Robert M. Parker, Jr. - 30/11/2013
About this WINE
Joseph Phelps, a building contractor from Colorado, first invested in vineyards in the Napa Valley in 1972. In 1974 Phelps and his winemaker Walter Schugg produced their first vintage of Insignia, which at the time was one of the first Bordeaux style blends in California. Its Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot grapes are sourced primarily from Rutherford & Stags Leap (notably for `Insignia'); the Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc from Los Carneros & Napa (for the better quality fruit).
Insignia, which is aged in oak barrels (25% American) for 22 months has been on hot streak since 1990 and current winemaker Craig Williams is producing richer and riper wines than before. The winery produces a wide range of wines apart from Insignia and of particular interest are its Rhône style wines made from Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, and Viognier.
Cabernet Sauvignon lends itself particularly well in blends with Merlot. This is actually the archetypal Bordeaux blend, though in different proportions in the sub-regions and sometimes topped up with Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.
In the Médoc and Graves the percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend can range from 95% (Mouton-Rothschild) to as low as 40%. It is particularly suited to the dry, warm, free- draining, gravel-rich soils and is responsible for the redolent cassis characteristics as well as the depth of colour, tannic structure and pronounced acidity of Médoc wines. However 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wines can be slightly hollow-tasting in the middle palate and Merlot with its generous, fleshy fruit flavours acts as a perfect foil by filling in this cavity.
In St-Emilion and Pomerol, the blends are Merlot dominated as Cabernet Sauvignon can struggle to ripen there - when it is included, it adds structure and body to the wine. Sassicaia is the most famous Bordeaux blend in Italy and has spawned many imitations, whereby the blend is now firmly established in the New World and particularly in California and Australia.