Press Reviews

★ 91 Points - The Wine Enthusiast

Floral and exotic, the tingling acidity in this wine is the standout, but it’s equally buoyed by a mouth-filling texture adorned by a sensation of fresh-squeezed lime and grapefruit. Balanced, this lovely Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc should convince one and all of the variety’s regional merit.

★ 94 Points - The Wine Enthusiast

Light and floral, this subtle dessert wine is made from Scheurebe grapes, more often found in Austria than California. It provides this wine with fresh apricot and honey on the palate, lingering yet low enough in alcohol and power to be enjoyed as either apéritif or digestif, its sweetness greatly restrained. 

★ 91+ Points - Antonio Galloni's Vinous

The 2013 Chardonnay Freestone Vineyard is quite pretty, but it is very tight today, most likely the result of its recent bottling. Lemon curd, chamomile and white pepper blossom in this expressive Chardonnay.

★ 91+ Points - Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate

Earthy and ruby-colored as well as crisp and fresh is the 2012 Pinot Noir Quarter Moon Vineyard. With abundant notes of blackberries and raspberries intermixed with a notion of wet pebbles that gives the wine a striking minerality as well as medium to full-bodied flavors, this tight, backward, promising 2012 Pinot will benefit from another year or so of bottle age, and should drink well for 10-15 years.

★ 94 points, Cellar Selection - The Wine Enthusiast

This sophisticated, pretty Pinot Noir is brilliant in exotic cherry, raspberry and earth. Bright and lush on the palate, the tannins are firmly structured and nicely rendered with a twinge of sweet tobacco and a subtle power that builds on the finish.

★ 93 Points - Antonio Galloni's Vinous

Another rich, intense Pinot, the 2012 Pinot Noir Quarter Moon Vineyard offers plenty of power, but the profile is a bit more savory and mineral-driven than in the Pastorale, with less mid-palate exuberance and plenty of persistence. Hints of rose petal, lavender and cinnamon add the final layers of nuance.

★ 93 Points - Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate

Even deeper than the Freestone Vineyards Pinot is the 2012 Pinot Noir Pastorale Vineyard (under 14% alcohol). Its dense ruby hue is followed by a beautiful floral element. Readers will adore the black cherry, plum, clove-infused fruit and relatively full-bodied texture. This promising, high-quality, complex Pinot Noir can be consumed over the next decade or more.

★ 93 Points, Editor's Choice - The Wine Enthusiast

An estate-grown Pinot Noir from the wilds of Freestone, this wine delivers in high acidity and perfumed aromatics that are highlighted by violet and sandalwood. The taste leans toward tart cherry and strawberry. Medium in weight, it's a structured wine, with just the right amount of heft and oak on the finish. 

★ 92 Points - Antonio Galloni's Vinous

The 2012 Pinot Noir Pastorale Vineyard is dark, juicy and explosive. Black cherries, plums, cedar, French oak, new leather and smoke open up in the glass. The style is decidedly virile and dark, with imposing fruit, big tannins and tons of body. This is one of the more powerful, explosive wines readers will taste from the Sonoma Coast. The 30% whole clusters are pretty much buried by the sheer intensity of the fruit. This is an especially big, Sonoma Coast Pinot, which winemaker attributes to Calera and 777 clones.

★ 93 Points - Antonio Galloni's Vinous

Dark red cherries, tobacco and new leather wrap around the palate in the 2012 Pinot Noir Freestone Vineyards. A wine of presence and nuance, the 2012 stands out for its symmetry and overall sense of balance. I very much like the delineation and energy here. The Freestone is a blend of fruit from Quarter Moon (60%) and Pastorale (40%). It shows beautifully next to those wines, despite a significant difference in price. This is the hidden jewel in the range, there is little doubt about that.

★ 91+ Points - The Wine Advocate

The 2012 Pinot Noir Freestone Vineyards offers up beautiful aromas of red stone fruits, crushed rocks, plums, black cherries and a floral component reminiscent of a premier cru or grand cru offering from Chambolle-Musigny. Medium to full-bodied with great acidity, purity, freshness and nobility, it should evolve and add layers of complexity over the next decade.

★ 3 Stars - The Press Democrat

Delicious tangy fruit, herbs and white pepper. Great acid, with a crisp finish. Striking.

★ 90+ Points - Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar

Good dark red with ruby tones. Dark aromas of plum, cassis and bitter chocolate, lifted by a pungent violet note. Not a fleshy style but pristine and vibrant, offering flavors of blackberry, spices and licorice pastille. Finishes with very good length and perfume but this wine really needs another year or so in the bottle to express its personality. 

★ 94 Points - PinotFile

Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. The nose is complex and persistent with hi-tone aromas of dark cherry, blackberry, forest floor, spice and red licorice. A seamless wine with serious extract of black raspberry and blackberry fruits nicely accented with spice and oak. The finish is remarkably intense, leaving quite an impression. Probably the most concentrated Pinot Noir ever from this very cool locale, yet displays the cool-climate vibrancy to support the fruit load. A beauty that will attract many fans.

★ 92 points - California Grapevine

Medium ruby with a purplish tinge; attractive, forward, deep, moderately intense, ripe black cherry fruit aroma with a hint of mocha; medium to medium-full body; rich, deep, firmly structured, red fruit flavors with some herbal notes and bright acidity; medium to medium-full tannin; lingering aftertaste. Shows good aging potential, deserving to be laid down for another three to five more years. Very highly recommended.

★ 92 Points - WineReviewOnline.com

This Joseph Phelps Pinot Noir offers a rich, layered palate that shows a complex array of red and black fruit aromas, earthy minerality, and excellent persistence through the finish. It finishes with a bit of heat on the back end, but otherwise this is a well-balanced, beautiful Pinot.

★ Recommended - SNOW Magazine

Sultry, dark cherry and savory herbs with stony accents and rich mouthfeel. 

★ 92 Points - SOMM Journal

Dark, rich and dense with toasty oak and ripe black cherry; smooth, lush and juicy; balanced and long.

★ 90 Points - The Wine Enthusiast

Crafted from grapes grown in two estate vineyards, Pastorale and Quarter Moon, this wine deftly provides a taste of wild strawberry and feral forest floor, offering concentration within a lean frame. The finish memorably imprints lasting cardamom spice.

★ 94 Points - Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate

The 2012 Chardonnay Pastorale Vineyard boasts notes of subtle hazelnuts, apple skins, caramelized white citrus, quince and wet stones. Full-bodied, rich, textured, youthful and vigorous, this beautiful, full but elegant Chardonnay should drink well for 7-8 years.

★ 93 Points - International Wine Cellar

Silky, oily and aromatic, with lively notes of orange, flowers, nutmeg and powdered sugar. Lively acidity extends the finish. 

★ 93 Points - Antonio Galloni's Vinous

The 2012 Chardonnay Pastorale Vineyard is a bit brighter and more lifted in style than the Freestone, with flavors that tend towards the more citrus end of the spectrum. Lemon oil, white flowers, French oak and almonds are some of the notes that open up in the glass. Texturally, the 2012 is soft, oily and nicely textured in the glass, but the flavors remain very much on the bright side of things.

★ 91 Points - The Wine Enthusiast

With a rich, caramel-teased nose, this is a full-bodied and voluptuous Chardonnay that evolves in the glass to display much greater sophistication and concentration. It finishes light and lemony, rounded out by juicy stone fruit.

★ 93 Points - Antonio Galloni's Vinous

The 2012 Chardonnay Freestone Vineyard has turned out beautifully. Lemon oil, almonds, dried pears, spices and lightly honeyed notes meld together in an effortless, gracious wine long on personality and class. The oily, resonant finish is a thing of beauty. 

★ 92 Points - The Wine Advocate

The 2012 Chardonnay Freestone Vineyards displays a light gold color with a green hue, and notes of orange rind, nectarine, tangerine and lemon blossom. Medium to full-bodied with terrific acidity, precision, purity and texture, it is a Burgundian-styled, classic cool-climate California Chardonnay. Drink now-2022.

★ 92 Points - Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar

Inviting aromas of musky orange oil and hazelnutty, sulfidey lees. Savory and aromatic in the mouth, with vibrant acidity giving shape to the viscous mid-palate. Peach and spice flavors are complicated by minerals and earth. Finishes strong and perfumed. An excellent showing.

★ 96 Points - WineReviewOnline.com

The purchase of Freestone Vineyards some years ago was a stroke of genius by Phelps, allowing the Napa Valley winery to stretch itself with a serious peek into the world of Burgundian-style Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Almost since its inception the Phelps Chardonnays from the Freestone Vineyards have ranked among the finest in California, and this 2012 is no exception. It possesses that rare combination of power and elegance, with layered complexity, mouth-filling texture and, most important, backbone. This vintage exhibits aromas of lemon oil and spice, with mouth-watering acidity and a long, persistent finish.

★ 94 points, Cellar Selection - The Wine Enthusiast

Made from estate-grown fruit near the chilly Sonoma Coast town of Freestone, this is a fully layered wine, expertly balanced in acidity yet offering plenty of full-figured mouthfeel and viscous pleasure. It delivers an electric mix of Meyer lemon, minerals and brioche, and will please a diverse range of palates. –V.B.

★ 93 Points - SOMM Journal

Elegance and ripe flavors galore; toasted and lush with juicy fruit, lovely balance and a vibrant finish.

★ 93 Points - International Wine Report

The 2012 Joseph Phelps Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon instantly grabs your attention with its opaque, deep inky color. After just a bit of air contact it begins to reveal wonderful aromas of ripe cassis, blackberries, dark chocolate and spices along with a touch of dried herbs and an earthy character. This is well structured around a full body that is richly textured and impressive for its depth and concentration. The long, supple finish is laced with a thick coating of delicious dark fruits and spices. This can be approached today, however for those looking to wait, it shows nice aging potential and will certainly benefit from a few additional years in bottle. 

★ 91 Points - Antonio Galloni's Vinous

The 2011 wraps around the palate with gorgeous depth and radiance. Sweet plum, black cherries, menthol, licorice and leather notes flesh out in an expressive, layered Syrah loaded with class and personality.

★ (90-93) Points - Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate

Its deep ruby/purple color is followed by sweet aromas of bouquet garni, mint, red and black currants, tobacco leaf and licorice, and a surprisingly intense, full-bodied mouthfeel with more richness and intensity than I would have expected from this vintage. It is also precocious and can be drunk upon release or cellared for 15 or more years.

★ 93 Points - Antonio Galloni's Vinous

The 2011 Insignia is impressive, no doubt about it. In this vintage, it is the wine's length and persistence that stand out most. This is a decidedly Old World style of Insignia with less raciness than is customary. Grilled herbs, smoke, dried rose petal, tobacco and cedar are some of the notes that add complexity. Readers should give the 2011 another few years in bottle for the tannins to soften. This is the first vintage of Insignia that incorporates both Cabernet Franc and Malbec.

★ 92 Points - JamesSuckling.com

A balanced, delicious Insignia for early drinking. Aromas of currants, blueberries and licorice follow through to a full to medium body, fine tannins and a clean finish. Yummy. Drink or hold. 

★ 91 Points - Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar

Nicely perfumed nose offers scents of currant, plum, tobacco, mocha and dark chocolate. Plush and sweet on the palate... there's plenty of texture and depth here. Dark berry flavors are complicated by subtle tobacco leaf, menthol and dried herb nuances. Finishes plummy and sweet, with big building tannins and lots of sexy oak...

★ Collector's Corner Recommendation - Decanter

Napa is rising up the wish lists of collectors and, although 2011 is a difficult vintage, Phelps is a fine estate. It's a Bordeaux blend, led by 82% Cabernet Sauvignon.

★ 95 Points - Decanter

Deep and rich nose of cloves, pepper, smoke, coffee and black olives. Great complexity and structure with lovely ripeness and a long, fresh finish. -R.B.

Soft, polished and stylish with superb structure and dark chocolatey fruit. Oak dominates and strong tannins are fine grained, but there is a great texture and a an impressive style, which will evolve as it ages. -A.M.

Sumptuous wine with bold supporting tannins and good acidity. Concentrated, with spice and complexity and a long chocolatey finish. Strives to impress and pulls out all the stops. -S.B.

★ 96 Points - International Wine Report

While many struggled with the cooler conditions in 2011, the winemaking team at Joseph Phelps absolutely thrived, achieving remarkable results, combining power, balance and structure in this brilliant Insignia. The wine resonates with deep layers of dark fruits and currants before folding in notes of fresh violets, spices and dusty minerals. This shows incredible depth and concentration, but also offers a wonderful sense of freshness from the underlying acidity, which also provides lift to the wine as it heads into the long supple finish. Today the wine is already showing incredible and it will only continue to evolve for years to come. I absolutely love what the Insignia offers in 2011 and it's hands down one of the best wines I have tasted from this vintage. 

★ 96 Points & Cellar Selection - The Wine Enthusiast

Impeccable elegance characterizes this vintage of the producer’s marquee Bordeaux-style blend, an expert finessing of 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Petit Verdot, 4% Malbec, 2% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Franc. Juicy in exotic black fruit, it stands tall, with silky, towering shoulders of herb, cardamom and clove that will coalesce beautifully over time. Hold through 2026. 

★ 92 Points - Antonio Galloni's Vinous

The 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon emerges from the glass with mocha, tobacco, grilled herbs, smoke, licorice, incense and orange peel. An exotic, layered wine, the 2011 impresses for its length and pure persistence. The style is that of a cold year, which means the tannins are a bit firm and in need of further bottle age. This is a beautiful wine for the year, but also in its own right.

★ 92 Points - Decanter

Dense, toasty nose of liquorice and fruit cake; very powerful. The palate has a silky texture but shows great richness and concentration. There is still considerable grip but impressive fruit weight too. 

★ 95 Points - Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate

The stunning 2010 Insignia, which is now in bottle, was made from 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot and the rest Merlot and Malbec. A gorgeously intense bouquet of lead pencil shavings, spring flowers, black currants, blackberries, and subtle smoke and foresty aromas jumps from the glass of this full-bodied, rich, concentrated wine with soft tannins, a multidimensional mouthfeel, and a long, rich finish displaying well-integrated acidity, tannin, alcohol and wood. This beauty is one of the top Insignias produced over recent years.

★ 94 Points, Spectator Collectible Selection - The Wine Spectator

Firm, dense and deeply concentrated, this offers a powerful thrust of flavors, with mocha- and espresso-laced blackberry, black licorice and cedar notes, revving up on the finish. Pure, driven and persistent, this seems set for a long life. Best to cellar. Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot and Malbec. Best from 2015 through 2028.

★ 96+ Points - Antonio Galloni's Vinous

Dark plums, graphite, pencil shavings, smoke and licorice all jump from the glass... The tannins are sweet, layered and impeccably balanced, which makes me think the 2010 will enjoy a long drinking window once it softens. The 2010 is a beautiful, silky Insignia, but it needs time. Drinking window: 2018-2030

★ 97 Points & Cellar Selection - #29 Top 100 Cellar Selections of 2014 - The Wine Enthusiast

This is, as always, a gorgeous wine, rich, balanced and delicious. It shows classic Napa Valley ripeness, with blackberry jam, plum, dark chocolate and sweet oak flavors. Plush and velvety doesn’t begin to do it justice. Despite it’s fabulous lushness, this is a wine to age. Depending on your taste, it will provide excellence from now until 2030. #29 Top 100 Cellar Selections of 2014