Joseph Phelps: Sheeeep!!!


Driving into Joseph Phelps makes you feel like you’re entering some exotic New Zealand winery. (At least this is what I imagine a NZ winery to be like.) You’ve got the rolling green hills, the windy road through the vineyards and, yes, the cutest flock of sheep ever. I yelled at Chris to stop the car and immediately got out to snap some pics. Man were those some cute sheep. There were also some wild turkeys on the other side of the road, but they just remind me of Thanksgiving.

Joseph Phelps Winery

After we had our fill of the fantastic view, we walked inside to start the tasting with a delicious Sauvignon Blanc and a nice Chardonnay. I’m not a Chardonnay fan but they know how to do it right (read: lightly French without the heavy oakiness of other CA Chardonnays). They were also tasting some of their other vineyards, Freestone and Fogdog. The Fogdog ’08 Pinot Noir was solid and a great, economical option to put on the shopping list for our next wine store trip.

The hosts were also fantastic and wealth of knowledge. Just a couple of the interesting bits we picked up:

  • A wine with high acidity and low pH will end up quite fruity
  • Don’t expect to be able to age a wine with a screw-top; those are for immediate drinking only since the cork actually helps with the aging process
  • You know when the sommelier puts the cork down on the table after opening a bottle of wine? Well, it’s an old French custom from when some restaurants were being shady and rebottling cheap wine in a nicer bottle. You’re not supposed to smell it; it’s just verification that the cork matches the label and that you’re drinking the wine you bought.

What I walked away thinking about though was an interesting marketing conundrum: Phelps is very well known for its Insignia wine — a 95% Cab, 5% Petit Verdot blend that is phenomenal and whose exact mix changes every year. Really it’s a great wine. But it’s also an expensive wine and when you compare it to the other delicious wines earlier on in the tasting, it just doesn’t seem worth the buy. You could get a great 07 Cab for $54 or an 06 Insignia for $200. The choice is easy for us cheapos. Granted we’re not necessarily their target market, but is it worth it to include that in a regular tasting? If you’re coming in specifically looking for the Insignia wouldn’t it undermine the sell to share some great (and cheaper) wines right before hand?

And More Views

Chardonnay, Napa Valley, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc

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