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Wine Spectator: Joseph Phelps, Pioneering California Wine Producer, Dies At 87

April 17, 2015

Trailblazing California winemaker Joseph Phelps passed away Wednesday at the age of 87. Known for a trademark Napa style of ripe, rich Cabernet Sauvignon accented by Merlot, Cabernet Franc and a generous use of oak, Phelps was in the midst of renovating the visitor center of his Joseph Phelps Vineyards winery in St. Helena when he died.

Phelps made his mark on the wine world with a Bordeaux-inspired blend he branded Insignia, a name he came up with one morning while shaving. Phelps’ winery excelled with many wines, from late-harvest dessert whites to Chardonnay, Cabernet and Merlot. He was also among the pioneers embracing Rhône-style reds in the 1970s.

“Joe was a businessman and a real vintner—all too rare these days,” said Chuck Wagner of Caymus. “Joe brought competition to Napa Valley in a significant way. He was one of the first vintners to enter the brave new world of the ripe and gorgeous style.” Wine Spectator has the full story.

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