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.
Mendocino AVA was established in 1984 and amended in 1989. It includes numerous sub-appellations. Mendocino AVA is entirely within Mendocino County, and the AVA is known for its Mediterranean climate. Vintners successfully grow Carignan, Charbono, Grenache, Zinfandel, Petit Sirah and Syrah. In cooler parts of the region Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are also grown. Mendocino County is home to nearly 600 vineyards, and many have been certified organic for decades, thanks to the region’s famous “green and sustainable” approach to agriculture and nearly everything else. Mendocino was named for 16th century explorers, a pair of brothers whose last name was Mendoza. Winemaking, however, didn’t start until the 19th century when some would-be gold miners decided it was more profitable to make wine than to pan for gold. Italian immigrants in the late 19th century continued to establish winemaking ventures.