In the late 60s, Joseph Phelps was running one of the largest construction companies in the U.S. 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 he bought the 600-acre Connolly cattle ranch in Spring Valley, and began planting vineyards. The winery was completed in 1974 and that same year the first Syrah was made, the first grapes were crushed at the new facility and the first Insignia was produced. It was a period of unparalleled activity, creativity, ingenuity, entrepreneurship and risk-taking and it put Joe Phelps on the map of top Napa Valley wine producers. Nearly five decades later, the flagship wine, Insignia, is recognized as one of the world’s great wines. Over the years, the goal of becoming 100% estate grown resulted in carefully planned acquisitions of prime vineyards in the Napa Valley. Today, Today the Phelps family owns and farms 425 acres of vines in Napa Valley on nine estate vineyards in St. Helena, Rutherford, Oakville, Stags Leap District, Oak Knoll District, South Napa and Carneros. Joseph Phelps long had a passion for the wines of Burgundy. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir were an important part of the Phelps Vineyard plans all the way back to the Estate’s origins. And while the wines made from fruit in Napa and Carneros were well received Joe was never entirely satisfied. This quest for improvement led to the purchase and planting of new vineyards on the Sonoma Coast, solely for the production of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. At Joseph Phelps Vineyards, the philosophy is to maintain, preserve and (where possible and appropriate) ecologically enhance the natural vineyard environment. While this goal is essential for present vineyard practices, it will have an even more profound effect on the development of maturing vineyards in the future. In order to achieve the greatest possible ecological health in and around the vineyards, the Joseph Phelps team continues to build upon the sustainable vineyard practices they began using in the early 1980s. Gradually but steadily, they are embracing biodynamics.

Reviews for this winery

Wine Advocate

Joseph Phelps was one of the great visionaries of Napa Valley. His legacy is one of extraordinary quality. He was one of the first to see the merit in blending, which his legendary Insignia, which first debuted in 1974, has proven year after year. It remains one of the world’s finest Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated blends.

Robert Parker,

Vinous

This is a fabulous set of 2018s from Joseph Phelps and winemaker Justin Ennis. Readers will find wines that are deep, rich and wonderfully expressive. Ennis gave the Pinots an average of 20-22 days on the skins, with about 35% whole clusters for the vineyard designates and 16% for the Sonoma Coast bottling. New oak was around 50% for the vineyard designates. As has been the case for a few years now, the Chardonnays were aged mostly in puncheon, which contributes to their distinctive character.

January 2020