Search: (advanced)

External search
Google (images)
Wine Advocate
Wine Spectator

Show more

From this producer
Show all wines
All tasting notes
  Home | All Cellars | Tasting Notes | Reports | UsersHelp | Member Sign In 

 Vintage1985 Label 1 of 94 
ProducerJoseph Phelps (web)
VarietyRed Bordeaux Blend
SubRegionNapa Valley
AppellationNapa Valley

Drinking Windows and Values
Drinking window: Drink between 1998 and 2014 (based on 7 user opinions)
Wine Market Journal quarterly auction price: See Joseph Phelps Insignia on the Wine Market Journal.

Community Tasting History

Community Tasting Notes (average 91.9 pts. and median of 92 pts. in 47 notes) - hiding notes with no text

 Tasted by Hodby on 2/27/2015 & rated 93 points: Red-garnet color, medium; much muddy red-purple sediment. Powerful nose, lovely and young-ish of mints, bay leaf, gum tree leaf, red cherry, cola, a hint of Bourbon whiskey and oak spice. On arrival, medium-low tannin and balanced acidity, very smooth. In the mouth, olives and cherry in front of the herbs and oak. Finishes fat, long. Our group of six drained the whole thing in 90 minutes in fear it would shut down, but it was getting stronger with air. From magnum bottle #1 of one. (559 views)
 Tasted by coremill on 2/21/2015 & rated 90 points: Crumbly cork. Mature nose of ripe blackberry fruit with lots of tobacco and cedar character and some vanilla/caramel, exactly what you would expect. Still plenty of fruit, tannins are soft and buttery and mostly resolved, good fruit in the midpalate that shows the mellowness of age, some integrated caramel from the oak, not drying out but also not especially long. Can't see this getting better, and probably already on the downside. A very nice older CA blend without quite hitting any fireworks. (602 views)
 Tasted by petitblanc on 9/27/2014 & rated 89 points: Old Wine Offline; 9/26/2014-9/27/2014 (The Room Off the Patio at Ruth's Chris, and My House): Nice deep cherry color. Somewhat off-putting minty nose. More mint on the palate, with spice and fruit. Grows thin and hot through the finish. Losing structure, drink now. (1456 views)
 Tasted by Herb K on 9/25/2014: This wine just keeps on giving.... It's fading a little, but still smooth, silky with lingering fruits -- plums, berries (1353 views)
 Tasted by acyso on 12/14/2013 & rated 90 points: HDH auction tasting at Tru (Chicago, IL): Loads of green pepper and leather on the nose here. A bit dusty and funky; this is a classic cabernet. There's also perhaps a slight hint of barnyard animal character. The palate is very refined and light on its feet; no heaviness detectable anywhere. An incredibly pretty (if a bit funky) bottle of Napa cab. Light tannins; it seems that everything has already loosened up. Showing very well right now; this is a pleasure to drink right now. (3347 views)
 Tasted by godx on 11/12/2013 & rated 90 points: Video Music Night at Bill's (Vancouver, BC): On the nose, this was very different than the previous two BVs. Loads of mint on the nose with cool cabernet fruit and hints of chocolate. Well balanced on the palate with resolved tannins and nice acidity and length. Drink now but no rush. Excellent. (3040 views)
 Tasted by Herb K on 9/7/2013: An '85 as good as any '85 -- short of I'm not sure what...Obviously provenance is the key and I have had a case in my cellar from release from the winery. It was WONDERFUL! Still delicate fruit on the nose, with hints of blackberries, cassis and cedar. Harmony all the way around. LOVED this wine... (3123 views)
 Tasted by lesz on 8/16/2013 & rated 92 points: Starting to fade. Licorice ,tannins all resolved. Still enjoyable but drink up. My last bottle. (2651 views)
 Tasted by Wine_lvr on 6/25/2013 flawed bottle: Monday California Tasting: My first encounter with this wine and unfortunately a bottle that had likely a minor flaw (old barrel / cork). The power and complexity of the wine was there, so was the fruit and the berries. But this bottle just seemed off so a rating would not do justice. Hope I get the opportunity to retaste one day as the wine showed great potential... (3095 views)
 Tasted by PSPatrick on 5/6/2013 & rated 93 points: „One Wine - Three Vintages“-Blind Tasting. Flight 10: Joseph Phelps Insignia. We tasted 1985, 1994 and 2005. One of my two favourite flights of the night (together with the flight of Château Pape Cléments). The 1985 Insignia drank very young. It was the lightest in colour, but had the most expressive nose of the flight, with mint, eucalyptus, chocolate and After Eight. On the medium- to full-bodied palate the 1985 offered lots of mint and After Eight and some bell pepper, paired with impeccable balance and very good length. Potentially the most balanced wine of the tasting. Great Cabernet! (93) The first bottle of 1994 was corked, but we had a back-up. The 1994 was my least favourite wine of this superb flight. It had the least expressive nose of the flight, only showing some mint and some eucalyptus. The oak still was quite present on the palate and the wine seemed very high in alcohol. It did, however, have tremendous length. To the wine’s defense I must admit that we poured straight from bottle and the wine slowly opened-up in the glass. Things might hence look quite different after a solid decant. (scoring reserved) The 2005 was the darkest wine of the flight. It offered black currant, mint, eucalyptus, After Eight and coffee on the nose, and black currant, mint and chocolate on the palate. The wine was balanced and had tremendous length. I liked it. Like the 1985 a great expression of Cabernet! (93) The discussion about the hefty price of Joseph Phelps Insignia put aside, there is no doubt about the extraordinary quality and ageworthiness of Insignia. The 1985 drank very young and the 1994 even seemed to have further upside potential. I am also still taken aback by the aromatic and stylistic consistency of the wines over a period of twenty years. (1978 views)
 Tasted by jinks on 3/1/2013 & rated 91 points: Tasted blind among some heavy hitter reds.
rated in top third of its flight
My blind notes:
Nose - started out with dirty, dark tones but morphed over time to a very distinct and pleasant smoky element. Thought this was old world wine.
Mouth - Thin, old, minimal fruit but with character and structure.
Finish - medium. (2125 views)
 Tasted by Cardinalscientific on 11/26/2012 & rated 93 points: Needs time to open up. Excellent balance and refinement especially on the finish. Great nose of dried fruit, leather and old wood. Very earthy and delicious. It got better with every glass (2180 views)
 Tasted by lesz on 10/6/2012 & rated 92 points: Probably not going to get any better (2365 views)
 Tasted by Herb K on 6/18/2012: This wine was the surprise of the night! It had aged so gracefuly. Truen, most of the fruit was gone, but there was still great balance and a silkiness on the palate that stayed on the tongue for at least a couple of minutes with every sip. Glad I still have a few bottles left! (2608 views)
 Tasted by ledwards on 3/10/2012 & rated 95 points: Wine of the night. Along side a 95 Pontet Canet randomly. What a nice surprise. I was was worried I was to sip the sour, flat distant mode that older CA cabs succumb to. Insignia showed brilliantly. Balance, fruit, soft (but almost gone) tannins. Crystalline dark fruit. In short, what you hope to find. The color and nose was still of a 10 year old. The youthfulness made me wonder if that Rudy clown dropped this in the cellar but it has been in my possession for over a decade. Ending prime drinking window as after an hour or so, it started to flatten a bit. Probably as good as it will get but I would love to try another in 5 years. (2982 views)
 Tasted by Anonymous on 12/22/2011 & rated 87 points: There was plenty of the life in the wine with rich red cherry and some drizzled chocolate profile. The wine had lots of promise on entry but fell apart in the mid palate and essentially had little finish. There was a cedar and oakiness that was harsh upon opened and while it mellowed somewhat, it was definitely a distraction. The 1985 vintage made me fall is love with wine so for me this was a great walk down memory lane even if the bottle came up a little short. (2972 views)
 Tasted by treaganjr on 11/8/2011 & rated 92 points: The wine exhibited its clear ruby color as it was poured and in the glass displayed slight bricking around the edges. What a great nose and flavors. Mature but not over the hill. (2945 views)
 Tasted by THA on 10/22/2011 & rated 96 points: Extraordinary. Still on the plateau of sweet, balanced maturity. This is what it's all about. (2865 views)
 Tasted by THA on 8/26/2011 & rated 93 points: What a great affirmation of mature California wine! Yielding to maturity, but still in balance, and still focused and in tact. The tertiary aromas of cedar and leather are seductive. And the silky mid palate gives soft flavors of fruit. A real treat. (2956 views)
 Tasted by hutch on 3/5/2011 & rated 93 points: Some American Cabs at Roger's (Roger's House): What a great treat to be able to try a 25 year old Insignia. This was the wine of the night. It was mature, but could still show a move or two. The aromatics were the highlight, with a beautiful funky nose, with notes of earth, mushrooms, red fruits. The palate was still showing decent fruit, well balanced, and on the elegant end, with the fruits veering toward red. Not over the hill, but the enjoyment of this bottle depends on how you like the wines. It actually reminded me of an '85 BV Latour I had a couple years back. Whether that's due to my limited experience of aged wine or real similarities is tough to tell. I have found my sweet spot to be 10-15 years, so I might be a harsher critic of this, but it was undeniably a great wine, and showed really well. (3616 views)
 Tasted by Lord Rayas on 12/29/2010 & rated 94 points: Taste off between Alex and PC (Classified Exchange Square): Exotic nose of herbs, spices, smoke, black olives and green peppers. Great pairing with the Solaia 85. Both could be mistaken for a right bank Bordeaux. (3783 views)
 Tasted by sajjy on 8/31/2010 & rated 92 points: definitely at or past its peak,very elegant if not spectacular wine that was pleasent to drink after
decanting 3 hours (3937 views)
 Tasted by Hodby on 6/6/2010 & rated 92 points: Color is ruby and garnet, with some lightening at glass edge. Offered immediate, complex aromas of mint, juniper, cranberry, Dr Pepper and cherry, with some cherry and herbs echoed in the palate. Soft tannin initially, gradually getting firmer over two hours. A lovely wine to smell and taste throughout a three hour dinner with grilled pork chops, cherry/port reduction sauce, sour red cabbage, and porchini mushroom risotto. Bottle #12 of twelve,with one magnum remaining in cellar; no need to rush to consume, but it's probably not improving further either. A wonderfully balanced structure in this wine, consistent in every bottle since release. (3921 views)
 Tasted by andtheodor on 5/19/2010 & rated 93 points: Complex, minty eucalyptus nose with hints of roasted poblano, old tobacco. Powerful nose with a serious green streak that belies the beauty and complexity beneath. Nice cassis, cedar, plum and good structure. Awesome. 93-94? (3894 views)
 Tasted by robmatic on 5/19/2010 & rated 95 points: Minty and smoky, an awesome mature wine with perfect balance. Drinking very nicely but not going to get any better. (3726 views)
 Only displaying the 25 most recent notes - click to see all notes for this wine...

Professional 'Channels'
By Jancis Robinson, MW
JancisRobinson.com (3/21/2013)
(Joseph Phelps, Insignia Napa Valley Red) Subscribe to see review text.
NOTE: Scores and reviews are the property of JancisRobinson.com. (manage subscription channels)

CellarTracker Wiki Articles (login to edit | view all articles)

Joseph Phelps

Producer website

In the late 60s, Joseph Phelps was running one of the largest construction companies in the U.S. when he won the bid to build Souverain Winery (now Rutherford Hill) located a few miles outside of St. Helena. Enamored with the beautiful Napa Valley and contemplating a career change, in 1973 he bought the 600-acre Connolly cattle ranch in Spring Valley, and began planting vineyards. The winery was completed in 1974 and that same year the first Syrah was made, the first grapes were crushed at the new facility and the first Insignia was produced. It was a period of unparalleled activity, creativity, ingenuity, entrepreneurship and risk-taking and it put Joe Phelps on the map of top Napa Valley wine producers.

Nearly four decades later, the flagship wine, Insignia, is recognized as one of the world’s great wines. Twenty nine of 34 vintages have been rated ninety or more points by various wine publications. From 1990 to 2007, the average score from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate is 94.5 pts., with the lowest score still a fabulous 91. The 2002 vintage was “Wine of the Year” by Wine Spectator Magazine, and the 2007 vintage has been rated 98 points by Robert Parker and 96 points by Wine Spectator Magazine.
Over the years, the goal of becoming 100% estate grown resulted in carefully planned acquisitions of prime vineyards in the Napa Valley. Today, the Phelps estate consists of the Spring Valley Home Ranch outside of St. Helena, Banca Dorada in Rutherford, Las Rocas and Barboza vineyards in Stags Leap, Yountville Vineyard in Oak Knoll, Suscol Vineyard in South Napa and Backus Vineyard in Oakville.

Beginning with the 2009 vintage, estate-grown wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Insignia, Backus (the single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from Oakville) and Eisrébe, a dessert wine made from the Scheurebe grape. In addition, a small amount of Syrah is produced from fruit owned by Hyde Vineyards in Los Carneros.

Though the main focus is on Bordeaux varietals, Joe Phelps has had a life-long love affair with the wines of Burgundy and a desire to craft wines in that style. Originally Chardonnay was sourced from St. Helena, later from Yountville and then from Los Carneros. Through the years, however, Joe continued to search for the ideal spot to grow both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and his search ended when the perfect combination of climate, soil and location was found in Freestone, located in the Sonoma Coast AVA, a mere eight miles from the Pacific Ocean. In 1999, 200 acres were acquired and planting began. Today, 80 acres of Pinot Noir and 20 acres of Chardonnay are producing some remarkable wines which are available for tasting at the Freestone Guest Center. Visit Freestone Vineyards to learn more.

Red Bordeaux Blend

Read about the grapes used to produce Bordeaux The variety Red Bordeaux Blend in CellarTracker implies any blend using any or all of the five traditional Bordeaux varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. As such, this is used worldwide, whether for wines from Bordeaux, Meritages from California and Canada, some Super-Tuscan wines etc.


Of interest concerning the sources for grapes for this wine:



WineAmerica (National Association of American Wineries) | Free the Grapes!


California Wines (Wine Institute of California)

California is one of the most diverse wine regions in the world, with almost 100 grape varieties grown in over 100 viticultural areas, including dozens of ­different microclimates and soil types, as well as a very individualistic set of ­winemakers, many with international experience, which adds to and deepens that diversity.

Napa Valley

Napa Valley Wineries and Wine (Napa Valley Vintners) | Article in CellarTracker

Napa Valley

Napa Valley AVA

© 2003-15 CellarTracker! LLC. All rights reserved. "CellarTracker!" is a trademark of CellarTracker! LLC. No part of this website may be used, reproduced or distributed without the prior written permission of CellarTracker! LLC. (Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy. DB2) - Follow us on Twitter and on Facebook