I believe the 1994 Cabernet Sauvignon Backus Vineyard is the finest wine this vineyard has yet produced. Sadly, only 600 cases are produced. The 6.75-acre Backus Vineyard is situated in a high rent neighborhood - the Dalla Valle, Plumpjack, Groth, Venge Family Reserve, and Screaming Eagle vineyards surround it! Phelps' 1994 Backus exhibits an opaque black/purple color, and huge, sweet aromatics consisting of jammy black cherry and cassis fruit, minerals, smoke, and a hickory-like barbecue spice. The wine is thick and super-extracted, with huge proportions of fruit, extract, and tannin. A gargantuan Cabernet Sauvignon, it demands 5-6 years of cellaring, and should last for 20-25 years. In spite of Phelps' worthy efforts with respect to its Mistral portfolio and excellent Chardonnays and sweet wines, this winery's international reputation is built on their Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The 1997s Cabernet Sauvignons I tasted were amazingly extracted and rich. About a half dozen of the top wineries even admitted they added water to the fermenting vats because the wines were so high in alcohol and thickly textured! So much for vintage character and terroir! Joseph Phelps was not one of those wineries, but I did have a chance to taste some extraordinary lots of 1997 Cabernets at Phelps that left me shaking my head at what continues to happen during the decade of the nineties for California's best wineries. Stay tuned.