Saturday, October 10, 2009


Petaluma may well be the most significant of all Adelaide Hills' wineries, but times have changed for this successful brand, easily recognised by its distinct pastel yellow tone.

I was a huge fan of the times when Petaluma revolved around its core wines of Croser, Hanlin Hill Riesling, Chardonnay, Merlot and the Coonawarra blend. With great regularity all of these wines would deliver exceptional quality, value and longevity for their reasonable asking price.

Today Petaluma's range now contains newer wines such as the super premium Tiers Chardonnay, an Adelaide Hills' based Shiraz and a Viognier, a Botrytis Semillon from Coonawarra plus a late disgorged release of the Croser. In addition to this Petaluma has been experimenting with a number of newer styles, of which, the pinot noir sounds most interesting to me.

A new Petaluma release at today's tasting was a non-vintage Croser, which holds a RRP of $25. Unfortunately the company representative had a bottle at the tasting but it hadn't been refrigerated, so all we could do was look at it. Although it's still 100% Adelaide Hills based it's made in a different style to the vintage. Its dosage is higher and there's more opulence and richness of fruit to appease the every day drinker (or so I'm told). I'll be keeping my eyes out for this, although it hasn't been officially released yet.

If anything the new non-vintage release answers my concerns as to why the standard Croser has seen a slight increase in price. As little as three years ago I remember seeing Croser as low as $26 at retail, but since that time I haven't seen it below $30. You wouldn't want the prestigious vintage release competing price-wise with the introductory non-vintage wine now, would you?

Unfortunately my recent decline in passion for Petaluma's wines will probably continue after this tasting. Apart from the chardonnay that is, which delivered another sensational wine from 2007 which continues the evolution and refinement of one of the Adelaide Hills' benchmarks. The other Petaluma wines seem to lack the longevity and structure of the glory years, especially the Coonawarra and Hanlin Hill. In fact, the last few releases of Hanlin Hill have all come across as more of an earlier drinking, riper riesling in my eyes. The representative on the day was probably the first rep I've had this year who admitted to me that the January heatwave had a considerable effect on their 2009 Riesling. As for the Coonawarra, I would've loved to see more cabernet sauvignon coming through, as the 2007 is only 48%

Croser 2007 ($34)
Light yeast and lemon/grapefruit nose. The palate is clean and fresh in the aperitif style so typical of young Croser, with a framework of sour edged, lemony acids and brisk effervescence providing ample freshness. Shows some underlying savoury complexity. A noticeable step up over the 2006 wine. 90

Petaluma Hanlin Hill Riesling 2009 ($25)
Follows the stylistic blueprint of the last 3 releases, which haven't really been my style. It's rather ripe with light apricot/white peach, orange blossom and lemon marmalade aromas. Its fuller, juicy palate is rather lusciously concentrated for Clare riesling with soft acidity, and should make for good short term drinking. 89

Petaluma Chardonnay 2007 ($40)
Far and away my favourite Petaluma wine of recent years and probably one of my favourite Australian wines full stop. Like the other wines it has seen a stylistic change, moving away from the bolder chardonnay it once was to a more refined, elegant and slightly mineral wine. The 2007 succeeds with a bang. It initially announce toasty cedar/vanilla oak on the nose, but with a little aeration it gives way to mineral accented grapefruit and white nectarine, with restraint, elegance and integration. The palate is rich and creamy, with a beautifully refined, savoury fruit profile overlying mineral tones. Bright, brisk grapefruit-like acids draw it out towards a long, penetrating finish. Outstanding. (full review soon) 95

Petaluma Merlot 2005 ($50)
Ripe and plummy with slight licorice and eucalypt on the nose, but no overt green characters. The warmer year played well here, delivering genuinely ripened cherry and plum fruits with smooth, toasty chocolate oak. It's a very smooth, luscious, faintly concentrated, genuinely Australian merlot with medium weight and a good dusting of powdery tannin. 91

Petaluma Shiraz 2006 ($45)
Basically, still not a fan of this. Its viognier says a big hello on the nose, with a jammy, confit-like expression of ripe, almost baked varietal fruits and dried apricot. The juicy, ripe palate would make a good drink for closer to $20 with a slight lick of well extracted spice, but it finishes a bit tart and astringent. 87

Petaluma Coonawarra 2007 ($55)
Only 48% cabernet sauvignon this year with a good dose of merlot and shiraz thrown in (small amount of petit verdot too I think). Its nose is rather ripe, fruity and verging on meaty, announcing plums, blackberry, licorice and chocolate/vanilla oak. Much to my dislike its cabernet component barely makes an influence. The palate is sumptuous, rich and deep on the juicy mid-palate especially, but its ultra-ripe nuances lack the length, structure and elegance of the best years. 89

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