Joseph Phelps Vineyards

Backus Vineyard
2021 Cabernet Sauvignon

2023 Offering
Premiere Napa Valley
Auction 27 | Lot No. 64
Vintage: 2021

Joseph Phelps Vineyards

Backus Vineyard

Cabernet Sauvignon

5 cases produced


  • Your wine is a unique blend of select lots from the Backus Vineyard in eastern Oakville
  • Comprised of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Malbec and 6% Petit Verdot, aging 24 months in new French oak
  • Fruit from select vines on the rocky plateau, steeply terraced hillside and lower North block
  • A classic Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon with deeply concentrated blue and black fruit, violet and graphite


The Joseph Phelps Vineyards Premiere Napa Valley 2023 lot was created from the Backus Vineyard, located on the eastern hillsides of the Oakville nested appellation, one of the most coveted grapegrowing regions within the Napa Valley. The vineyard features steep hillsides and distinctive red pigmented, ancient volcanic soils. Joseph Phelps is the only winegrower to have produced bottlings from this singular location for more than 40 years. Your wine is a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Malbec and 6% Petit Verdot from select vines planted along the rocky Plateau Block, located 500 feet above the valley floor; the lower North Block, where the property’s iconic smokehouse rests; and the steeply terraced South Blocks. This one-of-a-kind blend will continue aging in a new Taransaud T5 French oak barrel for 24 months before bottling. The 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon from Backus Vineyard is a deeply concentrated, pure expression of eastern Oakville terroir with rich blue and black fruit, graphite and fragrant violet notes woven together by exceptional tannin structure and freshness.

Wine Facts

  • Wine is unfiltered
  • Single vineyard wine
  • Sustainably produced
  • Wine is 100% estate grown and bottled

Ashley Hepworth

Winemaker, Joseph Phelps Vineyards

Winemaker, Ashley Hepworth

Ashley Hepworth came to Joseph Phelps Vineyards in 1999 with a palate honed by working in restaurant kitchens, including the celebrated Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago. The experience also exposed Ashley to wine – she became friendly with Charlie Trotter’s sommeliers – and ultimately led her to apply for a harvest intern position at Joseph Phelps Vineyards. She got the job, and after working the harvest of 1999 she stayed on as a cellar worker, a “from the ground up experience” she says she wouldn’t trade for anything. From there Ashley went on to positions at the winery as a lab technician and enologist, and in 2004 she was named associate winemaker, overseeing all day-to-day winemaking operations.

In 2005 Ashley had the opportunity to expand her winemaking horizons when she took a “mini” sabbatical to work a harvest in Bordeaux at Chateau Angelus in St. Emilion. She earned a Winemaking Certificate from the Viticulture and Enology Department at the University of California at Davis in 2006, and in 2008 she was promoted to winemaker at Joseph Phelps Vineyards.

“I’ve been fortunate to work with some great winemakers at Joseph Phelps, and I’ve learned a lot from each one of them,” says Ashley, who credits the winery’s founder, Joe Phelps, with establishing the overall philosophical approach which guides the winery today. “He always pushed the winemaking team to explore, to do better. There was no limit. He always said ‘don’t stop at good, make it great.’ Even though he’s gone, we have a team that understands that really well.”

Ashley’s approach to winemaking at Joseph Phelps is deceptively simple: let the vineyards and the vintages speak for themselves. “Our estate vineyards give me such quality and purity of fruit,” she says. “There’s a consistency to our wines, but it’s not because of a recipe, it’s because the vineyards are so solid.” Still, Ashley is very much in favor of vintage expression. “We don’t want every vintage to taste the same.”

Country born: United States

Education: B.S. in Biology and a minor in Chemistry at Fort Lewis College, a Winemaking Certificate from the Viticulture and Enology Department at the University of California at Davis and worked the 2005 harvest at Chateau Angelus, St. Emilion.

Years in the wine industry: 20-30 years

Winemaking Philosophy:
Minimalism - allow what the vineyard offers to reflect in the wine.

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