Skip to main content

Thought some of you might be interested in this. I talked to Phelps the other day looking for a release date on the '99 Insignia. Phelps informed me that this year they will not release Insignia until September. Citing a desire to give the wine a little more bottle time, they feel this will be the policy from here out. Interesting move, great to see wineries possibly more concerned about proper aging but also have to wonder about other possible motivations. Phelps usually has the jump on other big boys in release as a lot of reserve wine comes out in September which is good for them, but being an early release puts them in line with Far Niente and a few other wanabe's that maybe they don't quite want to be associated with. Who knows. Anywho, that's it Insignia in September.
Original Post

Replies sorted oldest to newest

Whenever it comes out, and for whatever reason, I'll be all over it. I tasted most of the Phelps reds a few weeks ago at a local event (LA). The Pastiche and Mistral were very good at their respective price points. But the Insignia and Backus were incredible. KK from JPV framed each offering with a good mix of "data" and inside info. The Backus showed structure, dark fruits and chewy tannins, with layers at mid-palate and through the finnish. The Insignia jumped out of the glass with cherry, berry, plum, and a hint of caramel or vanilla or ? Not as full bodied as the Backus, but really layered, soft fruit throughout. Much like the "97, but will mature a few years earlier. Me thinks those guys at Phelps are on to something.

"Better Red Than Not"
Okay, perhaps someone can explain why the 1994 & 1997 Insignia both have a 96 point rating by RMP, yet the 1994 was $55 and the 1997 $120! Same answer, Phelps is a profiteer.

The truth is, California is riding the gouge of Bordeaux. All wine collectors of the past 5/7 years have been conditioned to believe these values are real. They're not!
Also, I think Kramer is right. There are going to be some big price adjustments in the near future. There is a glut of wine in warehouses, cellars, and even at the Winerys.
The established values are false. So be careful when buying that glorius Insignia, it's not really $110 better than a Raymond Reserve! Or, is it?
latour67, I don't like the increases in wine pricing either, but other than finding values and not buying the "big boys", there is nothing we can do about it. I'm very skeptical of these claims of a glut of wine on the market and that prices will soon be falling faster than a dot-com stock. I've been hearing them for years, and it hasn't materialized yet. Sure, I wouldn't be surprised to see some 98 California wines be dumped here soon, much like Bordeaux had to with their 97's. However, anybody who thinks they will ever see a new release Insignia for under $75 is, I'm afraid, mistaken.
just looked at my notes of what i paid for back vintages of insignia

96-pass(offered at$70)
98-pass(offered at$80)

until 96 i thought it was a relative value in addition to being a great wine. from 96 on i've been a little more selective in what i have bought. the current price of the 98 is higher than the secondary market price of the better 93. i'd rather have the 93.

phelps has the same problem as many other producers of 98's. there is still large amounts of wine on retailers shelves and distributors warehouses. the good news is that they made an excellent 98(if a bit pricey for that level). the bad news is that they produced about 20000 cases, which is about the size of a major classified growth bordeaux. unlike bordeaux which has a worldwide market, almost all cal cabs are sold in the united states.

i happen to be a big fan of the insignia, but the 98's are going to be a very difficult sale if they are still competing with the old 97's and the new 99's at about the same price.

There is something we can do about it. Don't buy it! Reject high prices. Why did Insignia sell for $35. 8 years ago? And why is the 1997 $150 today? Answer: More people buy it and are convinced it is something more than fermented grape juice! It does not cost any more to make that wine today than it did 8 years ago. It just has a higher demand. Again, Retailers, newsletters, magazines, wholesalers, and Winerys make money by creating demand, which increase prices. When that market becomes saturated, prices will fall.

Ferrari-Carano made a substantial cut in prices within the last month on Tresor. There will be more to follow. I just wish I had some of my old wine price brochures from the 80's, but look at these prices in the early 90's
1. 1991-Cakebread $25.99
2. 1991-Montelena $29.99
3. 1991-Cinq Cepages $15.99
4. 1991-Fisher Wedding $25.99
5. 1991-Whitehalllane rs$18.99
6. 1992-Mondavi Res $32.99
7. 1989-Dominus $41.00
1. 1990-Mouton Rothsc. $59.99
2. 1990-Pichon Lalande $29.99
3. 1990-Ducru Beaucail. $29.99

The wine collectors of today are buying wine at very inflated prices, and every year the wine merchants invent new reasons to incease like, ASIA, "VINTAGE OF THE CENTURY", and do you remember---"EL NINO"! Wow, what will it be this year? Question authority, or be subject to it! Resist redX3 Find the bargins before they hit the market, but don't buy 97 Insignia for $150.
ojeffso, you are right on target, and have a very good assessment of the 97, 98, & 99's Insignias problem. I would rather have the 1993 over the higher priced 1998 also! Just as I would buy the 1988 Bordeaux on the secondary market, opposed to the 2000 first growths at the higher prices.

Selectivity has been essential since 1995, when the wine merchants of Bordeaux became greedy, and sold the world that their wine was the best and there was none left to buy!
latour-down boy, down!

i do understand how you feel. i remember paying those same prices years ago. i even have bottles of first growth bordeaux from 1970 with the original $8.99 sticker on it(no ubc back then).

you are correct about prices coming down, but it's not through the benevolence of the wine producers. it's purely economics.

there is too much excellent wine on the market today in the $20-50 range. other than the 2000 vintage(i agree, the prices will probably drop on release-it has happened in past overhyped vintages), i thought i would never see the day that a vintage of bordeaux(98) was a better value than a vintage of california cabs(98).

if cal cabs don't come back to the pack, there could be plenty of unsold wine on the shelves. it should be interesting to see the release price of the 99 insignia. do they try to push the envelope up? i say no.
Ojeffso, We agree on the future of Cal Cabs, but I don't have very much 70's Bordeaux left and those new French prices are staggering! You would have thought the stronger Dollar and the falling Franc would have been a bonus for the U S Consumer.

I guess I'll wait to see what happens in the next few months before deciding on Bordeaux or California, but either way, I'll be selective. Meanwhile, enjoy those 1970's Bordeaux wines; I am envious!
Actually, I think Phelps will push Insignia prices higher, though modestly at most. In a small crop year of better quality than '98 and given the warning of '00, the best '99 wines are sandwiched into a perceived and actual less supply- higher demand point allowing the price to float higher. Moreover, these wines will precede the 2000 Bordeaux vintage release by months, the latter which has been hyped(as very expensive)making these Cal Cabs seem relatively cheaper. If the economy improves, demand will increase absolutely as well as relatively as well.

This situation exists already in those higher end '99's now out, eg Viader, Pride scooped up by forumites. If Insignia gets a relative rating much better than most other stuff, look out.
Don't hold your breath for Insignia to be below $120.00. Get futures now. Shoot for $90-100.00.
Conversely, the '98 prices will come way down to make way, clear the inventory, the price point probably half -two thirds initial retail. Now Insignia '98 goes for $80.00 here.

I may be wrong, but I'm betting on it.

It's coming down to the wire. Barrel tasting 93-96 RP.Can't wait for that 2/23/02 issue.

I also think that because it's a blend, it'll fare even better in this truncated Cab. harvest. Of note, the $120.00 I quoted is unchanged from '98 and '97, thus already feeling the price floor. Pride is up. Viader up. Even other crap is up.

I'm paying $100.00/b for my 4 bottle futures, no bargain in the grand spectrum of things, more than I will pay for any other bottle this year, but I believe better than the eventual retail price will be here. You are fortunate to have better pricing structure in NJ.

dr. tannin aka jimmy the greek wink
I am still seeing 99 phelps Insignia futures at $86.99 and Mags for 177.99. I expect to see it released at the same price if what I've seen in 1996-1998 vintages are any measure. I bought a little mostly to insure a get a couple mags.

My take on Insignia is that since I've been into wine seriously, the wine has increased from $60 for the 1995 to $87 for the 1999. That's a compounded annual growth rate of 9.7%. That beats inflation but it's not usury either.

IMHO, Phelps Insignia is perhaps the greatest achievement in California wine considering its consistent excellence and large quantity produced. Craig Williams is the closest thing to a genius in the industry. It is one of the few wines which I will chase at over $50 (although I laid off the 1998's and 1996's -- I do have a budget). ... unlike Silver Oak which has probably lost me as a customer with it's $100 Napa's. I haven't bought a Silver Oak since the 1995 Alex but hadn't written off the winery forever -- til now.

Will the 1998 S.O. Napa be $110? After seeing the prices increase from $50 for the 1994 to $100 for the 1997 for a wine that has been missing the mark I wonder... that might be enough to shock some sense into the crazed fans who blindly gobble up all of the Oak they can. Silver Oak is probably too smart for that though. My bet is that they hold prices steady as to not risk a fall-out of their unexplainable cult following.
As to Phelps delaying the release of the 1999 Insignia till late in 2002, if this is the case they saw it coming in early 2001 as they told me my Insignia futures would not be arriving until September (this was last March at the 1998 Insignia release party). I think I paid $89 for my futures and have seen them around for $87 at a local shop.
Dr. Tannin: where, out of Calif, are you going to expand?

Ojeffso: right again, whatever the RMP rating, the price will follow! Until, perhaps, people wake up and realize how much they are spending on a quart+ of fermented grape juice!--put it in a sexy dark bottle, add a gold embossed label, put a year on it for rarity, convince all that the cultured drink it, wrap it all up with a RMP rating, and welcome to the world of the abused & simple wine collector! (excuse the cynicism)

My guess is that Washington, Oregon, Australia, and Italy for reds, and Austria and New Zealand for whites will be better bargains.
California Syrah may be an option as Cab. prices reach the stratosphere, perusing the WS issue.
The Insignia futures are the best I could do for that wine, given I live in SE VA. If it retails here for less than $120.00 I'll chew my hat, or worse, I'll drink some white Zin...

Speaking of, Zin. in '99 is a step down from '97, but '00 looks far worse, so that will be last resort, since I have lots in my cellar. Rhone prices are rising despite quality improving with several good vintages so the search will be harder. Burgundy '99 and Bordeaux ;99 are overall still too expensive for quality, unless youz guyz can relay the bargains you find; and Italy, I can't get here, though not necessarily true elsewhere.

This is compounded by nonreciprocal state restrictions.

So my analysis says:

1)Spend less-not that much exciting in the pipe v/v last few years.
2)Fewer Cal. wines- branch into Syrah; Be selective-only quality Cabs. at good prices; eg Insignia futures, Montelena futures,Viader-which I struggled with before buying 5 at $74.00/bottle. From what I've seen so far-Regular Pride at $65.00=no; Foley claret at $130.00+=no; Pahlmeyer Merlot at $85.00-no. Residual '98's -unless price drops by half-no. JUST SAY NO.A BIG FAT NO! But remember, Vino Me and I are vlue players on this board.
3)Buy more Washington,Oregon- Washington in particular is of interest-Our old friend Fox(whose expenditures and vacations are legendary) has hinted at an excellent harvest in '99. Let's hope prices are still reasonable at release.
4)Drink more from my cellar. Pare down my Cal Cab '94's.

Dr. T

Quality Washington Reds are already too high. There are too many budget zin's & syrah's, and usually you must spend big$$$ to get one that you can cellar for a period longer than 3 years. My interests? Cab. S, Cab. F, & Merlot, or any combo, so since I'm a bargain hunter, I'm stuck. I guess I'll eventually lose interest in wine collecting, as greed chases me from this marketplace!

[ 06-06-2002, 09:14 PM: Message edited by: latour67 ]
Wanted to be the first kid on my block to post from the Super Bowl press box.
Think you should do a little more investigating before signing off on Washington wines being too expensive.
Granted, prices are moving up, but they're inching compared to the Californians.
You still can find delicious WA wines for under $30.
For instance,
Cadence, Tamarack Cellars, Russell Creek, Reinenger.
Seek and ye shall find.
Guess I'm luckier than you guys. The Queen's permnanent residence is in Seattle, so we get around to all these places. She helps with crush and bottling at DeLille and Betz Family and we took a trip to Walla Walla in Eastern Wa. this summer where we had first-hand experiences with many I listed.
Suppose many only are available out there.
That said, Pike and Western is a nice downtown wine shop and so is Esquin (perhaps they have websites you could visit. Think they ship.)

The good Washington wines are very comparable to the high end Cal cabs for aging possibilities. Many have 10-plus years in the bottle in them.
I thought that this would be an interesting thread to revive. There are quite a few interesting conversations in here, but the subject matter itself is worth the price of admission. What ever happened to this bit of guidance apparently given by Phelps?

"Thought some of you might be interested in this. I talked to Phelps the other day looking for a release date on the '99 Insignia. Phelps informed me that this year they will not release Insignia until September. "
stealth-it's all over new jersey at $89.99 a bottle and you can buy a boat load.

stemor-maybe the early release was to get it on the street before parker releases his rating. if it only gets a 93, and with 2000 coming, there could be alot of insignia on the shelves. after all $90 is still alot of money for a bottle of wine.

exactly what I'm thinking: Great marketing by Phelps. Had things gone "kerflooo-ey", they would have held off on distribution.

However, they had a good impending sense of positive ratings, so the flooded the market while the "positive buzz" was in the press. All of sudden the wines that were to be released in late '02 fill the shelves in 1Q02. Hmmmmmmm ....

Am I getting cynical, or just experientially mature?

Add Reply

Link copied to your clipboard.