★ 90 Points - The Wine Spectator
The peach, nectarine and melon flavors have a terrific intensity, with toasted spice and green tea accents. A note of guava emerges on the succulent finish.
★ 92 Points - The Wine Enthusiast
Made entirely from estate fruit, and given time to settle in French oak puncheons, only a third of them new, this dry and complex white is easily quaffable and yet so much more. Citrus peel and dried herb complement on the nose and palate, with a lightness of being that never veers on frivolous.
★ 92 Points - Wine & Spirits
Philippe Pessereau grows the fruit for this wine at Phelps’s home ranch in St. Helena; Ashley Hepworth barrel ferments it without added yeast, then ages the wine in French oak puncheons (31 percent new). While that oak plays a leading role in the structure and flavors, it is less dominant than in recent vintages. With air, the wine’s yellow-apple flavor and floral notes break through the oak barrier and begin to shimmer, lasting on an elegant, lean line of fruit. Built to age for several years and to serve with roast veal.
★ 94 Points - Antonio Galloni's Vinous
The 2013 Pinot Noir Quarter Moon Vineyard is another very pretty and highly nuanced wine. Rose petal, mint, savory herbs, pine and crushed rocks inform a focused, chiseled Pinot that is all about delineation. There is so much to like here.
★ 93 Points - The Wine Enthusiast
This is a 100% estate wine from the producer’s cool-climate sites near the town of Freestone. Black pepper and a nutty entry invite one in to explore further, this wine having many stories to tell as it develops. Soft and mellow, it’s also feral and funky, with a strong essence of mushroomy forest floor.
★ 93 Points - Antonio Galloni's Vinous
The 2013 Pinot Noir Pastorale Vineyard is bright, precise and lifted. Rose petal, cranberry and cinnamon notes abound in a super expressive, crystalline Pinot endowed with fabulous detail and nuance.
★ 91 Points - Wine & Spirits
Joseph Phelps made a significant bet on coastal Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in 1999, stepping outside of Napa to develop 100 acres of vineyards in the fog-cooled hills near Freestone. Those vines now grow a polished and silky Pinot, with sunny fruit sweetness that suggests candied cherries. Savory scents of vineyard dust and tea leaves contrast that juicy fruit, while citrusy acidity gives it a toned edge.
★ 93 Points & Editors' Choice - The Wine Enthusiast
Stemmy earth and dark, savory pine give in to sautéed mushroom and cinnamon in this lean, soft and delicious estate-grown wine. A tension of acidity buoys a backdrop of wild strawberry and cranberry on the palate, ending with just the right amount of weight and length, succulent to the end. Editors’ Choice.
★ 90 Points - Antonio Galloni's Vinous
The 2013 Pinot Noir Freestone Vineyards is deep, powerful and intense, with plenty of sweet red cherry, plum, new leather and spice woven together. Creamy and inviting, the 2013 shows plenty of the explosive energy and overall depth that are such signatures of the Phelps Pinots.
★ 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.
★ 92 Points & "Year's Best Chardonnay" Report - Wine & Spirits
There's a taut and penetrating depth of flavor at the core of this chardonnay, from a wind-cooled vineyard among the redwoods near Freestone. It's resolutely dry, with a tangy blood-orange verve, the grip of oak and creaminess of lees providing a context from the clean intensity of the fruit.
★ 95 Points & Editor's Choice - The Wine Enthusiast
This 100% varietal wine from the cooler outpost of Freestone is so deliciously crisp, bright in minerally lemon and fresh pear. It lingers on the palate in complex ways, elusive one moment, then exuberant the next—a celebration of ideal vintage and place.
★ 91 Points - Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate
The wine shows beautiful floral notes intermixed with citrus and honeysuckle, has great natural acidity and a hint of wet rocks giving it minerality and crisp, medium-bodied, nicely concentrated flavors. It reminded me of a premier cru Chablis. Drink it over the next 4-5 years.
★ 91 Points - Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate
The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon is a strong effort from Joseph Phelps and possibly could turn out to be one of the best Napa bottlings they have made in many a year. The wine saw about 45% new oak (55% French, 45% American) and is opaque purple in color, with a classic Cabernet expression of tobacco leaf, blackcurrants, licorice and Christmas fruitcake. It is full-bodied, dense, opulent and concentrated, especially for the introductory Cabernet Sauvignon in the Joseph Phelps stable. No doubt, the fruit coming from 100% estate vineyards has certainly added quality to this offering. This should drink well for up to 20 or more years.
★ 91 Points - Antonio Galloni's Vinous
The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon is bold, dark and juicy. A great example of the vintage, the 2013 captures the essence of this important Napa Valley vintage. Plums, crème de cassis, cloves menthol and licorice meld together effortlessly. Drink this plump, fruit-driven Cabernet Sauvignon over the next decade or so. The 2013 is flat-out delicious and also a reasonably priced Cabernet Sauvignon, with enough production to be widely available, a winning combination in my book.
★ 92 Points - JamesSuckling.com
Gorgeous aromas of sage, blackberry and blueberry follow through to a full body, polished and silky tannins and a long flavorful finish. A pretty combination of subtle fruit and wood. Should come together beautifully.
★ 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.
★ 96 Points - Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate
The flagship wine of the estate in reds is their Insignia, which has been one of the great Bordeaux blends made in California since the debut vintage in 1974. It usually has 30+ years aging potential, even in lighter vintages, of which the 2012, 2013 and 2014 are decidedly not. The 2012 Proprietary Red Insignia, a final blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot and the rest Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc all from estate vineyards, was aged 24 months in 100% new French oak... and it’s a fabulous, classic Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. Inky purple to the rim, with notes of lead pencil shavings, incense, camphor, blackberry and creme de cassis, the wine is full-bodied, offering a multi-layered, textural, skyscraper-like mouthfeel, terrific purity, density and richness. All of this is achieved without a sense of heaviness or anything aggressive. This is a beauty to drink now and over the next 30 years.
★ 97 Points & Top 100 Wines In 2015 - JamesSuckling.com
Top 100 Wines In 2015 List: Amazing aromas of blueberry, blackberry, mineral and bark. Complex nose. Full body plus super integrated tannins with superb balance and depth. Coffee and chocolate too. Very long and mind-bending. A tribute to the vintage. Drink or hold. A long life ahead of it.
★ 93 Points - The Wine Spectator
Packs a wallop... with extracted dark berry flavors and tannic muscle. Aromas of cassis, currant and blackberry... this is built to cellar.
★ 96 Points - Antonio Galloni's Vinous
Just bottled, the 2012 Insignia is rich, voluptuous and racy to the core. Raspberry jam, mocha, wild flowers, spices and espresso are laced together in a sensual, enveloping Insignia that should drink well with minimal cellaring. I imagine the 2012 will reward readers with a long drinking window of pure pleasure. Today, it is a total knock-out.
★ 92 Points - Wine & Spirits
This vintage of Insignia is 75 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 10 percent each Merlot and Petit Verdot, with the balance in Malbec and Franc. It's Phelps's most ambitious red, wearing its oak aging like a thick velvet curtain, but one that pulls aside to reveal deeply saturated flavors of plum, black cherry, cedar and tobacco. There's some delicacy to the wine, apparent in a hint of lavender and rose, carried along on a gracious finish. A great vintage of Insignia, worthy of long aging in a cool cellar.
★ 95 Points & Cellar Selection - The Wine Enthusiast
In this vintage, the producer’s beloved blend is a commingling of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec and 2% Cabernet Franc. Two years in new French oak give it a youthful, tannic nature around smoky black cherry, burly leather and full bodied richness and concentration. Further time in the bottle should coax out the blackberry and cherry; cellar through 2027.
★ 96 Points - International Wine Report
The 2012 Insignia is an absolutely remarkable showing. This formidable wine delivers complex aromas of ripe black currants and blackberry liqueur, layered with sweet spices, violets and mocha all coming together in the glass. On the palate this impressive red is full and voluptuous, backed by round tannins which are beautifully polished. It continues to show remarkable depth with excellent concentration of dark fruits through the long, supple finish. The 2012 is already completly compelling, but this is also shows tremendous potential for long term cellaring.
★ 95 Points & 3 Stars - Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine
As rich and as deep as can be in the nose and immediately impressing as a very serious Cabernet with elements of black olives, hardwood spice and loamy soils overlying its very sure, highly concentrated, black currant fruit, the latest Insignia is a layered, multi-faceted offering of striking richness and range. It is both weighty and fairly supple with a proper spine of youthful tannin, yet as Insignia is so often wont to do, it already shows a somewhat polished side that predicts a fairly refined future. Still, it is not a wine to be drunk down in haste, and its high recommendation comes with the urging that it be given time to reach its best.
★ 95 Points - Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate
The Cabernet Sauvignon Backus is their single-vineyard wine made on the lower hillsides of the Vaca Mountains at the Oakville crossroads. The 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Backus, a blend of 93% Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest Malbec and Petit Verdot, spent 24 months in 100% new French oak. It is inky bluish purple to the rim, showing notes of underbrush, dusty soil notes and plenty of blackberry and blueberry fruit. An elegant and relatively large production for this vineyard, the 2012 is a beauty and the tannins are surprisingly civilized for such a young Backus. It can be drunk in 3-4 years, but will keep 30 or more.
★ 97 Points - Antonio Galloni's Vinous
The 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Backus Vineyard has really blossomed over the last year. A glorious, towering Cabernet Sauvignon offers super depth an intensity, with the voluptuous personality of the vintage on full display. Sweet red cherry, pomegranate, mocha and espresso all flesh out in the glass. The Backus is not as open nor expressive as the Insignia is today, but it is tremendous in its beauty and overall pedigree. This is a terrific example of contemporary Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. This is the last vintage made from the vineyards that were planted in 1975.
★ 95 Points - JamesSuckling.com
Lots of blackberry, smoked meat and mahogany aromas. Full body, chewy tannins, mineral and mint. Long and intense finish. Better in 2017.