-variety wines from Napa Valley and Sonoma County. All wines were quickly double-decanted before tasting and then re-tasted four and twenty-four hours later.

If you enjoyed this article, please share it! Icons for popular sharing services are at the right above and also below.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2010 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

2002 Joseph Phelps Insignia

Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to taste a wine before buying a large quantity of it. Now matter how well critics rate a wine, it is hard to be sure that you’ll really enjoy a wine unless you have experienced it yourself. On the other hand, opportunities sometimes come along that are just too hard to resist.

Prior to the release of 2002 vintage of Joseph Phelps Vineyards’ Insignia it received excellent reviews: 95 points or more from a variety of sources. It was also selected as Wine Spectator’s “Wine of the Year” in 2005. And of course Joseph Phelps’ top-of-the-line Bordeaux-variety blend already had quite the reputation for quality and I’d enjoyed previous vintages. So, when I saw the wine show up at Costco in nice wooden half-case presentation boxes at an attractive price, I was not shy about grabbing (more than) my share despite not having tasted it.

Though I showed considerable eagerness in buying the wine, I’ve done just opposite with regard to drinking it. It has been sitting untouched in my cellar for five years. I hadn’t opened a single bottle until two weeks ago. We were having friends over for dinner and opening a pretty special bottle of white to start [more on that soon]. I needed a red that wouldn’t be anti-climactic. Our guests enjoy rich Napa Cabernet Sauvignon and the main course was to be a robust beef dish. So why not try that 2002 Phelps Insignia to see how it was doing?

I figured the wine might benefit from some decanting. In retrospect, I’m not sure if it was necessary but it certainly didn’t hurt. In any case, my “tasting” experience with the wine actually began with the uncorking. As the cork left the bottle, so did a strong and beautiful aroma of cassis. “Wow,” I think I said out loud. I proceeded to decant the wine, watching the inky ruby-colored wine glug into my favorite receptacle. Even from its natural position a good two feet away from the decanter, my nose was treated to more of the cassis along with black cherry, chocolate and espresso. It took a good amount of discipline to let the wine be while we got on with the first half of our dinner. If I’m honest, I’ll admit that I periodically wandered over to sniff the decanter.

Eventually, the wine did make itself into our glasses. The aromatics hadn’t changed at all during the 45 minutes or so the Insignia had been waiting for us. The palate was full-bodied with plenty of well-integrated, if slightly chalky, tannins and enough acidity to refresh our palates after each bite of slow-braised beef cheeks or polenta. The alcohol was completely balanced by the tannins and delicious fruit. Flavors included cassis, black cherry, chocolate, espresso and dry herb.

The 2002 Joseph Phelps is a blockbuster that goes down easily. It’s effusive fruit makes it feel as youthful as any eight-year old Bordeaux-blend I’ve had, yet the smoothness of its tannins indicate the time in bottle was well-spent. The 2002 Insignia is decadently beautiful and one of the best wines of its type that I’ve ever had. And I'm pretty happy I went ahead and bought some even though I hadn't tasted it.

The wine paired perfectly with the braised beef cheeks, as it would with short ribs, lamb shanks or even a juicy hamburger. The 2002 Insignia from Joseph Phelps Vineyards is completely drinkable now and should remain fresh and exuberantly fruity for at least a few more years. It will then slowly evolve in interesting ways for a long time thereafter. Drink now through 2025. Very Highly Recommended.

2002-Joseph-Phelps-Insignia

2002 Joseph Phelps Insignia Napa Valley
Rating: Very Highly Recommended

Drink: Now through 2025

Retail Price: $150 at release, current prices range from $200 (one bottle at JJ Buckley) to $250.

Blend: 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot, 1% Malbec
Origin: Primarily estate vineyards in Stags Leap and Rutherford

Aging: 23 months in new French oak
Alcohol: 14.4%

Closure: Cork

If you enjoyed this article, please share it! Icons for popular sharing services are at the right above and also below.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2010 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

2007 Ridge Monte Bello

In writing about wines I find it is sometimes necessary to do things one ought not. Tasting (and of course spitting ) one hundred wines in a day is one of those things. Another is opening a bottle of Ridge Monte Bello very soon after its release. Ridge Monte Bello is one of the most reliably age-worthy Bordeaux-varietal blends produced in California. Unlike some wines, and many traditional European wines, Monte Bello isn’t unpleasant, or even nearly undrinkable in its youth. Nonetheless, it will not be all that it can.

The early opening of such a bottle when young is doubly unfortunate given the price of Ridge Monte Bello, which is routinely in the $150 range. That price is based on the wine’s iconic status among California reds, its unique terroir and its consistently high quality but also the fact that it doesn’t just hold but will improve over ten to fifteen years. Nonetheless, my allocation came in and I uncorked one so you don’t have to. Having done so, my strong recommendation is that you not do the same.

My initial tasting of the 2007 Monte Bello was blind in a flight of six Cabernet-based wines. Poured straight to glass, it showed elegance and excellent structure. However, it was neither sensuous nor compellingly complex. There was black fruit with coconut, cinnamon and oak on the nose, blackberry, caramel, charred wood and oak on the palate. While not harsh, the tannins were both astringent and chalky. Coupled with ample acidity but just 13.1% alcohol, the wine felt somewhat thin and unfriendly. The tasting was an excellent example of how so-called Parker wines with ultra-ripe fruit and alcohol above 15% tend to do better in blind tastings than those that are well-built but leaner. In a flight of heavier wines, the elegant wine comes across meaner than it is. (Those who stereotype Robert Parker’s preferences may be surprised to learn that he routinely rates Ridge Monte Bello from 92 to 96 points.)

After two days with the wine sitting in bottle at fill-levels below the shoulder, I poured the 07 Ridge Monte Bello, the 08 Justin Cabernet Sauvignon ($26.25, reviewed here yesterday) and the 06 Charles Krug Cabernet Sauvignon Yountville ($26) for a three-person tasting panel. Two out of three panelists preferred the Justin over the Ridge by a slight margin. The remaining panelist favored the Ridge slightly over the Justin. All three felt the Charles Krug was a tier or two below the others. The wines are too different in style and flavor profile for this small comparison to say anything definitive about the quality of the three wines but it reinforces the suggestion that, if you want to get best value out of your 07 Monte Bello, opening it now is the wrong way to go.

I left the wines in bottle (with an ambient temperature of 68 degrees) for yet another two days, tasting them twice each day. On the final tasting of the final day, the Ridge had finally turned the corner. The palate had taken on additional richness, the fruit greater softness and the wine overall was both more complex and more inviting. I now found it clearly better than the Justin which was still very good but had not developed at all after the second day. The 2007 vintage has the expected Ridge Monte Bello dark fruit and spice but is ligher bodied than recent vintages. It’s a very good wine, but needs time to develop. Best from 2015 through 2025. Highly Recommended.

2007-Ridge-Monte-Bello

2007 Ridge Monte Bello
Rating: Highly Recommended
Hold: Best from 2015 through 2025
Retail Price: ~$150
Blend: Cabernet Sauvignon 79%, Merlot 10 %, Petit Verdot 9%, Cabernet Franc 2%

Aging: roughly 18 months in barrel (almost exclusively American oak) and 12 months in bottle.
Alcohol: 13.1%
Closure: Cork

This wine was purchased for review.

If you enjoyed this article, please share it! Icons for popular sharing services are at the right above and also below.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check outour comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2010 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

The 2007 Celani Family Vineyards Tenacious Napa Valley

The 2007 Celani Family Vineyards Tenacious Napa Valley is a red “right bank Bordeaux-varietals” blend. Made from grapes grown on the Celani Family estate vineyard just north of the city of Napa, it’s a wine which can be aged but has been intentionally crafted to very drinkable right away.

The winemaker for Celani Family Vineyards is Mark Herold. He is one of the top consulting winemakers in Napa Valley. After working for six years in enology at Joseph Phelps, he and his then wife, Erika Gottl, founded Merus which was highly-celebrated and consistently received very high scores. After 10 vintages at Merus, Herold and Gottl sold the company to Foley Wine Group. Now, in addition to Celani Family Vineyards, Herold works with Kobalt, Kamen Estate Winery and Hestan Vineyards.

My general experience with Mark Herold’s wines is that they are dark, almost inky, wines with a sensuously rich mouthfeel and flavors that are intense and fruit-centric but offer substantial complexity. The 2007 Celani Family Vineyards Tenacious is no exception though, since it’s Merlot-based and designed to be ready to drink young, this wine is less extracted than many of his bottlings.

In the glass, the Tenacious is a bright ruby that is saturated but not opaque. Aromas blackberry, vanilla, orange peel and cocoa waft out of the glass to greet you. The palate is supple yet structured with flavors of black fruit, dark chocolate and caramel that lead to a finish of medium length and “tenacious,” though not overwhelming tannins.

This wine is both unfined and unfiltered. As a result, it throws off considerable sediment. I would strongly recommend decanting the wine both to separate it from the sediment and to promote aeration. With about an hour of air, the tannins in this wine become much silkier. A few years of bottle age will also moderate the tannins and some of the barrel-derived flavors while exposing more complexity from the fruit.

$60 is a fair price for a Napa Valley wine of this caliber. The 2007 Celani Family Vineyards Tenacious Napa Valley is neither an inexpensive wine nor a culty wallet-gouger, neither quaffer nor twenty-year keeper. It’s well-suited to accompany a nice dinner at home or at a restaurant, good enough for special occasions and has the pedigree to impress. It will go well with a hearty meat dish such as braised short ribs or with a juicy “gourmet” cheese and bacon burger (hold the ketchup and mustard). Drink now through 2016. Highly Recommended.


Celani-Family-Vineyards-2007-Tenacious-Napa-Valley

The 2007 Celani Family Vineyards Tenacious Napa Valley
Rating: Highly Recommended
Retail Price: $60.00
Blend: 69% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot
Aging: 20 months, 75% new French oak barrels
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 15.2%

If you'd like to contact Celani Family Estate for a private tasting, contact information and a map is available in their winery listing here at NorCal Wine.

This wine was received as a review sample from Napa Vintners at the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2010 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.