Wine of the Week; 2001 Joseph Phelps Insignia

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  Or for this week, an outstanding wine – the 2001 Joseph Phelps Insignia.

The Winery

In the late 1960’s, Joseph Phelps was running one of the largest construction companies in the U.S., Hensel Phelps Construction Company, when he won the bid to build Souverain Winery (now Rutherford Hill) located a few miles outside of St. Helena. Enamored with the beautiful Napa Valley and contemplating a career change, in 1973 Joe bought the 600-acre Connolly cattle ranch in Spring Valley, and began planting vineyards and construction of a winery. The first harvest in 1973 yielded Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Johannisburg Riesling bottlings, all custom crushed at nearby wineries. The Joseph Phelps winery was completed in 1974 in time for harvest, crushing grapes for the first Insignia and the first Syrah bottlings.  Click here for more history.

Today, Joseph Phelps sources their fruit 100% from their estate vineyards.  Estate vineyards include the Spring Valley Home Ranch outside of St. Helena, Banca Dorada in Rutherford, Backus Vineyard in Oakville, Las Rocas and Barboza vineyards in Stags Leap, Yountville Vineyard in Oak Knoll, Suscol Vineyard in South Napa and beginning with the 2011 growing season, Larry Hyde & Sons Vineyard in Carneros.

The Wine

Insignia, the flagship wine of Joseph Phelps was first produced in 1974.  Four decades later it is recognized as one of the world’s great wines. Thirty-one of thirty-seven vintages have been rated 90 or more points by various wine publications, including three perfect 100 point scores for the 1991, 1997 and 2002 vintages from Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate in Mr. Parker’s Historical Tasting of Insignia report.

Insignia is the first proprietary Bordeaux-style blend produced in California.

The 2001 vintage is a blend of 89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec primarily from estate-owned vineyards in Stags Leap and Rutherford, with additional fruit coming from independent growers. The grapes were harvested at an average 24.8° Brix, fermented in stainless steel tanks, then aged 22 months in 100% new French oak barrels. 13.9% alcohol

We opened this wine for this year’s Open That Bottle Night was last Saturday.  Open That Bottle Night, created by former Wall Street Journal wine columnists Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher, and is the one night a year that we are all encouraged to get out that bottle of wine that is so special that no occasion seems special enough to actually open it.

My wife and I hosted 3 other couples, each of whom brought along their own special bottle of wine.  I pulled out this bottle (which was a gift from my very generous boss) simply because it was an older vintage than the bottle I’d been considering for weeks.

We sat down to a wonderful dinner of Braised Boneless Beef Short Ribs.  The other reds we enjoyed were a mature Bordeaux – a 1986 Chateau Meyney, and the 2008 Silver Oak Napa Valley.

I decanted this bottle about 2 hours before dinner, and the Meyney was decanted for about 3 hours.

It wasn’t even close.  This bottle “kicked ass and took names”!  It was the unanimous favorite!

JP Insignia

My tasting notes follow:

Nearly opaque garnet color with exuberant black cherry, blackberry, black currant, cedarwood, espresso aromas. On the palate, it’s full-bodied, surprisingly fresh and well-balanced with silky sweet tannins. It shows ample mouth-filling fruit with waves of blackberry, cassis, espresso and a bit of mineral flavors. Long finish.

Rating: A:  A simply stunning bottle of wine that should reward further cellaring. In fact, my wife and I were still talking about its aromas, flavor, complexity and mouth feel 3 days later!

Pair with: It was fantastic with the Braised Boneless Beef Short Ribs!

Ratings Key:

(A+) – 98-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 94-97/Outstanding
(A-) – 90-93/Excellent
(B+) – 86-89/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail
Other posts you might enjoy

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Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

Oyster and Brie Soup and Wine Pairings for Celebrity Chef #SundaySupper

This week’s Favorite Celebrity Chef #SundaySupper theme was a blast from the past for me.  While I count Alton Brown, Paula Deen, Tyler Florence and Emeril Lagasse, among my favorite celebrity chefs, it wasn’t one of their dishes that was top of mind for me.

You know how there are dishes you will always remember because they just blow you mind for one reason or another?  Well, I’ll never forget the first time I had Blackened Redfish.  That was probably 30 years ago, yet I can still recall it like it was yesterday. Those layers of sassy Cajun spice and flavors took my taste buds to a place they’d never been before!

The man who put Blackened Redfish on our culinary maps was Chef Paul Prudhomme. Chef Paul’s claim to fame is the legendary K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen in the French Quarter of New Orleans, which he and his wife Kay opened in 1979.  Prior to opening K-Paul’s Prudhomme was the executive chef at the another iconic New Orleans restaurant, the Commander’s Palace, where he was succeeded by Emeril Lagasse. According to Wikipedia…

Prudhomme has been credited with popularising cajun cuisine and in particular blackened redfish during the 1980s, and has been credited with introducing the turducken.

His cookbook Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen, published in 1984, was awarded the Culinary Classic Book Award in 2012 by the International Association of Culinary Professionals.  That’s were I got the recipe for his Oyster and Brie soup.  It’s a recipe I’ve had my eye on for years and finally decided to make for this week’s Favorite Celebrity #SundaySupper theme.

The soup is creamy but not too heavy ( I think of it as a Cajun Oyster and Brie bisque) with a slightly peppery kick that reminds me of an Etouffe. It was a fabulous pairing with the sparkling wine (Crémant) I used in the soup.

Oyster and Brie Soup and Wine Pairings for Celebrity Chef #SundaySupper
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Cajun
Serves: 8
 
Ingredients
  • 3 dozen small to medium oysters in their liquor, about 18 ounces
  • 4 cups cold water
  • ½ pound (2 stick) unsalted butter
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped onions
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped celery
  • ½ tsp. white pepper
  • ½ tsp. ground red pepper
  • 1 lb fresh brie cheese, cut in small wedges, with rind on
  • 2 c. heavy cream
  • ½ champagne, optional
Instructions
  1. Combine oysters and water; stir and refrigerate at least 1 hours. Strain and reserved the oysters and oyster water; refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. In a large skillet melt the butter over low heat. Add the flour and beat with a metal whisk until smooth. Add the onions and celery; sauté about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in peppers and sauté about 2 minutes more. Set aside.
  3. In a 4-qt saucepan, bring oyster water to a boil. Stir in the sautéed vegetable mixture until well mixed. Turn up heat to high. Add cheese; coo until cheese starts to melt, about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. (Be careful not to let the cheese scorch.)
  4. Lower heat to simmer and contue cooking for about 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, strain soup and return to pot. Turn the heat to high and cook about 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in cream; cook until close to a boil about 2 minutes. Stir in champagne, if desired.
  5. Turn off heat and add oysters. Let pan sit for about 3 minutes to plump oysters. Serve immediately.
Notes
The recipe calls for Champagne, but opted for a sparkling wine from the Burgundy region of France instead. While Champagne sill has that "je ne sais quoi" (something special), a Crémant (a sparkling wines made outside of the Champagne region using the same production method are known)

 

Speaking of wine pairings, I’m also offering wine pairings for this week’s fabulous Favorite Celebrity Chef #SundaySupper menu.  My recommended wine pairing are italicized.  Click on the name of the wine to find out where to purchase.

Pair these Starters, Snacks and Sides with NV Blason de Bourgogne Crémant de Bourgogne Brut Réserve from Trader Joe’s.  It’s a tasty blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Gamay and Aligoté with a toasty pear, fuji apple, citrus and hint of baking spice character. This is our new everyday sparkling wine! At $10/bottle it’s a very good value!

Pair these main dishes with the 2010 Bodega Colomé Amalaya - a silky smooth blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon,Syrah and Tannat from Argentina with a mixed black and red berry, oaky spice and sweet tobacco character.

Pair the following main dishes with a crisp refreshing white blend, in this case the 2010 d’Arenberg Stump Jump White - a blend of 28% Riesling, 27% Sauvignon Blanc, 25% Marsanne and 20% Roussanne from McLaren Vale, Australia.  It’s very food friendly with juicy citrus and tropical fruit aromas balanced nicely with good acidity.

Pair the following dishes with the 2011 Burgáns Albariño Rias Baixas a crisp, fresh food-friendly white wine from Spain with a crisp apple, apricot and peach character. 

Pair these dishes with a Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley in France. I recommend the 2011 Pascal Janvier Jasnières.  It shows a core of tangy apple, citrus fruit complemented by a mineral undertone. 

Pair these desserts with a Sauternes,  a sweet wine from the Sauternais region of the Graves section of Bordeaux. They are made from  SémillonSauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle grapes affected by noble rot.  Look for the 2005 Guiraud Sauternes.  It has a full-bodied, honeyed, lemon tart, baked apple, baking spice, and  vanilla cream character

Pair with these desserts with the Yalumba Muscat Museum Reserve, a dessert wine from Australia with rose petal, ginger and orange peel aromas, and rich raisined fruit, and spice flavors.
Please join on us via Twitter for #SundaySupper on December 2, 2012, throughout the day. In the evening, we will meet at 7 PM EST for our weekly #SundaySupper live chatAll you have to do is follow the #SundaySupper hashtag or you can follow us through TweetChat.

Wine Of The Week: Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Merlot

My Wine of the Week (“WoW”) for July 21-July 27 is the 2009 Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Merlot.

The Winery

The Robert Mondavi Winery was established in 1966 by Robert Mondavi, one of the most influential and esteemed winemakers in California history (Click here for his story).  It was the first major winery built in Napa Valley, and for decades was California’s most famous winery.  It was acquired by Constellation Brands in 2004.

It’s a beautiful property with classic California mission-style architecture, with the expansive archway and bell tower.  I must confess, I haven’t been in a long time.  I recall visiting one of my first trips to Napa.  Nowadays, I tend to visit the smaller wineries.  But after tasting this wine, and their Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve (see post below), I’m going to have to drop by next time I go to Napa!

The Wine

The grapes for this wine are sourced from vineyards throughout Napa Valley including a couple of Napa’s iconic vineyards, To Kalon, and Wappo Hill ( 73% Stags Leap District (including 38% Wappo Hill Vineyard); 15% To Kalon Vineyard; 12% Napa Carneros)

What struck me most about this wine is  how well-balanced it is.  That’s the exception rather than the rule at its price point of $23!

2009 Robert Mondavi Winery Merlot

My tasting notes follow:

Deep garnet color with cassis, cedarwood, and hints of tobacco aromas. On the palate it’s light-medium bodied,well-balanced with fine-grained tannins, cassis, black cherry, blueberry flavors. Medium finish – 88pts

Recommendation: Highly recommended. It’s a nice value at $23!

The Wine Geek Stuff:

Alcohol: 14.9% alcohol.

Closure: Cork.

AVA:  >CaliforniaNapa Valley

Varietal(s): 93% Merlot; 3% Cabernet Franc; 2% Cabernet Sauvignon; 2% Malbec

Cooperage: Aged in French Oak for 14 months

Retail: $23

Cases produced: Unknown

Media Sample

Many thanks to Folsom & Associates for providing the wine.

A Taste of Achaval-Ferrer

Wine is a lot like fashion.  What is considered popular for a time, can quickly fall out of favor to be replaced by something else.  It wasn’t too long ago, that Malbec was in fashion.  I’m not sure if it remains so.  I hear much more about Muscat these days.

I like Malbec for several reasons including the fact that it plays very well in the value space.  All the Malbec I’ve had has been under $20, most under $10.  So it was with great anticipation, and curiosity I jumped at the chance to taste some high-end Malbec from one of Argentina’s premier producers – Achaval Ferrer (“AF”).    The tasting was held at K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City.   Fresh off of rave reviews from Robert Parker, 4 of the 5 current releases were tasted.

2009 Finca Altamira (RP-99) – $89.99 (not tasted)
2009 Finca Mirador (RP-96) – $89.99
2009 Finca Bella Vista (RP-98) – $89.99
2009 Quimera (RP-93) – $34.99
2010 Malbec Mendoza (RP-91) – $18.99

Though most Malbec consumed in the U.S. is imported from Argentina, the grape has origins in France, specifically the Cahors region.  It believed to have been introduced to Argentina in 1868.  Malbec flourishes in Argentina, where it is now the national grape.  The most highly rated Malbec comes from vineyards (most of them old-vine) in Mendoza’s high altitude wine regions of Lujan de Cuyo and the Uco Valley,  located in the foothills of the Andes mountains between  2800 to 5000 feet elevation.

My tasting notes follow:

Achaval Ferrer Current Releases

  • 2010 Achával-Ferrer Malbec - Argentina, Mendoza
    Medium garnet color with dark fruit, spice, dust and floral aromas. On the palate, medium-bodied with blackberry, black currant, and spice flavors. Medium + finish. (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Achával-Ferrer Malbec Quimera - Argentina, Mendoza
    Dark garnet color with violet overtones and spicy dark fruit, pencil lead,and violet aromas. On the palate approaching full-bodied, intense, layered and young – would benefit from aging – with firm tannins, and black currant, pencil lead, and spice flavors. Medium finish. Blend of 40% Malbec, 22% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Petit Verdot. The wine was aged in 40% new French oak.(89 pts.)
  • 2009 Achával-Ferrer Malbec Finca Mirador - Argentina, Mendoza
    Inky opaque purple color with aromatic, pretty aromas of dark fruit, violet, and dark chocolate. On the palate full-bodied , complex, refined yet intense, round, and smooth with black cherry, cassis, mineral, and spice flavors. Long finish. Would have definitely benefit from more aeration. Sourced from a single vineyard planted at 2400 ft. in 1921.(92 pts.)
  • 2009 Achával-Ferrer Malbec Finca Bella Vista - Argentina, Mendoza
    Inky opaque purple color with very aromatic violet, dark red fruit, spice and leather aromas. On the palate ample, well structured, and complex with black currant, black raspberry, and spice aromas. Long finish. Needs time. Sourced from a single vineyard planted at 3100 ft. in 1910 (93 pts.)

I was impressed by the AF wines, though I did enjoy the Malbecs more than the Bordeaux blend. I may have rated the wines more highly had they had a chance to breathe more, especially the Finca Mirador, and Bella Vista. And certainly those two wines along with the Bordeaux blend would benefit from further aging. I’d recommend laying down the Quimera Bordeaux blend for at least a couple of years and the higher end Malbecs for at least 3 years.  If you enjoy Malbec, you’ll love these wines!

Wine Words Demystified: Meritage

You know the deal, the more some folks learn about a topic, the more shortcuts/slang/acronyms/initials/technical jargon can be tossed around.  I’m here to help you understand those sometimes mysterious words and phrases, thus - Wine Words Demystified!

This week’s word is meritage (rhymes with heritage)

According to Karen MacNeil‘s The Wine Bible:

 A United States trademarked designation, adopted in 1988 by the Meritage Association for California wines that are a blend of the varieties of grapes used in Bordeaux.  A red Meritage might be made up of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc.  A white Meritage would be a blend of sauvignon blanc and sémillon…Producers may choose to not use the term Meritage even if their wine meets the qualifications.

In other words, it’s a Bordeaux blend without using the term Bordeaux on the label, which would infringe upon the Bordeaux region in France’s legally protected designation of origin.  The word itself is a combination of the words “merit”, and “heritage”.  According to the Meritage Alliance:

A Red Meritage is a blend of two or more of the red “noble” Bordeaux varieties — Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot and the rarer St. Macaire, Gros Verdot and Carmenère. If the blend includes any other grape variety, it is, by definition, not a Meritage. Also, to qualify as a Meritage, no single grape variety can make up more than 90% of the blend.

To qualify as a White Meritage, a wine must be a blend of at least two of three specific white “noble” varieties — Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon or Muscadelle du Bordelais. No single variety can make up more than 90% of the blend. The wine does not qualify as a Meritage if the blend includes any other grape variety.

I’ve not come across any white wines labeled as Meritage in my wine travels.  Have you?


T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like – 2008 Reginato “Celestina” Rosé of Malbec

My virtual trip around the wide world of sparklers takes me to Argentina this week.  Yes, a sparkler from Argentina!  I was surprised, though I suppose I shouldn’t have been.  At this point in my world wide sparkling wine journey, it’s clear to me that sparkling wine is made in virtually every corner of the world.  In fact, only about 8% of the world’s sparkling wine is actually Champagne made in France.

On the other hand, if you asked me to guess where a sparkler made from Malbec  is produced, Argentina would be my first guess.  Argentina is the world’s 5th largest wine producer, and Malbec is their signature grape.

The producer CJR Reginato, is a family run winery that oversee the entire wine making process from the vine to the bottle.  They produce sparkling wines made via both the Charmat method and the “Metodo Tradicional”.

2008 Reginato Rose of Malbec

Cost: ~$20

Region:>Argentina>Mendoza>Cuyo

Variety – 100% Malbec

Dosage – Unknown

12.9% abv

Production method: Méthode Champenoise

My tasting notes follow:

Appearance: Intense strawberry red color with intermittent stream of tiny bubbles; the relatively sparse bubbles brought to mind Spanish Cavas

Aromas: Baked bread and ripe cherries.

Body:  Fruity, yet pleasingly more dry, than off-dry with an explosive, creamy mousse, delicate almost imperceptible tannins, and mouth-watering acidity.

Taste: Cherries, raspberries, and a hint of spice.

Finish: Medium

Pair with:   We enjoyed this with a variety of  tapas from Cesar Latino.  The sparkler was served  before our tapas arrived, and I enjoyed this as a juicy, yet refreshingly dry quaffer.  When the tapas arrived,  it was just as enjoyable, if not  more so, with our food.  Try it with Mexican, or Southwestern cuisine, even a grilled skirt steak!

This is a fun and tasty sparkler I very much enjoyed.  I would purchase again.   I recommend!   87 pts