My usual one-bottle posts include observations on one wine: the color, aroma, flavor and some general notes. This time I thought I would mix it up. I will be sharing tasting notes and scores from other critics, as well as notes from my friend and a wine collector with an estimable palate, Steve Roebuck. I also decided to do this review as I was curious about the worth of the wine: 2012 Joseph Phelps Backus that recently landed in my Drink Now chiller. Lucky me.
A little googling and I found the wine on Wine Searcher valued at an average of $249 a bottle. Though unavailable on Wine.com they said it was being sold at an average of $219 a bottle. Abalat is selling it for $322. (We paid $200 as club members in 2015 for the 2012, later we got the 2013 for $250.)
Parker and Galloni Reviews
Robert Parker, Wine Advocate: 95
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. There are 2,900 cases of this massive wine, which is certainly the most backstrapping, highly extracted, muscular Cabernet in the Phelps portfolio. 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.
Antonio Galloni for Vinous: 97 Points
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.
Roebuck and Bushman Review
These are Steve’s notes, mine are in italics afterward:
2012 Joseph Phelps “Backus” Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon
Score: 98 Points
Location: Napa Valley, California
Blend: 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Merlot and 3% Petit Verdot
SR: This dark inky garnet wine had a hint of bricking on the edge. The wine had a magnificent bouquet of blackberries, boysenberries, cherry liquor, violets, vanilla, sweet mushrooms, and savory dusty earth. It was full-bodied with lush integrated tannins that gave way to hints of blackberries, cassis fruit, cherry liquor, sage, iron, graphite, tar, baking chocolate, cigar box, and tilled earth. The wine had a nice level of acidity that brought balance to complex layers of fruit and earth. It had a bold backbone yet was elegant with a savory finish of candied dark berry fruits in a blanket of smoke.
Extremely Highly Recommended!
Tasted: October 2023
EB: I viewed the color as a very black blackberry. The first aroma that hit me was of juicy dark berries: blackberry and boysenberry, then medium toast, spice, black pepper and pipe tobacco. When I tasted the wine I was hit again, this time with its perfect balance of fruit and spice, very smooth and easy to drink with that same dark fruit, mild spice and mellowed tannins. I’d give it 100 points.
Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), a “certification in the first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), Level 1 Sake Award from WSET, was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video (over 16k views), authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Proof Awards, Cellarmasters, LA Wine Competition, Long Beach Grand Cru and the Global Wine Awards. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits.