Most of us have childhood memories of “Rumpel- stiltskin,” a fairy tale that concerns a stranger with a mysterious name and a woman who, with the help of magic, can spin straw into gold. We smile at such things as adults, of course, but Ashley Hepworth, the winemaker at Joseph Phelps Vineyards, abetted by her colleagues Director of Winemaking Damian Parker and Director of Vineyard Operations Phillippe Pessereau, has done something just as remarkable: She has taken grapes and, almost magically, crafted the extraordinary Joseph Phelps Vineyards 2007 Insignia ($200), which is among the most remarkable red wines ever produced in the New World.
Blended from Cabernet Sauvignon (88%), Merlot (8%), and Petit Verdot (4%), Insignia 2007 offers rich and uncommonly enticing aromas of dark fruit, mocha, and spice, which lead to generous, perfectly orchestrated plum, currant, dark cherry, blackberry and allspice flavors complicated by notes of vanilla-oak on its long, polished finish. For a wine with such a powerful structure, Insignia 2007 has a surprisingly soft mouthfeel, and though it will certainly age beautifully for a decade or more, it is nonetheless irresistibly attractive in its youth.
If there is a wine lover on your holiday gift list, there is no need to give him or her a strange bottling with a mysterious name on its label, since I cannot imagine a wine that would be more delightful to receive than Joseph Phelps Vineyard 2007 Insignia. Opening such a wonderful present on Christmas morning would certainly be a golden moment for the recipient, and drinking it with family and friends as part of a yuletide feast later in the day would be decidedly magical for everyone at table.