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Community Tasting Notes (7) Avg Score: 96.7 points

  • With much hope and anticipation, this first vintage of Insignia was tasted as part of an Insignia mini-vertical. Sadly, this particular bottle, while drinkable, showed signs of heat damage and maderization.

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  • Thirty Years of Phelps Insignia (1974 through 2004): The nose is exhuberant and Graves-like featuring red fruit, licorice, smoke, mineral, and caramel. Really impressive stuff -- I could smell this for hours. If anything this wine steps it up a notch on the taste. The texture is plush and seductive with a great core of fruit yet it also feels structured. Flavors are rich and complex. Still tannic. The finish is long and deeply satisfying. I am extremely thankful to George for affording us the opportunity to taste this pristine bottle that he has been holding for all these years. A monumental wine. WOTF and WOTN.

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  • Insignia Vertical Tasting 1974-2004 (WA Frost, St. Paul): Incredibly rich, multi-layered nose of caramel, meat, blood, and Graves-like scorched earth. On the palate, concentrated liquor of red fruit, earth, and mint. Amazingly youthful. Complex and thrilling. WOTF and WOTN for me.

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  • The ’74 is truly a historic wine. The first (marketed) attempt at a Bordeaux blend in California. I’d had it before, during a memorable tasting in 1996 of every Insignia vintage from ’74 through ’94. It was far and away the best wine poured back then. I asked about the provenance. The sommelier at Del Rio (Dennis) said the wine was purchased within 2 years of release and has been in their temperature-controlled cellar ever since….and it was their last bottle. After assuring my wife that this would be the extent of my wine expenditures for the month, I instructed Dennis to dig it out.

    When the bottle was presented, it was almost impossible to make out the label. The cellar is apparently quite humid and the label had faded and mildewed. This did not bother me. Too much humidity is better than too little. The cork came out well, soaked halfway up, where it slightly broke but still came out in one piece. It was carefully decanted for sediment and poured back in the bottle.

    I could not believe the color on this wine. Dark ruby red with no bricking. It looked like a 1999! The nose was ethereal. Rose petals, violets, crushed raspberries, juniper, eucalyptus. No earthy/dirty notes. Given the age of the wine, I was expecting a delicate entry. But the wine was so spirited it immediately caused me to put both hands in the steering wheel. The fruit is dark and feisty, accented with compelling complexity. Mustard seed, rosehip jelly, and of course, mint. The finish is firm, resonant and protracted. A wild stallion that has yet to be completely broken. Simply an incredible bottle and it retains the title of the best vintage of Insignia I’ve ever had. 96 objective points, plus 2 intangible “emotion points”.

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  • Holy cow - how can this be a 30-year old Cal. cab? Incredibly dark, youthful, and primary. Bursting with ripe dark fruit, coffee, chocolate, mint. Fantastic balance; liquid velvet on the palate; long, expansive finish. Wonderful wine. I can only hope the recent vintages of Insignia that I have turn out like this.

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