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Did the food and wine pairing seminar for $15. Can't remember the guy's name, but he was a jerk and very rude to other individuals who were not as knowledgable about wine. What a shame as it is unwanted PR for Phelps. Got there at 10:30 am.

Here is the line-up with short notes...

Insigina 99: wow, excellent, deep, deep color, think, multiple, slow legs: 93 points

2000 Chard Ovation: nice, buttery, full-bodied, but I would pass at the price

2000 Le Mistral: excellent if you like Rhone grape, full-bodied, deep, red color, thick, rick, slow legs: 90-92 points; excellent QPR

1999 merlot: deep, deep color, less fruit than other 99 merlots tasted, full of tannin, 88 points

2000 Cab: multiple, thin legs, rich color, but not full-bodied, pass at price, 88 points

1998 Late Harvest Riesling: pineapple, great color, apricot: 91 points

Did not purchase anything b/c I can easily find in Texas market.

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I was at Phelps the first weekend of November -- on a sunday morning -- we had an older lady lead the tasting, and was not very considerate to those who did not grasp wine basics very quickly. The Insignia was outstanding, but the attitude of the people there made me want to pass on buying anything -- plus you can do better either at a wine store or online to get most of their offerings.

I think it has more to do with the winery staff believing in their own hype, similar to an experience I had as a wee lad:

In my younger days, I worked a summer in a high end clothing store -- I saw my coworkers acting like complete snobs to people who were not oozing money shopping in the store. It wasn't like the staff themselves were filthy rich, but it was the attitude of 'identifying' with the expensive clothing IMO. You see it all the time at expensive establishments. Needless to say the next summer I chose to work in a less-pretentious marina...

All good quality businesses appreciate feedback, good and especially bad. It’s the only way to improve. I have not done a wine tasting tour at Phelps. I have personally spoke with and e-mailed Craig Williams at Phelps about their wines and always get a response. They do care about what you think. Send Craig an e-mail at
Dear Friends,

Given my experience and yours, I have decided to email/call Phelps, particularly Craig Williams. If any of you would like to continue posting your experienes at Phelps, please add them here. I may, if you give me permission, quote some of your comments without mentioning your moniker. The letter will be completely from me unless you would like to be part of the note.

Thanks for everything,
I have visited Phelps twice. Both times as a newby into wines and they were not charging anything for the tasting. But most people are charging something fot these king of tasting anyway.
The first time was treated great, also all the other people in the tasting. It was a young lady.They even opened a dessert bottle at the end just for me to try and see if I like it. They seated me in a special indoor tasting table.
The second time, we did not have a bad experience but not up to par. They tall male guy had us standing inside the winery for about 45 minutes, explaining about wine making (most people already know about this since they have been to other tours and what they waht is to TRY THE WINES). We were sitted in the terrace for a brief 15 minutes tasting without much details for the wines.

Now, they have expectacular views from the terrace, they have excellent wines, but THEY NEED TO HAVE A BETTER SERVICE AT THE TOURS. People take out about 2 hours of their NAPA time to learn more about Phelps. Visitors should get the most of Phelps. I, in Puerto Rico have been visited by Craig Williams twice for tasting at their Distributor and he is wonderfull. We did the first complete Insignia tasting 1974-1994 done or attended by him in the entire USA.
His attention to the wines, simple style and professionalism were great. He should be followed by all his staff at the winery.
Orlando De Jesus
Puerto Rico
Doc -

Sorry for preempting you, but I forwarded a link to this thread to Phelps on the 7th and just heard back today:

"Thank you so much. I found it. We appreciate you letting us know about the comments made. I am now forwarding them to the Director of Retail Sales and Hospitality."

I love Phelps wines, and this is not the first time I have seen comments such as this. These bad experiences are such at odds with my visit some time ago that I wanted Phelps to know about it so they could take action to correct.

So, keep the comments coming - they're paying attention.
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My name is Molly Britton and I am the Director of Customer Service at Joseph Phelps Vineyards. I am truly sorry to hear about the bad experiences outlined in this forum. Throughout the years Joseph Phelps Vineyards has been proud of our reputation of having one of the best hospitality departments in the Napa Valley, and we have every interest in pursuing that reputation again. We do not want to seem rude, snobby or indifferent towards our visitors. I encourage every one of you to contact me directly to explain the details of your unpleasant visits to the winery, and give me the opportunity to fix our errors. My job is to take care of our customers and I take it very seriously. Molly Britton, 800/707-5789,

Molly Britton
Director of Customer Service
Joseph Phelps Vineyards
Thanks to you too, Eric, for taking the initiative of alerting Phelps. I have been to Phelps many times and have referred numerous friends. We've never had a bad experience and have never had a negative report.
Sounds like a few unfortunate incidents occurred and Phelps has responded. Kudos to them.
If it was as good as their wine, the service would be sublime. A lofty goal!
I guess I will chime in. I too had the unfortunate oppurtunity to meet this obnoxious individual. His first question was "Do you want to pay extra for the Insignia tasting?" I asked if he was pouring the 1999. He said "No, only the 1998". I said that I would pass. He said "Do you even know what the Insignia is?" I said, "I believe that this is the same wine which I have im my cellar from 1994-1997. I have tried the 98 and I will pass on todays Insignia tasting, just charge me for the regular tasting thank you." He then went on this ego talk about cooking. We
were unimpresed. We heard more about food than Phelps' wines. Another interesting note, when we went out to the terrace to enjoy the view, my wife broke a glass. He was very rude about it. We apologized, but he acted like we broke a Reidel. I left feeling like they think more of themselves than most other wineries. I go to Stag's Leap wine cellars, Pine Ridge, Duckhorn, or Shafer and they give me gifts, treat me like royalty, and don't even charge me for my tastings. I have to say though that the 99 Insignia is one of my favorite 99's. I wont let some tasting room guy keep me from it. Smile

By the way I am coming to Napa on the 20th -22nd. I have an apointment for Phelps on the 21st, the lady asked me if I wanted an early appointment which would include food pairing, or a later appointment which would have more winery information. I said definitely the latter. I was really thinking "I don't want to have to deal with the food guy again!" Eek


It used to be beer, the old lady, & TV. Now it's wine, American Express, & this stupid forum!
I have been a fan of their wines, but never a fan of their hospitality. Their attitudes have been consistently snobby and their interest in customer satisfaction even poorer. We had an incident at their winery last year. When I called their management to chat about it, he basically called me a liar.

Understand this, to have an incident as we did at their winery was pretty weird and embarrassing. But to call a customer a liar would most certainly fly in the face of any customer satisfaction policy.

With so many other wineries in the Napa Valley making extraordinary wines, I see no reason to continue to support a place like Phelps.
Lafon Rochet,
I was very sorry to read your post from 1/10/03. If you are interested in pursuing this further, I would like to hear about your experience at the winery. If you want to call me with the details, I promise that I will not call you a liar. For me to properly address this problem with both our management and our hospitality staff, I need to be made aware of exactly what occurred during your visit. I understand if you prefer to just let it go, but I would appreciate the opportunity to fix this.

Molly Britton

Molly Britton
Director of Customer Service
Joseph Phelps Vineyards
As a Phelps Preferred Member I can guarantee that Molly will get down to the bottom of this. Phelps is my favorite all around winery in Napa and it irks(sp?) me to hear all these bad experiences you are all having.
Jeff Hunsaker is currently the Hospitality Manager, but won't be around much longer because he is starting a new life and venture (Cold Stone Creamery) next month in Florida after being at Phelps for more than a decade.
I know these guys can turn these problems around just be straight with them and they will take care of you and the problem.
Pyang and I had this same conversation last week about the bad experience he had and I pleaded with him to give them another shot. I have met Molly and Jeff and can guarantee you that they will take care of it.

[This message was edited by winebrat on Jan 13, 2003 at 03:35 PM.]
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Thanks for your reply. I have talked with you about about the matter before and explicitly informed you of the details.

You directed me to Jeff Hunsaker who was less than accommodating. The conversation with Jeff led me to cancel my preferred membership.

It appears that there will be some personnel changes soon which may serve to rectify matters. I will try to give you a call though and not clutter the WS boards with this matter.
A note going out to Lafon Rochet if there is a chance that he/she will read it:
I am new to this forum and am greatly disturbed by some of the comments on the topic of visits to Joseph Phelps Vineyards, particularly yours in which you stated that you were referred to me and that I basically called you a liar and caused you to cancel your Phelps Preferred membership. Those comments are very surprising to me as I have been in the customer service business for over 20 years and have received very few complaints. I am also embarrassed to say that I don't remember your name or the conversation and have had no luck in searching my notes or our database. Perhaps your membership was under another name or we have it misspelled? I suppose Lafon Rochet could also simply be your user name. I apologize for any frustration or rudeness that you may have experienced in your conversation with me and would leap at the opportunity to communicate with you further about how we may be able to rectify the situation to your satisfaction. We pride ourselves on our hospitality and certainly want to maintain the reputation that we have amongst the best in the wine industry.
Jeff Hunsaker
I'm new to these forums and i have spent the entire day reading differnt posts.

And i would like to say a couple of things.

I love graet wine , specially californian and more specific Joseph Phelps Insignia , it's my favorite wine , and living in Mexico i have always dreamed about having the opportunity to visit the winery , and this thread has come as a surprise to me , having reading how James Laube refers to Joseph Phelps (Mr. Tenacity).

But in favor of them , i will tell you this ; i once visited a mexican winery wich wines i also love , and i'll be the first to admitted i'm no Michel Rolland , but they made me feel like an idiot just because i'd never tasted one of their wines.

Since then i've talked to a couple of their people about my experience and all i've recieved is an indiferent shrug. My point is that i see these poeple from Joseph Phelps Wines trying to correct a situation , and that's a hard thing.
Admiting a mistake from your team and working to correct it. So congratulations JPWines on hearing your customers!!
I have visited this since way before it was spruced up, and pretty much always had a great time until about 7 years ago when we were basically kicked out of the reception room for not having an appointment. ( It was not Mr. Hunsaker. )
It seems though that things are not that way now, so I am anxious to check it out soon.

Question to Ms. Britton: Are you by chance related to Robert Britton, the great winemaker, and a great guy.
We visited Phelps the end of September and it was the best tasting we had in both Napa & Sonoma. The hostess, Jenny was fantasic! She was very enthusiastic, knowledgeable and passionate about her job. 2 thumbs up!! Not only was the tasting fabulous but as a special addition they poured the 84 Baucus. I will definitely be returning to Phelps in the future.
Molly, as you can see from the forum I can't speak for everone, but Jenny made our experience very memorable! Although we are in a state which does not support "cross the border" shipping we are avid "PHELPS" fans. Thanks Jenny and the staff at JPV.
Thank you for your kind words. Jenny is indeed a star member of our hospitality team. Unfortunately for us she has taken an extended leave of absence, but we hope to have her back in the summer. I will definitely forward your comments to her.

My goal is to have EVERYONE'S visits to the winery be as positive and memorable as yours.


Molly Britton
Director of Customer Service
Joseph Phelps Vineyards
Jennie the 'nice JPV tasting girl'. I guess that I was the 'culprit' that gave the good wine tasting experience at JPV to Scott and his wife recently. (Thanks for the public compliment) I am so glad that you both enjoyed the experience so much. I love working in wine education at Phelps and these kinds of positive comments are the norm for my seminars. Honestly, I do believe that the staff at Phelps is all-around wine lovers who do not express a lot of snobbery. I know that the more that I learn about wine the less that I really do know. In fact, the caliber of guests to the winery ensures that I learn something new each day from them! :-)
My job at Phelps is really to assist visitors with the understanding of the philosophies that JPV strives to put into each bottle, but really, the wines, when tasted, just speak for themselves. I am not at all surprised to see so many adamant Phelps fans on this list. And I know that your comments will illicit great changes for future guests. Thanks for the comments.

On a personal note, Molly is right, I am on a leave from JPV for the cold winter months. I am living in London to focus my studies on French wines and to try and get a bit closer to obtaining my Masters of Wine someday. I hope to see many of you at Phelps in the future and if any of you JPV lovers want to talk about wines in London please get in touch with Molly and she will introduce us off-list.

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