Joseph Phelps Vineyards is a family-owned winery based in St. Helena. It was founded in 1973 when Joseph Phelps, a building contractor from Colorado, arrived in Napa Valley to build wineries. He soon decided to make his own wine and purchased a former cattle ranch near St. Helena. Phelps Vineyards now owns or leases 560 acres of vineyards in Napa Valley and the Sonoma Coast. The estate owns choice properties in St. Helena, Stags Leap, Oakville, Rutherford, South Napa Valley and Oak Knoll. Phelps is best known for Insignia, its flagship Napa Valley blend of red Bordeaux varieties first produced in 1974. Awarded Wine Spectator’s “Wine of the Year” in 2005, Insignia is widely regarded as a qualitative benchmark for California winemaking. Besides Cabernet Sauvignon and small amounts of Petit Verdot, Merlot and Malbec, Phelps also grows Chardonnay, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Scheurebe. The estate produces 50,000 cases annually from Napa Valley and an additional 15,000 cases from the Sonoma Coast.
Monterey AVA is in Monterey County, south of San Francisco. The long, narrow appellation is a 100-mile ribbon of land that extends from north Monterey County south to the edge of Paso Robles. Most of the AVA is considerably inland from the Pacific Coast, and to the east of the Santa Lucia mountain range. About 40,000 vineyard acres are inside the AVA, making it one of California’s larger appellations. Monterey County, in fact, produces almost as much wine as Napa County because the floor of the valley is taken up by large industrial vineyards producing grapes for bulk wine. However, there are also many premier wine estates within Monterey AVA and its numerous sub-appellations. Monterey AVA includes four recognized micro climates, ranging from a cool, maritime climate at the north end to what is known in California as a Region 4 climate in the south, meaning relatively hot and dry. Monterey AVA includes parts of Carmel Valley and Salinas Valley. More than 50% of the grapes grown in the Monterey AVA are Chardonnay, though the many terroirs and micro climates mean that numerous grapes grow well. Merlot, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Zinfandel and Pinot Blanc are widely planted.