Wine Of The Week: Joseph Phelps Proem No. 4
A remarkably expressive single-plot Chardonnay from a California legend.
Many west coast wineries will paint a picture of California weather: waves crashing on the coasts, rolling hills dotted with vines, and persistent sunshine. But for Joseph Phelps’ Proem project, it isn’t about capturing an overall essence of California: it’s zeroing in on one single plot and creating expressive, site-specific bottlings — vivid expressions of tiny pieces of a vineyard.
The story began with winemaker Justin Ennis back in 2014, when he found one particular block of the Pastorale vineyard was producing completely unique grapes — exceptional, rich, and full of depth. While the Phelps team is historically produces stand-out wines, these hyper-focused wines are gorgeous and complex – wines that tell a story.
The Proem pinot noirs are lovely and well worth your time, but I’m particularly keen on the Chardonnay. The grapes are Montrachet clones sourced entirely from block 215 of Joseph Phelps’ Pastorale vineyard — intensely mineral, loaded with citrus and that subtle hazelnut notes of a Cote de Beaune white. It’s aged for 15 months in 60 and 40% used French Oak.
Incredibly pure and focused, with precise minerality, and aromas of lemon and chamomile on the nose. On the palate, it’s fresh but layered with tension and complexity. Silky but textured, chalky but fresh, with a hint of toast, tropical pineapple, and a mellow, toned acidity. Gorgeous. Open it 30 minutes before drinking. $175
Kate Dingwall is a WSET-trained sommelier and seasoned spirits writer. Her work has appeared in Wine Enthusiast, Eater, Forbes.com, and others, and she pours wine at one of Canada’s top restaurants.