Let me start with a note on these wineries that were due a re-visit: I think what happened was that in writing about wine I was looking toward newer places and really let my older standbys…stand by. And I was glad, after this past weekend in Napa, that I took the opportunity to go back to some old favorites. (Only want to see photos? Look here.)
The last time we visited Joseph Phelps Vineyards was around my birthday, 10 years ago. The reason I remember the time of year is that I worked it out…to get a wine club membership as a gift. Eddie loved Insignia but it was rich for my blood, luckily the birthday turned out to be the gift that kept on giving, for about five years.
We recently cracked open a 2002 Insignia, a former Wine Spectator wine of the year, and thought why not return for a visit. (My tasting notes: Aromas of stewed plums, fig and sautéed mushrooms and rich decadent flavor of solid black fruit in a killer length.)
This time I set our tasting appointment for right after Ed got a new job…deserving of another gift. And we became members again due to this stellar tasting below, that ended with a sample of the 2016 release of Insignia. (All notes on aromas and flavors are separated by ; )
2013 Sauvignon Blanc, St. Helena: Pineapple, pink grapefruit, lemon zest; crisp pear, apple with a medium acid. Very pleasant. 94 Eve pts.
2013 Viognier, St. Helena: Jasmine, lime, white pepper and white peach; a viscous melding of peach, pink lemonade, kiwi and banana. A real interesting wine. 95 Eve pts.
2012 Pinot Noir, Pastorale Vineyard: Spiced cherry, smoke and toasted oak; resonating dry cherry. 91 Eve pts.
2012 Pinot Noir, Quarter Moon Vineyard: Red to black cherry, eucalyptus; balanced tart and dark fruits, incredible depth. 93 Eve pts.
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley: Blackberry, dark chocolate, mint, blueberry and dust; blackberry, tannic, dry, dark and dusty, 94 Eve pts.
2012 Insignia (opened the day before): Black peppercorn, blue and black fruit, velvety, chocolate covered cherry; a perfect balance of dusty dark fruit and rich tannins, and lucky for the taster, a delectably long finish. 99 Eve pts.
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Backus Vineyard: Smoke, blueberry, dark chocolate and toasted oak; a lot more fruit forward than Insignia, less spice, but a lovely balance. 93 Eve pts.
To Be Released September 2016, 2013 Insignia: Robust red fruit, boysenberry, toasted oak; dry red fruit, mild pepper, chewy on the palate, drying and another long finish. This will be good.
Plumpjack Winery was another spot we hadn’t visited in many years and were curious to re-visit.
We had a large selection offered to taste, but that didn’t stop me from visiting with other tasters when they commented on my Wine Dogs T-shirt. And when I spied the book I pointed out my essay in two of the books they had there. Soon I was signing a copy and asked to take a photo. This was a real treat for me! But now, back to our tasting. We soon learned that Plumpjack had two other labels: Cade and Odette:
2014 Cade Sauvignon Blanc: Crisp, candy apple, steely; juicy, lemon, tart but with a low acid I appreciated. 89 Eve pts.
2014 Plumpjack Reserve Chardonnay: Beautiful fruit, juicy pear, lemon hard candy and honey; low acidity and the same fruit carried over to the taste. 89 Eve pts.
2013 Plumpjack Syrah: Gamey, smoke, fig, raisin; black chewy fruit, cigar, plum, toast. Dark, big and dusty. 89 Eve pts.
2012 Plumpjack Estate Cabernet Sauvignon: Blackberry, blueberry, wet bark; big and bold at the start and then an even bigger finish. 89 Eve pts.
2013 Plumpjack Merlot: Pepper, smoke and milk chocolate, both red and black fruit, big and juicy. 88 Eve pts.
Odette Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate: Deep and resonating plum, spice, black cherry; Velvet, an easy drinker with a strong fruit profile. 93 Eve pts.
2012 Cade Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: Pungent plum, berry, black fruit; very balanced, less spice than some of the others, quite pleasant now. 90 Eve pts.
I think that it was the same time that we visited Joseph Phelps 10 years ago we also had visited Silver Oak Winery. (Of course back then I was writing about wine for The Signal newspaper and no one had corrected me in calling it Silver OakS.)
I was very happy to revisit the wines in this tasting:
2011 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, released August 1, 2015: Peppery, cherry pie, sourdough toast, earth; the same pepper, cherry liqueur, a beautiful mouthfeel and medium length. 91 Eve pts.
2010 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: Raisinette candy, stewed plums, blackberry jam and wet leaves; dark spiced fruit, medium pepper, tannin, chewy and nicely balanced. 91 Eve pts.
2008* Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. (This year saw four years in bottle prior to release.) Spicy, red fruit, mushroom; bright fruit combined with spice and pepper. 95 Eve pts.
2006* Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: Earth, cooked mushroom, stewed fruit; a lovely velvety balance of rich fruit with a port-like finish. 94 Eve pts.
*There is a nice quantity of older wines from the Silver Oak library for tasting and purchase. Besides the thrill of tasting a cellared wine to see how it’s done, Silver Oak has priced them all only $5 above their original retail price. We bought both a bottle of both the 08 and 06.
Eve Bushman has been reading, writing, taking coursework and tasting wine for over 20 years. She has obtained a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, has been the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video, authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and recently served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits that may be answered in a future column. You can also seek her marketing advice via Eve@EveBushmanConsulting.com