Penfolds New California Wines - The First Tasting of an Australia California Collaboration

Saturday, March 13, 2021 - 07:30 PM

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"You have only so many bottles in your life, never drink a bad one."

Len Evans


We don’t waste time here at the Wine Watch as every day above ground should be special and celebrated with great wines.  You never know when your last bottle will go down but we are trying to take down as many great wines as we can before our time runs out!

One of the reasons that I get out of bed in the morning is to drink wines like Penfolds Grange. Grange is a symbol of the best that Australia has to offer, the pinnacle of quality and the epitome of what a Shiraz from southeast Australia is and standard bearer should be. That is why we host an annual event to showcase the newest release of this iconic wine so when our good friend Madelyn asked if we would like to be the first retail account to offer a tasting of the newest chapter in the Penfolds sage “The California Collection” I put a date on the calendar to be the first to reveal these to our “Wine Drinking People”.

These are the first wines of their kind to be made anywhere on the planet Earth today.  Leave it to Peter Gago and his winemaking crew around the globe to think of such a collaboration where you take the best grapes from South Australia and combine the wines with the best from Northern California.  The parent company that owns Penfolds also owns Beringer, Beaulieu, Hewitt wineries and some of the top vineyards in both wine regions to combine the winemaking talents and the grapes to produce a new line-up of top wines that showcase the best of both worlds.

I was a bit skeptical when I heard about these wines and at first thought that it was an unnecessary endeavor but after tasting the wines I can see where they are going with this project.  Combining the winemaking talents of both wine producing countries is intriguing but then to take some of the top Cabernet Sauvignon from Northern California with the best Shiraz from South Australia.  The story is here but the wines speak for themselves.

Join us as we introduce these brave new wines and compare them to some of the iconic wines of Penfolds. The fee for this tasting which includes dinner is $250 + tax, for reservations call 954-523-9463 or e-mail


Penfolds Wines of the World.jpg

Penfolds Wine of the World New Release Tasting
Saturday, March 13th

2018 Penfolds Bin 600 California Cabernet Shiraz
Price: $52.50       Sale $46.20
Bin 600 is intrinsically linked to Penfolds beginnings in California, a narrative that now spans more than twenty years. In 1998, Penfolds imported a heritage selection of vine cuttings from South Australia’s esteemed Kalimna and Magill Estate vineyards, and planted them in Californian soil. The original name of the Camatta Hills vineyard was Creston “600” Ranch, a special place in the Penfolds California timeline for it serves as a reference point to the start of our American journey. Creston Ranch is now honored in the wine’s name, Bin 600. In recognition of Penfolds history within our Californian wine story, grapes from the original 1998 vine cuttings feature in this cabernet shiraz blend. A blend that has been revered and championed by Penfolds in our modern winemaking era.
Wine Watch Tasting Notes:        A blend of 78% Cabernet Sauvignon and 22% Syrah aged in a combination of new and old American Oak 45% Napa 35% Sonoma 20% Paso Robles.  A pretty nose of sweet cherry and plum fruit with notes of sweet tobacco spice and dark chocolate and marshmallow notes nice complexity on the nose.  A bright and fruity wine with smooth round tannins and a good hand of that spice from the nose lingering through the finish.  Finish 40+         Excellent

2018 Penfolds Bin 704 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Price: $73.50       Sale $64.68
Steeped in Penfolds winemaking tradition yet still embracing modernity, Bin 704 seeks to redefine Napa Valley cabernet through a Penfolds lens. Being mindful of varietal nuances, regional essence and silk-like textural definition, the wine is nurtured in French barriques for maturation. Impressive is the cyclical nature of viticulture and winemaking, and Penfolds recognises that different hemispheres often end up being the mirror image of the other. The name Bin 704 draws inspiration from the “mirror” or “reverse” image of its Australian Bin 407 stablemate, a wine which also respects varietal expression.
Wine Watch Tasting Notes:  This wine spends 16 months in a mix of new and old French Oak 100% varietal with a combination of this groups top vineyard sites and this wine is classic Napa Valley with notes of dark currant and cherry berry fruit, cigar box spice and some toasty oak spice vanilla and graphite notes nice complexity here on the nose.  A big and chewy wine with lots of everything in proportion and some dry tannins at the end but lots of fruit to match.  Finish 45+                Excellent +

2018 Penfolds Bin 149 Wine Of The World Cabernet Sauvignon
Price: $157.50    Sale $139.60
Penfolds Bin 149 Cabernet Sauvignon seeks out northern hemisphere excellence via meticulous vineyard and block selection, reinforced by flagship-worthy South Australian cabernet sauvignon. The result is distinctive, and of distinction. House Style is in the building blocks of Bin 149, a name derived from the percentage of South Australian cabernet sauvignon synergistically woven into the blend. Napa Valley regional sourcing seeks to showcase strong tannic foundations, dark fruit intensity but with the added dimension of a unique “worldly” disposition. Matured in French and American oak, this release highlights Penfolds commitment to quality.
Wine Watch Tasting Notes:  They use both Napa and Australian fruit in the blend aged for 16 months in both French and American Oak and this wine has a good amount of rich currant and cassis berry fruit a hint of fresh herbs and toasty oak spice, nice complexity on the nose.  A big and chewy wine with lots of everything and has a good amount of tannins here ripe and round with layers of fruit, spice and some terroir here from both Napa and the best fruit from both Barossa and Coonawarra, some dry tannins on the finish.  Finish 50+                Most Excellent +

2018 Penfolds Quantum Bin 98 Wine Of The World Cabernet Sauvignon
Price: $735.00    Sale $646.80
Penfolds Quantum Bin 98 is the continuation of a twenty-year endeavor from when Australian vine cuttings were planted in Californian soil. A Wine of the World that encapsulates a bold blending alliance, Quantum reveals a wine that shows wisdom, crafted with conviction but also embedded in the “quality-first” philosophy that underpins Penfolds flagships. The wine serves as the most powerful expression of our blending style and leads the charge in Penfolds ambition to seek out parcels of intense flavor, structural tannins and equal parts grace and complexity. Northern and southern hemispheres bring prized cabernet sauvignon from Napa Valley and pedigreed shiraz from South Australia, respectively, into each other’s realm. Not adhering to expectations and de rigueur.
Wine Watch Tasting Notes:  A more lifted bouquet and this has 13% Shiraz from the best vineyard sites from all over South Australia, violet floral notes with dark cherry and currant berry fruit very well endowed with lots of everything American and French oak with sweet tobacco spice and pretty vanilla spice, dark chocolate.  A big and chewy wine with lots of everything and a very rich and layered wine with a long-layered finish that goes on and on, an amazingly complex wine with lots of everything and in proportion.  This wine needs a decade in the cellar and will be better on the 2nd or third day after opening.  Finish 50+        KILLER
Dinner Menu
Parmesan Flan
Foie gras Torchon with currant jam and brioche toast
Baby Octapus Carpaccio with grilled Shallot and elderflower Aioli
Australian Lamb Chops with Jalapeno Mint Jam and Blistered baby Yukon Potato
Dark Chocolate Creme Brulee
This tasting which includes dinner is $250 + tax for reservations call 954-523-9463 or e-mail

A bit about the New California Collection from Penfolds:

“More than twenty years have elapsed since Penfolds winemakers first started seriously exploring the viticultural landscape of California, sampling an array of wonderful and inspiring wines. Between 1998 - 1999, vine cuttings from some of Penfolds most esteemed South Australian vineyards were selectively planted in Californian soil. These vines are thriving today and play a symbolic part in an endeavor that celebrates making wine in a different hemisphere ... ‘the Penfolds way’.
A quality-first approach underpins this inaugural release, led by the flagship 2018 Quantum Bin 98 Cabernet Sauvignon.  This blend has assembled parcels of prized cabernet sauvignon rom sone of the Napa Valley’s best vineyards and pedigreed shiraz from South Australia.  The 2018 Quantum instantily translates “Wine of the World” evidenced both in the glass and rhetorically.
This first-release of our four wines strives to extol an otherworldliness hovering above California terra firma. Beguilingly, two of these blends are altogether different, yet not really poles apart.  Indeed, this quartet certainly manifests an aspirational continuum of our past/present/future.  Yet one thing remains overtly consistent – across all wines the red stamp of Penfolds proclaims a unique mode of fruit selection, an innovative winemaking ethos, and a House Style imprint…a philosophy unrestricted by vine, border or continent. 
A new chapter.  Many pages still to write…Penfolds next 175 years.”
Peter Gago – Penfolds Chief Winemaker

During the 1998 – 1999,  a selection of Magill Estate and Kalimna heritage vines were planted in California soil, at Block 30 of the newly purchased Camatto Hills Estate, Paso Robles.
Camatta was formerly known as Creston 600 Ranch prior to the 1997 acquisition and in 2001, the 11.5 acre Block 30 (the original and most prized block of the Estate) was fully propagated.
Over the years, Pnefolds winmakers have worked on the ground in California, from the recently retired Senior Winemaker Steve Lienert (39-year tenure at Penfolds), who participated in California harvests two decades ago, to current Chief Winemaker Peter Gago, senior Winemaker Steph Dutton and winemaker Andrew Baldwin.
Experimental Penfolds Camatta Hills vintages occurred in 2006 and 2007, however these bottles were never commercially released by Penfolds.  Today, a total of 90.8 acres of the vineyard is planted equally with Kalimna and Magill vines.
Over the past three years Penfolds has sourced grapes from the best of our California vineyards to compliment Penfolds House Style and deliver exceptional and distinctive quality wine.
Winemakers spent time meticulously selecting fruit from California vineyards to including Napa Valley AVA’s:  Oakville, Diamond Mountain District, Howell Mountain and Rutherford Grapes were also selected from Camatta Hills, Paso Robles, from the original vine cuttings planted in 1998-1999.
Focus, curiosity and the great promise of the 2018 harvest delivered exceptional fruit and blending options. 
Penfolds California Collection wines are made in the Napa Valley, with Penfolds winemakers on the ground, in the cellars and in the vineyards.
Penfolds availed purpose-fitted winemaking fermenters in the Napa Valley and Paso Robles.  This allowed the use of varied and time-honored Penfolds winemaking techniques withing the winery, to optimize the contribution of regional characters with a healthy overlay of Penfolds House Style.  Tanks were equipped with heading-down boards and imported AP John Barrels from South Australia were selected to uphold style.
Significant effort was made to guarantee Penfolds winemaking techniques were sensitively incorporated into this California setting – respectful of local fruit, tannins, terroir.
Penfolds winemakers have also benefited from the expertise, input and support from the team on the ground in California across winemaking and viticulture. 

Wines that will be served at the tasting in addition to the New Penfolds California Collection:
Image result for Penfolds Bin 51 Riesling 2015

2018 Penfolds Bin 51 Riesling Eden Valley
Price: $37.50       Your Price: $33.00           
(92 Points) Classic lime sherbet notes mark the nose of the 2018 Riesling Bin 51. It's leafy and fresh, then folds in hints of riper fruit on the palate, such as peach and pear. Crushed stone and wet moss give it a firm grounding in the earth as well. Crisp, lean and long, it shimmers with positive sunshine and energy, vibrant and lingering on the finish. Robert Parker's Wine Advocate

Image result for 2014 Penfolds Bin 28 Shiraz Barossa

2018 Penfolds Shiraz Bin 28 Kalimna
Price: $30.00       Your Price: $26.40            Quantity in Stock: 1
Bin 28 offers a showcase of warm-climate Australian Shiraz – ripe, robust and generously flavoured. First made in 1959, Bin 28 is named after the famous Barossa Valley Kalimna Vineyard purchased by Penfolds in 1945 and from which the wine was originally sourced. Today, Bin 28 is a multi-region, multi-vineyard blend, with the Barossa Valley always well represented.
Wine Watch Review: This wine was once a single vineyard wine from the famous Kalimna estate but today it is a blend of everything that they own which is around 8000 acres and they can buy about that much every year if the quality is right from their growers.  Black cherry and dark plum fruit with notes of mocha, mint and tobacco spice.  Juicy red and black berry and plum fruit on the tongue with silky smooth tannins, some bitter notes at the end but lots of fruit here to match and an array of spice with a firm hand of acidity holding things together nicely, very youthful but should age nicely for a decade or more.  Finish 40+    Excellent
2016 Penfolds Bin 389 Shiraz Cabernet Southeast Australia image

2017 Penfolds Cabernet Shiraz Bin 389 Australia
Price: $75.00      Your Price: $66.00            Quantity in Stock: 79
Created by the legendary Max Schubert - creator of Penfolds Grange - Bin 389 is often referred to as 'Poor Man's Grange' or 'Baby Grange', in part because components of the wine are matured in the same barrels that held the previous vintage of Grange. First made in 1960, this was the wine that helped to build Penfolds solid reputation with red wine drinkers. Combining the structure of Cabernet with the richness of Shiraz, Bin 389 also exemplifies Penfolds skill in balancing fruit and oak.

Image result for 2013 Penfolds St Henri Shiraz

2017 Penfolds St Henri Shiraz
Price: $97.50       Your Price: $85.80
Wine Watch Review: 1957 was the first vintage this wine was resurrected, the 2015 is a blend of 93% Shiraz and 7% Cabernet Sauvignon from Mclaren Vale, Yarra Valley and other cooler climate vineyards.  St Henri is a very elegant style of Shiraz with black plum, cherry and blueberry fruit on the nose complimented by pretty violet floral and tobacco spice notes.  Rich and decadent on the tongue with silky velvety tannins this wine has wonderful freshness and a long-layered finish.  Finish 45 +    Excellent +

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2015 Penfolds Grange Shiraz South Australia
Price: $802.50    Sale Price: $699.00
Color Opaque, a dark core with a lighter deep red concession on rim Nose An eruption of fruits. At once lively and expressive, conceding Grange personality yet still not revealing all .... Dark coffee grind, malt and tapenade merge with black earths, almost verging on peat. Mandated V.A and formic notes propel a slurry of dark-skinned berried fruits, flirting with dark liquorice and soy. Oak completely hidden, long since absorbed. Now, back to the glass for a second sniff! Palate Initially the ‘enlivened’ dark fruits of a Christmas pudding or boiled fruitcake mix demand attention. But there’s much more to complement these fruits – impressions of ironstone, graphite, iodine, black ink, and a black pudding viscosity. Formidable, meshed tannins – texturally honeycombed, without the honey! Oak has entwined itself invisible. Yes, every barrel still new, and completion of fermentation off skins in barrel still Grange modus operandi. Integrated, measured ... and clearly more than one sip required to gain an authentic ‘first-impression’. Certainly a wine of its vintage. A Grange of 2015.
Across South Australia’s premium growing regions, winter and early spring rainfall were close to the long-term average. From August, conditions became significantly drier with only a few light spring showers recorded. Record low rainfall was recorded from September to March stretching water supplies. Warm and dry conditions encouraged early flowering and fruit-set, with rapid canopy growth. Early summer temperatures dropped below average with no major heat waves recorded. Once harvest commenced, it progressed rapidly with most blocks of shiraz picked earlier than previous years. Although the prevailing conditions resulted in lower than anticipated yields, the quality of fruit was exceptional. A strong Penfolds vintage.
Origin: Multi-regional blend, South Australia. From Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Clare Valley, Magill Estate.
“Vineyards used in the 2015 Grange have been well-tested. Many have toiled for decades, some well over a century. Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Clare Valley & Magill parentage – not by accident!” “Crafted to the original 1951 blueprint” - Peter Gago, Penfolds Chief Winemaker
100 Points - Andrew Caillard MW 100 Points - Nick Stock, 99 Points - James Halliday 98 Points - Angus Hughson 98 Points - Joe Czerwinski, Robert Parker's Wine Advocate 97 Points - Mary-Ann Worobiec, Wine Spectator

Image result for Penfolds Grandfather Port
NV Penfolds Grandfather Port
Price: $75.00       Your Price: $66.00            Quantity in Stock: 2
The Grandfather name dates back to 1915, when an oak cask containing the finest blend of Tawny was set aside for the exclusive use of the Penfold family. This wine was known as The Grandfather due to the age of the oldest Tawny in the blend.
With a core selection of Mourvedre, Shiraz, Cabernet and Grenache (but not limited to these varieties), Grandfather Rare Tawny sources fruit from vineyards specifically selected for fortified wine production.
Only the free run wine is used for Penfolds Grandfather Rare Tawny and Penfolds uses a low strength fortifying spirit which is selected specifically for the Penfolds style. This spirit accentuates primary fruit character and adds additional complexity and seamless integration.
Each year, fortified wine is made with Grandfather in mind and these selected batches are barrel aged for approximately eight years. Batches of wine that reach the required maturation and Grandfather quality are then blended and added to the 'Grandfather Solera'. In this six-stage solera, Grandfather is aged for a further twelve years to give a total average age above 20 years - before being drawn off for bottling.
During this extended maturation process the Grandfather Rare Tawny becomes more concentrated and complex with increased palate weight, structure, complexity and sweetness
This tasting menu is limited to 16 tasters but if you still want to come in and talk to Ewan and enjoy any of these Penfolds wines By the Glass along with one or two of the items on the menu you can stop by and just have a glass of the St. Henri with the Foie Gras or a glass of 2003 Grange (our winner from last years’ tasting will be offered by the glass this week for $150 for 7 ounces) with a selection of cheese and charcuterie which are always available whenever the Wine Bar is open.

See the source image
A bit of history about Penfolds:
Penfolds, a household word in Australia and one of the world's largest wine companies, traces its origins back to Magill on the outskirts of Adelaide at the foot of the Mount Lofty Ranges.   It was at Magill that Dr. Christopher Rawson Penfold, the founder of this great firm, first planted his vineyard.  Dr. Penfold, the son of a Sussex vicar, the Reverend John Penfold, was schooled in England, and married his wife there in 1835.  However, within a few short years, he decided to try his hand at life in the colonies and purchased a grant of land at Magill in South Australia for what was considered a large sum of money.  With his wife and baby daughter, Georgina, he made the hazardous voyage towards the end of 1844.  The family settled on their land at Magill and built a white-washed stone cottage which they named "The Grange".  As well as practicing medicine and looking after his farm, Dr. Penfold planted vine cuttings which he had brought out with their ends dipped in sealing wax to keep the sap in the vines until they were planted.  He did not approve of the quality of imported wine of the time so he made his own for use of his patients with anemia.  Whether the wine was in fact any help to anemia is debatable, but this now discredited cure was the beginning of a huge enterprise.  By the time of his death in 1870, Dr. Penfold had expanded his viticultural holdings and devoted more and more time to winemaking.  In his twenty-six years in the young colony, Dr. Penfold had laid the basis of a veritable viticultural dynasty.
Although the wine business at Magill seemed to falter slightly after Dr. Penfold's death, by 1881 it was again flourishing; and Penfolds was becoming the most important wine producer in South Australia.  Historical records reveal that the stock of wine at the Magill winery in 1881 was about 485,000 liters.  At that time the total quantity in South Australian was about 1.4 million liters.  Wine production continued to increase, and by 1885 trade was flourishing between Magill and all the states as well as New Zealand.  One of Dr. Penfold's four grandchildren, Frank Penfold Hyland (born 1873), was responsible for guiding the company through almost fifty years of successful expansion.  Frank entered the business in 1892 and spent three years in Europe studying winemaking.  After Frank's death in 1948, at the age of 74, the company was administered by a Board of Directors for some fourteen years before it became a public company in 1962.  Expansion continued throughout the sixties and seventies with the most significant expansion occurring in 1982 when Penfolds acquired the Kaiser Stuhl winery.  Throughout the eighties Penfolds continued its aggressive expansion, swallowed up the huge Seppelt winery, and was said to control nearly 40% of all Australian wine production.  Also in 1988, Penfold's flung its far-reaching tentacles abroad and purchased half of Sonoma County's Geyser Peak winery.  Magill is still the headquarters of the Penfolds organization, but their winery at Nuriootpa is the major production facility.  The "Grange", the family's small old white-washed stone cottage, is still maintained at Magill in its original condition and is used as a museum.  Today Penfold's is a huge and successful enterprise.  Indeed, a great deal of wine has flowed since Dr. Christopher Rawson Penfold began to cure his anemic patients at Magill.


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