Today, LVMH’s Moët Hennessy division has signed a deal to acquire California’s powerhouse Joseph Phelps Vineyards. The agreement includes the brand, winery, remaining inventory, and hundreds of acres of vines in Napa Valley and Sonoma County. The purchase price was not disclosed.
Joseph Phelps was one of Napa’s pioneers, part of a generation that moved to the valley in the 1960s and ’70s and revitalized its wine scene. Phelps’ first wines were a Riesling and a Cabernet Sauvignon, but in 1974, he produced Insignia, a blend of classic Bordeaux varieties that is now recognized as one of Napa’s signature red wines and catapulted Joseph Phelps to the top of the wine world.
Moët Hennessy is no stranger to Napa Valley, with ownership already in Newton Vineyard and a majority stake in Colgin Cellars. But Moët Hennessy is best known for its French wine and spirits anchors Hennessy Cognac; Champagne’s Dom Pérignon, Veuve Clicquot, and Moët & Chandon; and Bordeaux’s Château Cheval-Blanc and Chateau d’Yquem. Over recent decades, the company has steadily expanded its wine holdings, adding brands like Argentina’s Cheval des Andes, Spain’s Bodega Numanthia, and New Zealand’s Cloudy Bay.
It will remain to be seen how Joseph Phelps Vineyards fares under new ownership, but if past acquisitions by LVMH have any guidance, it shouldn’t change much. As the press release states, “LVMH is well known for taking a holistic approach to its wines and spirits brands and believes in preserving the uniqueness and authenticity of its Houses. They ensure the founder’s mission and values remain at the heart of each of their brands through a deep commitment to culture, people, and the continuity of operations.” Let’s hope that is the case. Insignia is a special wine and one to be treasured and preserved. The latest 2018 Joseph Phelps Insignia release is an exceptional expression of the versatility of Napa Valley. Yes, Napa is far more than Cabernet Sauvignon. Happy Hunting!
2018 Joseph Phelps Insignia
The 2018 Insignia opens with beautifully perfumed floral, dark fruit, anise and cigar box aromatics. A wine of depth, elegance and finesse, the palate is fresh and focused with creamy texture and layers of blackberry, mocha and black cherry. The seamless tannin structure and balance culminate in an uplifting, lengthy finish.
Blend: 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec, 2% Cabernet Franc
James Suckling 99 Points
Blackberry and black chocolate with mint, conifer and clove. Sweet tobacco, violets and flowers, too. Some graphite. Cool and complex. Full-bodied with ultra fine, dusty tannins and a wonderful, extremely long finish. Savory and refined. A classic-styled 2018. This needs time, but is so approachable and gorgeous. One of the best Insignias ever. Alive and changing all the time. 40% Stags Leap AVA. 87% cabernet sauvignon, 8% petit verdot, 3% malbec and 2% cabernet franc. Leave this for five or six years, but so wonderful now.
Jeb Dunnuck 98 Points
The 2018 Insignia checks in as 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec and the rest Cabernet Franc, from a mix of vineyards (mostly in the southern part of the valley) aged two years in new French oak. It has an incredible bouquet of cassis, currants, dark chocolate, lead pencil, and tobacco, and while it’s unquestionably Napa, it has a regal, structured, almost Bordeaux-like vibe as well. Full-bodied, perfectly balanced, and layered on the palate, with silky tannins, this quintessential Insignia is up with the finest vintages of this cuvée I’ve tasted and is in the same realm as the 1997 (the first vintage I bought for my personal cellar), 2001, 2002, 2007, 2012, 2013, 2015, and 2016.
Wine Enthusiast 98 Points
This impressive blend combines 87% Cabernet Sauvignon with 8% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec and 2% Cabernet Franc, aging the whole for 24 months in 100% new French oak. Elements of cedar, sage, dried herb and underbrush meet rich red fruit and chalky tannins, with a dusting of cocoa through out. Enjoy from 2028–2038. Cellar Selection.
Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate 97 Points
The 2018 Insignia is a blend of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec and 2% Cabernet Franc. The vineyard sources this year include: 30% Las Rocas (Stags Leap District),18% Yountville (Oak Knoll District), 13% Banca Dorada (Rutherford), 18% Suscol (South Napa Valley), 14% Home Ranch (St. Helena), 12% Las Rocas (Stags Leap District), 7% Barboza (Stags Leap District). It was aged for 24 months in 100% new French oak barrels. Deep garnet-purple colored, it comes storming out of the glass with powerful notes of blackcurrant cordial, stewed black plums and boysenberries, plus hints of cedar chest, graphite, menthol and wet slate with a fragrant waft of clove oil. The medium to full-bodied palate already demonstrates remarkable balance at this youthful stage, featuring a firm backbone of fine-grained tannins and bold freshness to support the tightly wound, crunchy black fruits, finishing long and spicy. Rating: 97+
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