As if sipping fine wine in Napa Valley was not memorable enough, the new Joseph Phelps Vineyards Exceptional Wine Experiences will leave an indelible impression on the senses. Five unique opportunities for oenophiles have been designed to educate the palate and explore the winemaking process—from terroir to tasting room—from Joseph Phelps’ newly renovated winery in St. Helena.
With the Insignia Blending experience, guests combine all of the varietals—from six estate vineyards—found in Insignia, Joseph Phelps’ renowned Bordeaux blend whose first vintage dates back to 1974. Since that time, the Cabernet Sauvignon–based wine has received a perfect score of 100 points from Robert Parker for three different vintages (1991, 1997, and 2002) and was named Wine of the Year by Wine Spectator in 2005. After trying their hand at replicating the wine’s carefully crafted balance, participants will have a chance to taste the newly released 2012 vintage of Insignia for themselves—a mélange of 75 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 10 percent Petit Verdot, 10 percent Merlot, 3 percent Malbec, and 2 percent Cabernet Franc. Delving further into what gives gravitas to the grape, the Barrel Aging Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon experience examines how barrels of different origins and toast levels bestow varying benefits to the wine. The winery’s current Cabernet Sauvignons are tasted and then compared to four samples of the same varietal that have each been aged in barrels with contrasting composition and characteristics.
Those interested in how geography and geology add to the science of viticulture can sign up for Napa Valley Rocks. Tasting Cabernet Sauvignon from estate vineyards in four of the region’s diverse sub-appellations reveals how climate, topography, and soil profile combine to proffer a unique imprint on the fruit grown there. In complement, the Single Vineyards—A Taste of Place experience continues to track terroir with a sampling of six Joseph Phelps wines, from single vineyards, including Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Pastorale and Quarter Moon vineyards in Sonoma; Cabernet Sauvignon from Backus Vineyard in Oakville; and Syrah from Larry Hyde & Sons Vineyard in Carneros. Finally, aspiring sommeliers can step up to the Wine Aroma Challenge and attempt to correctly identify 12 wines (six white and six red) in an interactive competition with bragging rights granted to the first-place proboscis.
Requiring reservations, each of the semiprivate Exceptional Wine Experiences are 90 minutes in duration and take place daily at 11 am and 2 pm at a cost of $100 per person. Two additional limited-edition offerings are a Wine & Cheese Pairing at 11 am on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays for $100 and, if arranged ahead of time, the Insignia: Past, Present & Future Tasting, which allows guests to sample a flight of five Insignia vintages at a price of $150 per person. (josephphelps.com)