Wine: Best of the Best Domestic New Releases: Joseph Phelps Vineyards 1998 Insignia

Choosing one release as best out of thousands is, in many ways, an absurd task—one that can be rapidly complicated by the judges’ efforts to showcase their own cleverness or powers of discrimination. We resisted in this undertaking—as best we could—attempts to startle our readers with an esoteric choice defended by arcane distinctions that would prompt them to marvel at our enological prowess. While often difficult to quantify, excellence is in most cases a simple and straightforward quality—one not difficult to recognize. In the case of Joseph Phelps’ 1998 Insignia, many have recognized its merits before us, and we are content to add our voices to theirs.  

The perfection of 1997’s Insignia release must have loomed large in the minds of wine maker Craig Williams and his team: Universal praise one year by the redoubtable wine press (or as close to it as mere mortals can hope to attain) might call down that body’s wrath upon one’s head the next should one’s subsequent oeuvre fail to measure up. Nevertheless, this bleak reality, accompanied by difficult weather, did not dishearten the folks at Phelps, who carefully selected the most succulent lots of fruit from harvest, then painstakingly combined and recombined them to arrive at the final blend. Though one-fifth smaller than 1997 production, this release achieves an extraordinary density and richness that will undoubtedly refine with age. Its lush, deep concentration of prune, blackberry, cocoa, wood, and spice riots on the palate, without compromising the integrity of the composition as a whole. Artistic composition, after all, is the very personality of Insignia, and 1998, for all its wild energy, never displays a color or draws a line that tastes out of place.

Joseph Phelps Vineyards, 707.963.2745, www.jpvwines.com

 

The full-flavored whiskey takes its character from the distillery’s picturesque natural...
The Mandarin Oriental New York hosted the exclusive event at its 35th-floor MObar…
Photo by Antoine Bagot
The finest Cognacs are deeply flavored, richly textured, and best discovered on their native ground...
The $3,000 Platinum pass ensures the finest food, drink, and access…
In honor of the hotel’s 125th anniversary, the ultra-rare scotch comes with a piece of England’s...
Scott Torrence evaluates, assesses, and drinks some of the greatest vintages in the world...
The cucumber-infused spirit inspired the giant green airship, which is taking to the skies of major...
Photo by Madison McGaw
Club members celebrated the release of the Cognac at the Surrey hotel in in Manhattan…
A new generation of imbibers has flocked to the lighter taste of grain whisky…
Photo by Bob McClenahan
The bottles from the $6 million worth of barrels sold will be available in as soon as one year…