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Brian Croser, Petaluma and Tapanappa, part three

Budburst, Adelaide Hills

Part three of the report of my brief sojourn in the Adelaide Hills with Brian Croser will be a bit of a piecemeal collection of odds and ends, but I think they are interesting, important odds and ends, so please bear with me.

After the Petaluma vertical tasting I reported on earlier, we tasted a few more wines from Petaluma, took a look at cask samples of the 2004 Tapanappa, and then set off on a brief tour of the Piccadilly Valley. This was followed by lunch at one of Adelaideís top restuarants, Bridgewater Millówhich also happens to be in the Adelaide Hills and is the cellar door for Petaluma. Iíll deal with these segments in order.

Petaluma Viognier 2003 Adelaide Hills
The site chosen for Viognier is at 350 m above sea level with large differences between night and day temperatures. This is a pretty, aromatic white wine with peach and apricot fruit. Thereís a nice softness of texture on the palate. Good definition; a pleasant, open style. Very good/excellent 90/100

Petaluma Chardonnay 2003 Piccadilly Valley
Rich, open aromatic nose of sweet, tropical fruit. Quite aromatic with some classy oak. The palate is rich and open showing nice concentration of soft fruit. Buttery, toasty richness, too. Very good/excellent 92/100

Petaluma Botrytis Semillon Essence 1999           
The name of this wine rather unfortunately abbreviates to BSE. But the wine is great. Dark, rich, sweet apricotty nose is luscious and sweet. On the palate thereís fantastic concentration. Viscous, intense and luscious. Supersweet and almost semi-solid. Beguiling. Excellent 95/100

Petaluma Botrytis Semillon Essence 2000
Not so sweet on the nose: this has much more acid on the sweet, lush apricotty nose. Full and rich with more lemon to the fruit profile. Very good/excellent 93/100

Selection of Tapanappa cask samples
As mentioned earlier, Tapanappa is the new super premium label launched by Croser in collaboration with Bollinger and Jean Michel Cazes. The first wine is the Whalebone Vineyard red, which comes from a vineyard at the end of Coonawarra thatís part of the Wrattonbully appellation, and which Croser has had his eye on for a long time. First vintage, 2003, is a pretty smart wine. Further wines will come, including Chardonnay from his Tiers vineyard, a Pinot Noir from the Fleurieu Peninsula, and no doubt more wines from distinguished sites in Australia and perhaps also in Europe.

It was interesting to try these Whalebone components. Brian explained that the Cabernet contributes aromas, the Merlot structure and the Shiraz the flavours. Tasting these samples this becomes clear: on their own, none of these would be complete wines, but you can see what they might bring to a blend. With components of this quality, itís likely the 2004 Tapanappa will be a serious effort.

Tapanappa 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon
Lovely sweet supple nose with a spicy, gingery edge. Supersmooth supple structure. Rich, ripe, but elegant. Chocolatey finish. Very refined.

Tapanappa 2004 Merlot
Quite vivid with a subtle green edge. Nice weight and structure, too. This has more definition. Spicy and tannic.

Tapanappa 2004 Shiraz
This has a different mouthfeel: itís showing sweet liquoricey fruit with a fuller mid-palate. Ripe and full, this is quite weighty but not too well defined.

Tapanappa 2004 Cabernet Franc
Nicely expressive Cabernet Franc character: this has a subtle leafy aromatic element and nice spicy structure. Interesting.

Adelaide Hills tour
While the Adelaide Hills region has been a wine growing area since the late 19th century, it more-or-less stopped producing and was only rediscovered as a good place too grow grapes as recently as 1978. At this time there were zero hectares of vines, and in 1990 the only vineyards were at Lenswood (Geoff Weaver was one of the pioneers) and Brian Croserís in the Piccadilly Valley. By 1999 there were 1982 ha, and by 2004 this had grown substantially to 3338 ha.

Brian explained that this is actually quite a diverse region. Itís thought of as cool climate, but some bits can get reasonably warm. Here are some figures, for what they are worth:

  • Piccadilly has 1177 degree days (a measure of heat summation during the growing season) and 1.4 m annual rainfall (the only red that will ripen here is Pinot Noir);

  • Lenswood has 1300 degree days and 1 m annual rainfall;

  • Mount Barker had 1413 degree days and 766 mm annual rainfall.

By way of comparison, Coonawarra is 1444, Clare is 1737 (but has cold nights). Blenheim in New Zealand has 1101 degree days. 

see the photogallery of images from the Adelaide Hills for more

Brian Croser

Lunch at Bridgewater Mill
After the vineyard tour, we headed to Bridgewater Mill, which as well as being the cellar door for Petalumaís wines, is also one of Adelaideís top restaurants. Joining us for lunch was a roll call of the great and good of the Adelaide Hills wine scene, including Geoff Weaver and Michael Hill Smith. The food was first rate, and to wash it down was a selection of older wines.

Pewsey Vale Rhine Riesling 1975 Eden Valley, Australia
Remarkably, this wine is sealed with both a screwcap and a cork. Lovely fresh, full limey nose leads to a full palate with a savoury texture and some petrolly, limey notes. Crisp and full with a fresh finish.

The College Traminer 1978 Griffith, New South Wales, Australia
Screwcapped. One of Croserís wines from his time at Wagga Wagga. Lovely aromatic sweet, slightly herbal nose. The palate is quite bright with nice fruit and a sweet tangy finish. Beautifully rounded and aromaticóa nice wine.

Mount Pleasant Semillon 1986 Hunter Valley, Australia
Golden colour. Rich, rounded, toasty and full, with a sweet edge. The palate is rounded, rich and toasty with nice tangy acidity. Rich with bakery flavours. Interesting. Very good/excellent 90/100

Geoff Weaver Fergus Sauvignon Blanc 2004 Lenswood, Adelaide Hills, Australia
This is a wild yeast ferment Sauvignon left on lees for a year in old barrels. 48 cases only. Lovely aromatic complexity: spicy with some fruit richness. The palate shows nice concentration and good acidity. Expressive and beguiling with pure and natural flavours. Very good/excellent 91/100

(Blind wine) Ch‚teau Reynella 1953 Australia
Deep colour with distinctive browning. Very evolved with slightly sweet, smooth nose with madeira character. The palate is smooth and savoury with earthy, undergrowthy spiciness on the finish. Substantial concentration and notes of raisins and prunes. Interesting but a bit past it. Croser describes this as a ĎPorty Australian Shiraz with age. Many Shiraz wines being made now will end up like thisí.

Brokenwood Cabernet Sauvignon/Hermitage 1980 Coonawarra/Hunter Valley, Australia
A multi region blend incorporating Coonawarra Cabernet with Hunter Shiraz. Lovely savoury, pefumed earthy, spicy nose, with the earthiness dominating. The palate is savoury and earthy with nice spiciness. Drinking really well: still alive with great balance. Very good/excellent 90/100

Geoff Weaver Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 1985 Coonawarra, Australia
Grapes here are from Katnook (the vineyard is called Margaux), and the wine was made at Petaluma. Beautiful stuff, drinking really well, with sweet, seamless fruit. Very refined. Very good/excellent 93/100

Armand Rousseau Chambertin Clos de BŤze 1999 Burgundy
Beautifully perfumed with a still-tight nose showing ripe red fruits and fine spiciness. The palate shows huge concentration with firm but ripe spicy structure and a nice rich finish. Itís a bold, serious wine Ė young but with huge potential. Excellent 96/100

see also: Part 1, Part 2, photos from the Adelaide Hills

Wines tasted 10/05
Find these wines with wine-searcher.com

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