The best release party on the planet just got better!


Joseph Phelps Vineyards held their annual release party this weekend at their beautiful estate in Saint Helena. On top of that they were also celebrating their 40th anniversary. By the late 1960’s Joseph Phelps had built one of the most successful construction companies in the U.S. One client project, Souverain Winery (now Rutherford Hill), was to ultimately change the face of viticulture in the Napa Valley. The idyllic beauty of the Napa Valley inspired him to buy the 600 acre Connolly cattle ranch in Spring Valley dedicating the property to viticulture. The winery was completed in 1974 and produced the first vintages of Syrah and the now world-famous Insignia. Forty years later Joseph Phelps Vineyards has set the bar for exceptional wines, biodynamic viticulture, and unparalleled hospitality.

The Party

Every year, JPV puts on a wonderful 3 day event for their members as a huge thank you for their patronage as well as to debut some of their stunning wines. As you may recall from our coverage last year, we felt it would be nearly impossible to top last years party. We were wrong!

Hospitality gets no better than at JPV

Hospitality gets no better than at JPV

The weather was simply perfect. The wines (we’ll delve in deeper later) were amazing, the food was over the top in terms of quality and diversity, and the music was incredible. The topper was the hospitality. The JPV staff is the best in business and it showed here in spades! We frequently recommend wine clubs here at DdV but there may be no equal to that of JPV. If you join only one wine club, this could be it. Not only does one gain access to the amazing Insignia and Backus red wines but also the small production wines such as the Hyde & Sons Syrah, Estate Viognier, and the brand new Rosè. JPV makes such a fantastic diversity of fine wines there truly is something for everyone.

2013jpv2The members are brought up to the estate in luxury busses and immediately greeted with snack trays and a pour of their stunning new Rosè. In a very thoughtful touch, the trays have a wine glass holder built-in making our grazing easy. The party has two tiers. One at the main tasting room and one at the converted upper parking lot. Each had a diversity of food, wine, and music.


The Food



This year they really outdid themselves on the food. The life altering paella was back as was the brick oven pizza. One offering, a spoon full of sea bass, amazing crisp vegetables and herbs topped with guacamole was a huge new hit. Each of the food offerings paired wonderfully with the wines. Pizza with the Rosè, Chard and Pinot, Pailla with the Rosè and Pinot (the Insignia wasn’t a bad pair either!), the sea bass and Chard/Viognier and of course the grilled faire with the Cab and Insignia.

The grazin' was amazin'

The grazin’ was amazin’

Other highlights included a clever lobster bisque sandwich, a subtle tomato gazpacho with cucumber, and a tasty corn chowder. The biggest hit with the members though was the grilled fare. Napa Berkshire pulled pork with curry sliders, angus beef with carmelized onion and blu cheese sliders as well as skewers with both Moroccan spiced lamb and chicken and bread with lemon. We also loved the salad infused with delicious bacon and the petite marble potato salad.

The grill masters from Smoke - Open Fire Cooking

The grill masters from Smoke – Open Fire Cooking

Sliders from heaven

Sliders from heaven

How bout some desert?


There was certainly no letdown for desert. Decadent chocolates, passion fruit truffles, creme de caramel, and passion fruit macaroons were all paired with their wonderful Eisrébe desert wine. The chocolate and sea salt bars were also to die for.

The Music

As we walked off the bus, we were greeted with the sounds of some fantastic latin world music. The band was David Correa and Cascada who have received numerous awards and toured with some of the greatest bands in the latin genre. Quite a welcome as we grabbed our world class Rose and tray. The guitar playing was inspiring and the backup band was as good as you can imagine. For more info: http://www.davidcorreaandcascada.com/

The Hummingbirdz

The Hummingbirdz

As we walked around we heard from the upper parking lot a blazing harmonica and guitar solo and knew where we would be spending the bulk of the afternoon. As we had hoped, The Hummingbirdz were back again this year. As our readers know, we love these guys!  Up tempo high energy blues music that was fittingly placed near the grill. This year they had some fantastic new songs as well as some of our favorites like Peter Gun, Enjoy Your Beverage (we were!), and the old blues classics Handyman and I Can’t Quit You.


With these guys you come for the music and stay for the solos. As usual they tore it up and had the place buzzing. We’re happy to report that they will also be back for the Taste of Howell Mountain Benefit in June so get your tickets before they sell out!

For more information: www.thehummingbirdz.com

The Wine

Barrel samples of the 2011 Insignia

Barrel samples of the 2011 Insignia

As great as the food, atmosphere, and music was, the reason we’re all here is for the wine!

Joseph Phelps 2010 Insignia
2010 had a very cool growing season leaving many pundits to proclaim the vintage would not be a strong one. That may be the case for some producers but rest assured JPV will not be one of them. As we projected from last year’s barrel tasting the Insignia would be terrific… And it is! This is not as opulent and big as the 08′ and 09′ but has a wonderful soft nuance that will pair with a number of foods. We couldn’t help thinking about our grilled braised short rib recipe when tasting this wonderful wine. Plenty of big dark berry, plum, and cassis come together with subtle hints of oak and graphite on the finish. Near perfect balance and refined mouth feel. This is a true cellar selection as we project it to gain nuance for the next 8-10+ years.

Joseph Phelps 2011 Insignia Barrel Sample
This was already surprisingly approachable for a wine that is so young. If you thought the 2010 growing season was tough try the 2011 season. A cold spring beset with rain into June disrupted bloom and fruit set. A cool summer plus early rains in the fall made it even more of a challenge. The talented winemakers at JPV overcame these tough conditions to produce some great wines and this projects to be one of them. We see a similar wine to that of 2010. Not as big and opulent as the 08′ and 09′ but still quite delightful and as food friendly as the 2010.

Joseph Phelps 2010 Pinot – Freestone, Quarter Moon, Pastorale
JPV makes three wonderful Pinots from their Freestone Vineyards in the Sonoma Coast. We scored the 2009 Freestone Pinot a classic 95 and the 2010 is right there. Complex aromas of spices, taglio, dark cherry, and cassis give way to opulent plum, dark cherry and dark raspberry. Finishes very long with hints of earth, minerals, and cherry. Near perfect balance. The mouth feel is nothing short of pure luxury. Tannins are more than tight enough to cellar for years and gain nuance. Exceptional and very highly recommended. The single vineyard Quarter Moon and Pastorale Vineyard Pinots are best of the best of the Pinot grapes that make up the Freestone offering. These both are 96+ wines and are even more amazing than the Freestone. Look for a full review in our upcoming Sonoma Coast Pinot issue.

2012 Fog Dog Rosè
This is a brand new wine for JPV and was an instant hit. As our readers know, we love the resurgence of true classic Rosè in California. This is another great wine to add to your summer sipper list. The wine was sourced from a central coast vineyard that formerly produced the popular Mistral wines a number of years back. Soft floral and pomegranate notes on the nose lead to lush strawberry on the mid. A dry burst of mineral and cherry on the finish rounds out this wonderful refreshing wine. Only 100 or so cases were made so we hope they up the production next year!

Joseph Phelps 2011 Viognier
As we wrote in our article about our Easter Ham, we love the JPV Viognier! The new 2011 was being poured and we may love this vintage even more! On the nose bright honeysuckle, orange spice, and tropical fruit. The mid is lush with more tropical fruit, rich peach, and stunningly subtle oak. The finish is crisp and balanced with more subtle oak, peach, and bright minerals. The oak is so cleverly done on this wine and gives it a complexity that is beyond other offerings in this varietal. Wonderful balance and richness.

Joseph Phelps 2010 Cabernet
Somms who complain that Napa Cabs are not food friendly should take a long look at this beautiful food friendly Cab! We love the soft refined nature of this wine. Opulent plum, cassis, and dark berry abound with a long smooth finish. This is softer than previous vintages and will pair perfectly with anything cooked over a flame! We brought one home and had it with a juicy oak smoked filet mignon and it was pure heaven. These are widely available and very reasonably priced for the quality of the wine! This is yet another wine that is a perenial cellar selection. We were fortunate enough to stumble on a 1983 Cab they were pouring and it was a wonderfully nuanced aged wine!



As we stated in the opening we didn’t think they could top last year but definitely found a way to do it this year. We had such a wonderful time and truly enjoyed the entire day more than any other event we’ve been to. The wine, food, music, weather, and hospitality were all perfect. Many thanks to the great staff at JPV for their tireless efforts to make the event so enjoyable. We’d also like to thank the food vendors, serving staff, and musicians who worked so hard to make this day special. We’re now counting the days until next year! Can they beat this one? Something tells me they will!

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