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Decided to break out a bottle of this on a whim today because my wife came home with a big thick London Broil.

Decanted it and had a powerful rush of fruit. Reminded me of a sangria I had earlier in the week the aroma was so sweet and fresh.

The color is a lovely deep dark purple. It gives off a powerful fruit flavor in the glass with a bit of hot alcohol overtone.

The flavor is a wonderful full fruit experience, with well resolved sweet tanins. This wine is a real joy. Currant, cherry, spices and a wonderful finish.

This is every bit the 96 that WS and Parker rated it.

-- london02
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I popped one open last year for the birth of my my daughter. The '97 Insignia is one of those well made wines that will cellar and improve for years but still can be enjoyed young. IMHO I think it will reach full maturity in maybe 10 years and will keep drinking well for years after that.

For Boston! For Boston! We sing our proud refrain!
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I certainly agree that the '97 is a prize. Phelps makes such volume of Insignia that I would imagine it can still be found, but one would have to wonder about its storage conditions before purchasing.

There aren't many that I would describe with the term "velvet", but the '97 Insignia is right there. Giving it another 10 years stretches it a bit for me, and I'd be careful to try some at intervals to watch for changes along the way.

We recently had a J. Phelps wine tasting at our country club. I spoke to the distributor of Phelps and was suprised to hear that he recommended drinking, or at least trying, the 1997 soon. He indicated that although the wine would easily last for 10 - 15 years, that it would elvolve into a more austere French bordeaux type wine over time, and the great fruit forward flavors and silkiness that the wine now possesses would diminish (change) over time as the wine developed a more earthy flavored style.

As with many of you that have tried the wine now, he indicated it is drinking wonderfully and that if you have more than a bottle don't hesitate to try some now now and then later to determine which style you like best.

Dr. Azul
Dr. Azul...

Good post.

This is exactly how I feel about most CA wines. If you want the fruit forward expression, you're going to have to drink on the young side. Otherwise the fruit mellows out into an earthy bordeaux style wine. There is nothing bad about this, don't get me wrong, but this is the trade off. If you like the Bordeaux aspect in a CA style wine, drink them on the late side. If you prefer the fruit and can handle a little tannin in your wine, drink 'em younger. Neither is right or wrong, just a matter of preference.


So much little time!!!
There is a lot of talk about drinking up the '97 vintage because it won't last or it is overrated.
Answer: Way too premature.

There is a lot of talk about drinking up the '97 vintage because it is delicious.
Answer: Absolutely.

This is one of my favorite Insignias. Better early than the '95, almost as delish as the '94.
99 aint half bad either.
Having had the 97 Insignia at least 6 times since release, I have to say that from day one, this wine was really outstanding. I think it’s improved since release and will continue to improve over the next 5-7 years. At that point, I agree that it may not improve much more but, who knows!! It will continue to be outstanding for 20 years if stored correctly. It is the best Insignia I’ve ever had which include all of the 90’s many times. What can I say, I love this wine. With 18,000 cases made, it was easy and a no brainer to buy a bunch for the future. This is a great wine for anyone to have in their cellar that blows the socks off of any of the wines made in California with this kind of volume.
I agree with Lakersguy in thinking this will hold a lot longer than some think. If the '94 is any sort of indicator, well stored, it is still a baby of a fantastic wine as well. I haven't had the '97 for about a year, drank a couple '98s as filler, been thinking about popping a '95. Velvet is the puuurrfecctt discriptor for the '97 and '94, yum! Razz
This was opened by Otis last Saturday. It was voted wine of the night by all in attendance and was the first wine to disappear. While I was upstairs (having worked my way through the whites and having started on the Pinots) I heard a rumor that this wine was almost gone. I went downstairs to find that there was barely enough for 1 more taste and it was mine whereupon and evil smile came over my face (although I did share it with the Lady Vino Me).

This had a pepper and dark berry nose. Dark reddish color with thin legs. Very dry tannins. This full bodied wine was astringent upfront but flowed into rich fruity plum notes. A hint of bitterness got your attention on the long finish. A big thank you to Otis for opening this. This wine will last much longer. No need to rush to drink it. 94+ points.

Latour, I have been out of town so just getting back to you. Price for me was $90 a bottle, I bought a case at auction two years ago, since I did not get any when it first came out. At the time that was a pretty good price I think. As for standing up to the London Broil, it was no contest, the Insignia more than held its own.

VM, that ought to teach you to be drinking white wine.

-- london02
Opened this last wwekend. I was expecting it to be much more tannic. I was blown over as to how great this wine is now, and how I felt it would still improve over the next 5 years. My advice drink or hold it's up to you! The word velvet is the best word to describe this wine. I had this over a year ago and believe it is truly a much better wine now. I could not believe the beautiful sweet entry and texture I felt in my mouth. The aroma is killer with sweet cherries and alcohol. The finish I did not feel was of dry tannins, but rather an explosion of alcohol. I think of 94 Dominus to compare this wine to for quality. 96pts. I am seeking to secure more, since I only have 2 bottles left. I now rate this as one of my top 5 wines I have ever had! It is better than the 94 or 95 imho.

It used to be beer, the old lady, & TV. Now it's wine, American Express, & this stupid forum!
Paired with boneless leg of lamb rubbed and marinated with a lemon-pesto paste. Decanted 2 hours and served in Riedel Sommelier Grand Crus.

Wow. Wine of the Month, so far. Huge extracted fruit nose, coupled with copious chocolate and cigar wrapper. First whiff screamed blueberry pie. Inky black/purple in the glass. Smooooth. Gobs of dark fruit, but still has the tannins and acidity to withstand aging. I would NOT, however, lay this down for an occassion 20 years out. Decant and drink now or hold for 7-10 years max. After that, I suspect that this wine will become something else entirely, which you may like just as much. But if you want the fruit explosion, now to 7 years from now would be my recommendation.
97 pts. Really. It was that good.
I respectfull disagree that Bordeaux ages to austerity. I have a number of 1982's that are just starting to feel their oats. Tasted the Lynch Bages last fall and the fruit was huge -- took 2+ hours to open up in the decanter.

Obviously every year will be different. I have some 1992 Insignia and was wondering about longevity so I emailed the winery last year. I received the following email from the winemaker:


Dear Jim:

Coincidentally, Jim Laube of the Wine Spectator is currently reviewing the 'longevity' of California Cabernet Sauvignons produced in both '82 and '92. While I have not received any inside information on his opinion of the '92 Insignia, I believe this wine will continue to improve if you prefer wines with more bottle 'bouquet', less color and softer fruit-tannin structure. I think it can go at least another 5 years or so under reasonable cellar conditions. The wine drinks well now and we serve it often at our dinner events at the winery. Ultimately, your personal preference should decide when to consume.

Thanks for your support!

Best Regards,

Craig Williams
  • 1997 Joseph Phelps Insignia - USA, California, Napa Valley (12/19/2005)
    Tasted as part of a blind tasting of five "cabs 1999 or older". This wine was voted the clear favorite. The nose was a little reticent at first, but after 20 minutes was gushing forth cedar, coconut, blackberries and mint. Fantastic balnace. It seemed like one velvety homogenous mass as it glided through the mouth. No disjointed parts or seams. A flamboyant "don't hate me because I'm beautiful" wine. Not a very complex Insignia, but undeniably delicious. I think this is right near its peak. Will drink my last bottle in 2006. (95 pts.)

Posted from CellarTracker


1997 Joseph Phelps Insignia - USA, California, Napa Valley
Atlanta Vielles Vignes – Bone’s and Cabs (Bone's Restaurant, Atlanta, GA): Nose of cassis and spicy blackberry. Great depth of fruit with rich cassis and black fruits that dance on the tongue and are wonderfully balanced with anise, light notes of mocha, and graphite. Consistent throughout the full bodied palate, this has rich, fine tannins and a nice lingering finish. S95 3/28/2006
5 plus threads on this wine but this is the oldest so here goes...

1997 Joseph Phelps Insignia - USA, California, Napa Valley (7/6/2008)

Tasted July 6, 2008 at an offline.

I believe this wine was decanted about 2 hours before being brought to the restaurant. Purple color in the glass, clear hue throughout. Nose of laquer (not offensive), melted black licorice, plums and currants. Flavors of berries, cherries and currants. Medium acidity, moderate turning towards integrated tannins, medium to full body. Drink or hold. I'll stick with my previous rating of WIML95 but this might have been just a half step behind the previous bottle. (95 pts.)

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