Very good friends were bringing pizza over tonight so I pondered my wine choice carefully. It wasn’t just because we were having pizza but the gentleman and his wife are southern California residents and I knew he really enjoyed his big California wines.

So I went to the wine storage cooler and reached for what I think is really great and iconic California vintner. I pulled out a bottle of Joseph Phelps Le Mistral, a Syrah-blend wine, that I had brought home from a 2006 visit.

It just got better and better as it remained open but the wine certainly didn’t disappoint as something really special. The 2004 Le Mistral is 70 percent Syrah, 20 percent Grenache, and small amounts of Alicante Bouche and Petite Sirah.

It is a rich, juicy, jammy and beautifully balanced bottle of juice. It’s big yet smooth it has the strong and spicy finish without any harshness you’d expect from a Syray-Grenace blend. The grapes for this wine came from Monterey County.

Phelps is known for its great Cabernet and signature “Insignia” wine. Insignia is premium Napa Valley Cabernet with the price to match. I’ve visited the winery twice and the wines are stunning.

This is obviously not wine in the usual price range I write about in this blog or my newspaper column. But every now and then I open such a bottle and want to share the difference. This is a $40 bottle of wine that is big, rich, and smooth with great body. It reminds me why I like good wine. The Phelps’ Le Mistral consistently scored around 90 with the major wine publications.

Phelps sold the brand in 2008 so its no longer their label or wine. I’m glad I had this bottle of 2004 stashed away.

You can find Phelps’ Cabernet in many finer Indiana wine shops for around $55. Their Insigina blend of Cabernet is just an awesome glass of wine. It’s probably the most amazing single glass of wine I’ve ever tasted. The current 2005 release retails around $200 a bottle.

Tonight, I’m one happy wine geek!

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