2010 Joseph Phelps Insignia Proprietary Red Wine Napa Valley
Expert Ratings
ST 94+ points
RP 93-95 points
(Read the full reviews below)
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Pat Cetta's 2010 First Growths
Wine Retail Price
Lafite Rothschild $1200
Joseph Phelps Insignia $225
Mouton Rothschild $1100
Haut Brion $1000
Latour $1700
Margaux $1100
Pat Cetta and Napa's 95-point First Growth

Pat Cetta was one of a kind.

It was the winter of 1998. We'd been invited by the Phelps guys to lunch in Manhattan. Given the wine our buddies were peddling, there was just one place to go: the steakhouse at 210 East 46th Street.

We felt like outsiders, clad in v-neck sweaters in a sea of Armani suits. But we couldn't have cared less. We might have been under-dressed, but no one at Sparks Steak House would be drinking as well as we would be.

A strong, bear-like man, with a gravelly voice that would scare the daylights out of small children, was working the room like Bogart. Pat Cetta hit every table that afternoon, shaking hands with every suit, kissing the women who had the chutzpah to crash Sparks's rich man's party.

When Pat finally made it to our table, he'd worked himself into a sweat, beads dripping from behind black-rimmed glasses. He pulled up a chair. "What you got for me?"

A bottle of 1995 Phelps Insignia had been poured into a crystal carafe a half hour before. The wine was brilliant purple. Cetta grabbed our glass, swirled it, then smelled. "Get me a glass, will you?"

That 1995 Phelps Insignia, was one of the great Napa Valley Cabernet blends of the decade, spectacularly concentrated, packed with ripe, primary fruit concentration, velour-like in texture, with a finish that lasted a half-minute. At the time, Robert Parker suggested the wine had three decades of life ahead of it. Today, it goes for upwards of $450/bottle and is still a baby.

Pat sniffed, then tilted his glass back. He didn't sip the 1995 Insignia. He drank it. Then Cetta did what he did better than any restaurateur has ever done. He shifted gears, schmoozed, reminding us why Sparks was the busiest steakhouse in town. We talked business, competition. He talked about his kids and asked us about ours. We polished off the bottle of '95 Insignia in less than a half hour. Then Pat Cetta stood up and grabbed a wine list.

"I'll tell you what I'm going to do. You see my First Growths? I've got multiple vintages of all of them. In all sizes. Latour, Mouton, Lafite, Haut-Brion, Margaux. Insignia is my first Napa First Growth. I'm putting it right below Lafite and above Mouton. Send me a hundred."

A hundred? Strange number. Was this some kind of new 46th Street math? There are twelve bottles to a case and 100 has never been evenly divisible by twelve. "A hundred bottles?" Our Phelps buddy asked.

"What am I supposed to do with a hundred bottles?" Pat growled. "Send me a hundred cases! Ship it on Monday. And if you have magnums or double mags, send me those too!"

Much has changed since that unforgettable afternoon in midtown. When Pat passed away a few years back, there were a dozen vintages of Phelps Insignia on the Sparks wine list, and three more in the cellar, not yet offered for sale. Phelps Insignia, as Cetta understood before anyone else would, became Napa Valley's greatest call brand collectable -- known not only for its hedonistic black-fruit concentration in youth, but its phenomenal age-worthy potential.

Last year, we finally convinced our friends at Phelps to dip their toes in the WineAccess water. We were offered a small salvo of 2006 & 2008 Insignia months after the release dates. Those allocations barely saw the light of day, something that wouldn't go unnoticed in St. Helena.

Director of Winemaking, Damian Parker, says this bottle "will be hitting its stride somewhere around 2018 -- similar to the 2005 which tastes fabulous now just eight years after the vintage. This wine will last 30 plus years!" Today, with the release of one of the most magnificently structured Insignias in twenty years, WineAccess has hit the big time. Today, we come first.

Parker's Wine Advocate called the 2010 Insignia "striking...cool mineral notes frame a core of blue and black fruit, licorice, spices, smoke...hints of menthol, violets and crushed rocks all flow through to the incisive, vibrant finish." All that before the 93-95pt rating that sent wholesalers scrambling. Tanzer took it one step further, tacking on a 94+pt score, gushing over the "brilliant showing" before adding that "eight or ten years in the cellar may well bring an even higher score."

Tasting Notes

2010 Joseph Phelps Insignia Proprietary Red Wine Napa Valley
"Bright, deep red. Captivating violet lift to the aromas of cassis, minerals, bitter chocolate, licorice and sexy oak; I would have guessed this had a good deal of cabernet franc. Then extremely primary on the palate, but already showing a seductive sugar/acid balance. Boasts lovely clarity and lift to its dark fruit, minerals and bitter chocolate flavors. Finishes with a serious brace of tongue-dusting tannins and outstandingly subtle, juicy persistence. A brilliant showing considering it was bottled just a month prior to my visit: eight or ten years in the cellar may well bring an even higher score. A year ago, I preferred the 2009, but this evolved beautifully during its final months of elevage. Director of winemaking Damian Parker always destems the fruit but typically ferments with some whole berries."
94+ points -- Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar

"The 2010 Insignia is striking. Cool, mineral notes frame a core of blue and black fruit, licorice, spices, smoke, and melted road tar as this stunning wine opens up in the glass. Totally alive in the glass, the 2010 captures the essence of this cold, late harvest. Hints of menthol, violets and crushed rocks all flow through to the incisive, vibrant finish. My sense is that the 2010 is still holding back much of its significant potential. The 2010 is 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot, 3% Merlot and 2% Malbec. Anticipated maturity: 2017-2030."
93-95 points -- Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate


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