Petaluma – a vertical tasting

Brian Croser, Petaluma’s founder is Australia’s original “terroirist.”  His has been a quest to pursue the vision espoused by his countryman Dr AC Kelly in 1867 that “in the great diversity of soil and climate to be found in Australia, there is little doubt that every variety cultivated in Europe would somewhere find a suitable location.”  At least in his patch of South Australia, so though Petaluma is based in the Adelaide Hills, Hanlin Hill Riesling hails from Clare Valley and a Cabernet blend from Coonawarra.

After selling Petaluma in 2002, Croser established a new label, Tapanappa under which he continues to produce a single vineyard Chardonnay from the Tiers vineyard in Adelaide Hills which belongs to his wife.  He also makes a Cabernet/Shiraz from the Whalebone Vineyard, Wrattonbully just north of Coonawarra on the Limestone Coast and a Pinot Noir from the Foggy Hill vineyard on the Fleurieu Peninsula.


Petaluma Croser Sparkling 1996 (Piccadilly Valley, Adelaide Hills) – Piccadilly Valley is the coolest region in South Australia so perfect for sparkling wine, especially with input from co-investors Bollinger.  An extremely cool vintage this is very tight knit, structured and fresh with a lovely nose and palate with marzipan, creamy brazil nut and spice.

Petaluma Croser Sparkling 2004 (Piccadilly Valley, Adelaide Hills) –  above average vintage temperature-wise, shows light toast/biscuity hints to its delicate white peach; frisky acidity with smoked hazelnut.

Clare Valley Riesling

Petaluma Hanlin Hill Rhine Riesling 1981 (Clare Valley) – when Riesling was used as a generic term for wines made in an aromatic, lighter-bodied style the word “Rhine” identified that the grape in question is Riesling as opposed to Crouchen, Sultana and Pedro Ximénez.  Deep gold, with petrol, rich lime and toast which follow through on the oily textured palate with sweet talc; good freshness though this was a hot, dry, early year.  Terrific.

Petaluma Hanlin Hill Rhine Riesling 1982 (Clare Valley) – A deeper gold with a slightly smoky, fuggy nose which follows thorugh on the palate.  Still some attractive slatey, mineral notes beneath with lime shred. A dry, warm year.

Petaluma Hanlin Hill Rhine Riesling 1987 (Clare Valley)
– a very cool year and this has spicy citrus pith, peel and fruit – orange, lime and grapefruit  – very St Clements – very good.

Petaluma Hanlin Hill Riesling1992 (Clare Valley) – a very cool year and a gorgeous wine – lovely zingy, fresh nose with pronounced mineral notes.  The palate shows very delicious candied citrus with slate and a rapier edge of steely grapefruity acidity.

Petaluma Hanlin Hill Riesling 1994 (Clare Valley)
– very dry but cooler than average summer – Roses lime shred and that smoky fuggy note; a little oxidised.

Petaluma Hanlin Hill Riesling 1998 (Clare Valley)
– the first bottle was oxidised, glad there was a second because this is slatey, pithy and complex with grapefruit and talc – less lively than some of the others, so one to drink up.

Petaluma Hanlin Hill Riesling 2000 (Clare Valley)
– rain at harvest dashed yields by half – shows good drive of citrus acidity with lime and pithy grapefruit.  Still very youthful with nice clarity.

Petaluma Hanlin Hill Riesling 2002 (Clare Valley) – perfect vintage, cool, long and dry so long hang times which Riesling loves!  Complex nose of Roses lime cordial, limes and toast; the palate is very tight and focused, limes mingle with toast and sweet talc.  Yum.

Petaluma Hanlin Hill Riesling 2003 (Clare Valley) – fresh salted limes to nose and palate, very salty and savoury with good acid drive and length.

Petaluma Hanlin Hill Riesling 2005 (Clare Valley) – not sure about this bottle – a little cidery!

Petaluma Hanlin Hill Riesling 2006 (Clare Valley) – very tightly focused, primary and finely eteched with talc, citrus – more lemon and grapefruit than lime with spicy, pithy notes.

Piccadilly Chardonnay

Petaluma Chardonnay 1992 (Piccadilly Valley, Adelaide Hills) – a cool late season and a terrific wine with nutty pear, apple and nougat; impressive length and balance.

Petaluma Chardonnay 2002 (Piccadilly Valley, Adelaide Hills) – from the coolest vintage on record, it has a pretty tangerine nose with smoky oak hints; quite closed on the palate with a tightly coiled core of crunchy apple  – needs time.

Petaluma Chardonnay 2003 (Piccadilly Valley, Adelaide Hills) – ripe, peachy nose and palate cut with mouth-watering acidity and spice hints.

Petaluma Chardonnay 2004 (Piccadilly Valley, Adelaide Hills) – a white peach and nectarine nose with smoky oak, good acidity; quite tight – needs a bit of time to unwind…

Petaluma Tiers Chardonnay 1996 (Piccadilly Valley, Adelaide Hills) – the maiden vintage from this, the lowest, warmest Chardonnay parcel that yields powerful wines.  Golden delicious with a svaoury, tangy, leesy character – on the back foot but very enjoyable drinking now.

Petaluma Tiers Chardonnay 2002 (Piccadilly Valley, Adelaide Hills)
– hints of hazelnut and golden delicious to nose and palate, this has mouthwatering acidity driving a long, lipsmacking finish.  Needs time.

Petaluma Tiers Chardonnay 2004 (Piccadilly Valley, Adelaide Hills) – lovely tangy Coxes Orange Pippens apple fruit, good European textured mouthfeel undercut by crisp acidity; subtle oaking.

Mount Barker Shiraz

Petaluma Shiraz 1998 (Mount Barker, Adelaide Hills) – the maiden viintage from this warmer eastern escarpment to the east of the Piccadilly Valley.  A little pinched now, the plum fruit a little outgunned by the acidity.

Petaluma Shiraz 1999 (Mount Barker, Adelaide Hills)
– quite bloody and savoury with black pepper and some dried herb notes.

Petaluma Shiraz 2001 (Mount Barker, Adelaide Hills) – since 2000, the Shiraz has been co-fermented with a bit of Viognier; this was plummy and a little bitter.

Petaluma Shiraz 2002 (Mount Barker, Adelaide Hills)
– OK hitting our stride now, this has bloody, savoury, peppery nuances to its exotic core of blood orange and raspberry fruit.

Petaluma Shiraz 2003 (Mount Barker, Adelaide Hills)
– a gamey Chateauneuf nose, this is peppery, plummy with baked cherry fruit, warm earth and liquorice.  Nice generosity.

Petaluma Shiraz 2004 (Mount Barker, Adelaide Hills) – lovely fruit purity here with fresh red cherry and riper baked cherry notes; though 14.5% it wears its alcohol very well with good balancing freshness.

Coonawarra reds

This flight had my lowest strike rate.  I found too many of the earlier wines in particular lacking in ripeness.  I’ve simply written up the couple of wines that stood out for me.

Petaluma Cabernet Merlot 1998 (Coonawarra) – dusty cassis nose and palate with a rich core of fruit wed to a firm backbone of tannins.  Long, persistent finish – my wine of the flight.

Petaluma Cabernet Merlot 1999 (Coonawarra)
– nice purity to the nose with blueberry to the fore on nose and palate and a twist of green peppercorn lending a savoury but fresh/leaner edge.

Coonawarra sweeties

A 1992 Petaluma Riesling 1992 was corked but the Semillons showed well –

Petaluma Semillon 1999 (Coonawarra) – good line, great verve with honeyed stone fruits.  V trim.  Impressive.

Petaluma Semillon 2003
(Coonawarra) – very different from the 99 this is super sweet – toothsome – with tarte tatin caramelised orchard fruits.

Sarah Ahmed
The Wine Detective
May 2007

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