So, what are your recent acquisitions?


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My summer planned trip to Cuba was scuppered so I did the next best thing... a whisky buying trip/tour of Scotland! Had a great week with a mix of rain and glorious sunshine. Some great pick ups too -

Blanton's gold US release

A few recent acquisitions 1980s bottlings of Glenfiddich 15 and 18. 1980s bottling of Macallan 12 Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

On 12/22/2021 at 2:44 PM, LLC said:

Interesting new wine to try. Picked up 4 bottles from a special offering of four new releases of Penfolds wines from Napa Valley. The vines were planted in 1997 and come from their estates in South Australia. These are the first release from this new project. I went with the Bin 704 Cabernet Sauvignon.

Made me do a double take.  Penfolds and Napa; had no idea!  Please post some impressions. 

Got me curious to try or cellar a few.

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3 hours ago, BrightonCorgi said:

Made me do a double take.  Penfolds and Napa; had no idea!  Please post some impressions. 

Got me curious to try or cellar a few.

Not sure if I’ll try one too soon but I will post up if I do. I thought I’d grab 4 on the chance they may be special. First release of something like this also had me interested enough to pick them up. 
 

Reviews have been a bit all over the place but lots of well known reviewers have been in the 95-96 range for whatever that is worth. I look forward to trying it to form my own opinion. 

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On 12/25/2021 at 6:13 AM, BrightonCorgi said:

Made me do a double take.  Penfolds and Napa; had no idea!  Please post some impressions. 

Got me curious to try or cellar a few.

i did a thing on the wines for the UK World of Fine Wine mag a while back. it has been out for ages now (so i am hoping they won't mind if i put it up here - and i would strongly recommend the magazine as the best wine mag in the world).

 

 

Globalisation has long been an integral part of the wine industry, but just what does that mean. For Penfold's Chief Winemaker, Peter Gago, “being global isn’t just selling wine in 100-plus countries, being global is working there, doing things offshore and broadening that base.”

 

Penfold's actions speak loudly. Their increasing expansion throughout the world of wine continues unabated (bar a rather major hiccup with China, thanks to tariffs and/or politicians, depending on whom one believes – not even releasing a ‘Spirited Wine with Baijiu’, designed very much for the Chinese market, prevented that).

 

As well as their always impressive annual local Collection, last year we saw a trio of wonderful champagnes, working with Champagne Thienot. In the future, the Bordeaux project will be unveiled. Now, we have the focus firmly on the first release of what is their ‘Californian Collection’.

 

Penfold's intention to make wines in the Napa Valley has been public knowledge for some time. In 2018, the vintage featured in this first release, the media was full of reports about how Australia’s most famous winery was expanding internationally. Of course, as with all such matters, it was not as simple as turning up, buying some grapes, making a wine and selling it. There was history here, and also a previous presence. In fact, the connection between Penfold's and the USA goes back a lot further than most of us realised.

 

In 1929, local papers, among them the Observer from Adelaide, reported on a delegation of Americans visiting Australia to enhance trade between the two nations. At the time, Australia's imports from America totalled an annual £35,000,000, while exports to America were a less impressive £9,000,000. The delegation was called the Malolo Party – not a political party of the day but named after the ship on which they had travelled downunder.

 

Among the visits they undertook while they crisscrossed the country was Penfold's Winery at Magill – Magill is now a suburb of Adelaide, but then was a much more rural environment. Head of the delegation, Mr Ford, declared that Penfolds was unlike anything he had encountered “for many years”. They were taken through every stage of production by Mr Penfold Hyland, grandson of the founder, Christopher Penfold. In describing the operation, Mr Ford called it “the most up-to-date distilling plant in the southern hemisphere”, concluding that he “had never seen anything in California like Penfold's winery”. One can assume that the ‘Penfold Hyland’ mentioned was Frank Astor Penfold Hyland. A number of members of the original Penfold's family, who had become descendants of the Hyland family by marriage, adopted ‘Penfold’ as part of their name.

 

It seems that the visit, which attempted to address the trade imbalance, resulted South Australian wines being exported to America, most notably those from Penfold's vineyard at Magill. Reports from the States, detailed in the Observer, confirmed that the wines were “tested by the experts of that country, and an allusion was also made to the high praise which these experts bestowed on South Australian hock”. It continued, noting that the “experts in California were almost unanimous in their opinion that the wine could not be beaten even in California” and that it “certainly reflects great credit on Messrs Penfold's product.”

 

The wine industries in both countries have come a long way since those days.

 

Penfold's is part of the TWE (Treasury Wine Estates) empire, very well represented in the States. Also included is the famous Stag’s Leap Winery in the Napa and Beaulieu Vineyard at Rutherford, as well as Hewitt Vineyard and Provenance Vineyards (also Rutherford). It does not end there. Acacia Winery and Etude from Los Carneros; Blossom Hill, Meridian, Run Riot and Belcreme De Lys from the Central Coast; Sterling Vineyards and Beringer Vineyards in the Napa (Beringer being the oldest continuously operating winery in the Napa Valley, founded 1876, and a winery which has been included on their National Register of Historic Places as a ‘Historic District’); Chateau St Jean in the Sonoma Valley; and Sledgehammer from Mendoza. All part of TWE.

 

As for Penfold's actually making wine in California, it has been a long term plan. The invasion started around two decades ago and has proceeded against a background of a multinational corporate two-step which saw mergers, alliances, takeovers and divorces. These involved Penfold's and other producers from both sides of the pond, and meant that Penfold's actually had access/ownership of wineries and vineyards in California and had for some time.

 

At the end of last century, the team decided, with considerable foresight, to send prized cuttings of Shiraz from some of their most illustrious vineyards – Magill Estate and the Kalimna Vineyard in the Barossa Valley – to California, for planting in the Camatta Hills vineyard. It meant a unique marriage between Penfold's and California (Camatta Hills was the vineyard from which grapes were sourced to make the Greg Norman Wines). Grapes from these cuttings were used to make wines from 2006 to 2008, but they were experimental only and never released. They remain in the Penfold's cellars.

 

Penfold's also had a history of sending winemakers to the Napa to work in various wineries, but as one of the company’s officials noted, ‘we are happy to send them over to gain experience; the problem is getting them to come back’. Names like Daryl Groom and Mick Schroeder spring to mind.

 

Along with chief winemaker, Peter Gago, the two Penfold's winemakers involved in the project are Andrew Baldwin and Stephanie Dutton. Penfold's saw it as crucial to their concept that their winemakers were Aussie.

 

Andrew is from South Australia and earnt pocket money when young, working in the vineyards in Eden Valley. After training as a distiller, he joined Penfolds in 1988 and has been making their reds since 1991.

 

Stephanie was from Melbourne, working in restaurants to pay the bills while she studied genetics. After completing her Bachelor of Science, she realised that she would rather a career with the wines she had been pouring nights and in 2010, joined the Penfolds red winemaking team at the Nuriootpa Winery in the Barossa Valley. It has not taken her long to assume a role as one of Australia’s leading female winemakers. The faith her employers have placed in her is reflected by their decision to involve her in this project. Her thoughts on the Californian project – “We have to keep forging a new path, rather than replicating anything else.”

 

At the time the project was announced (2018), it was noted that work was being done in various TWE wineries in California to accommodate techniques which are specific to Penfold's winemaking. An example is heading-down boards. Penfold's is also known to favour less time on skins and to focus more on barrel fermentation.

 

The intention was always to focus on Cabernet and Shiraz (Syrah). Cabernet is obviously inextricably linked to the Napa Valley, just as Shiraz is with Penfolds. Of course, Syrah is relatively widely planted in California – Jancis Robinson’s ’Wine Grapes’ noting 7,800 hectares in 2010 – and Cabernet Sauvignon has been key to some of the great Penfold's wines, such as Bin 707 and the occasional Block 42.

 

Gago said at the time that the wines they would release would “pay respect to the Californian terroir but be made in the Penfold's house style”. Californian sun above and Californian soil below “but everything in between will be Penfold’s – the AP John barrels, open fermenters perhaps and all of the techniques that have worked in South Australia, to craft and create Californian styles.” Whilst Penfold's are working with partners at the moment, much as they have done in Champagne with the Thienot family, they are “looking for a place to set up shop”.

 

These are not large production wines. That said, as usual, Penfold's was giving nothing away with respect to the actual quantities. Gago would admit that Quantum was made in smaller quantities than Grange, but as they never let on as to the amount of Grange made, this is not especially helpful. The others? They simply are not saying.

 

Aside from any vineyards they owned, Penfolds adopted a ‘Burgundian’ approach, taking only small quantities from quality sites. A few rows here, a patch there. Of course, the Penfold's approach to blending is very un-Burgundian (and un-Napa as well). Gago did note that when it came to the vineyards providing their grapes, “some of the most venerated Californian vineyards were to be found on the other side of the fence”. Right from the start, it was always the intention to produce a wine that would sit alongside Grange, in both reputation and quality (not easy to do).

 

Australia, and none more so than Penfold's, has long approached wine from a blending perspective rather than single varieties/single vineyards, although of course there are many examples of that. Indeed, Gago has said that in time they would hope for a single vineyard wine to join the portfolio.

 

 

The Wines

 

There are four reds in the Californian Collection. At the moment, there is no thought to adding a white. The wines are available from March, 2021. All the wines will be under cork. All four are 14.5% alcohol.

 

Bin 600 Cabernet Shiraz 2018 (A$90) – A blend of 78% Cabernet Sauvignon and 22% Shiraz from the Napa, Sonoma and Paso Robles, the wine spent 16 months in American oak, 40% of which was new and the rest, one-year-old. The cooper was AP John from the Barossa, which was the case for all four wines. All of the Shiraz came from Paso Robles. Gago believes that a Cab Shiraz blend from these regions works much better than simply a straight Shiraz/Syrah.

 

Perhaps more than any other, this wine shows the links between California and Penfold's. Those special cuttings which were planted in 1998 in the Paso Robles region were planted at an estate called the Camatta Hills vineyard. The original name for the estate was the Creston ‘600’ Ranch, hence the name for this wine. Penfold's see planting those cuttings as the first leg on the Californian Collection timeline. What better way to reflect that than by including it in a Cab Shiraz blend?

 

A powerful style, dark blood red in colour (should that be color?). Black fruits abound here, licorice, black olives, and there is still some oak evident. The flavours move to coffee bean, cloves, spices and dark chocolate. Aromas as though one has just stepped inside your favourite delicatessen on a winter’s morning. Good concentration, excellent length and firm tannins. Nicely balanced with a supple texture. Blackberries linger on the finish, which does go into a gentle fade. A solid style, chock full of flavour. Has a future. 92.

 

Bin 704 Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 (A$120) – 100% Cabernet, 100% Napa, 100% French oak (16 months with 40% new and 60% one-year-old). At this stage, Penfold's are not naming the vineyards involved. That may change in the coming years, but first, as Gago says, ‘the vineyards need to earn their stripes’.

 

Gago described this as the “hemispherical mirror image of Bin 407”, which I will confess, made me cringe a little. Bin 407 and I simply don’t see eye to eye. I just don’t get it, so I was a bit worried this wine. I need not have had any concerns – in fact, if 407 was this good, I'd be a big fan.

 

Moving on from 600, this was immediately and quite noticeably more restrained, tighter, more fine grained. Notes of blackcurrants and dark berries. Cloves, cassis and leather. There is a sweet core of dark fruit surrounded by powerful yet silky tannins. Plush and concentrated, yet balanced and refined. A good flick of acidity over the cushiony texture. Good oak woven throughout. Notes of chocolate biscuit on a very long finish. Lots to like here and for me, soars above 407 – could that perhaps be because the Napa reflects what Cabernet can offer more distinctively than does the Barossa? It certainly does move a little further away from home than did the 600. 94.

 

 

 

 

Bin 149 Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 (A$220) – 100% Cabernet but this time, a blend from the Napa Valley and South Australia. Again, 16 months in oak, a mix of 80% new French and 20% new American. The Napa components come primarily from the sub-regions of Rutherford and Calistoga. Gago describes the wine as “definitely Napa through a Penfold's lens”.

 

The wine is inky black with chocolate and plum pudding notes, a lovely plushness. Cigar box, blackberry, coffee notes here with a whiff of tomato bush. Tobacco leaf and chocolate cake – one suspects that at least some of the Australian contribution hailed from Coonawarra. The wine has focus and great length. Seamless with serious power, refined and offering finesse. Great aromatics and on the palate, concentration, structure, good acidity and silky tannins. Divine meets Arnie (not that you’d necessarily like either associated with your wine). This is my pick of the Collection. A fabulous wine. 97.

 

Why ‘Bin 149’? Gago and the team took some samples of first class Australian Cabernet with them with the intention of benchmarking their Napa examples against them for comparison. This wine was originally intended to be a 100% Napa Cabernet. While doing the benchmarking, they played around, blending some of the samples. It turned out, rather fortuitously, that the straight Napa could not match the best of the blends, their preferred wine being 14.9% from Australia. Hence, Bin 149. A cynic might have suggested that this percentage was simply too convenient, allowing the wine to fall within the Australian 85/15 rule (once a component hits 15% then certain labelling requirements must be met), but we are assured not so. The 2019 will have slightly less of an Aussie contribution, but the name will remain the same.

 

Quantum Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 (A$950) – This wine is intended to be the Grange equivalent in the Collection (hence, the pricing, if nothing else). It is a blend of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa and 13% Shiraz from South Australia. 16 months in new oak, 80% American and 20% French. Given the volte-face of the percentages of Cabernet and Shiraz, Gago refers to this as the ‘reverse Grange’. Oakville was key to the Napa Cabernet, and we were advised that the Napa sources were not dissimilar to those which provided the fruit for 149 – make of that what you will – while the Shiraz came from the Barossa, Clare and McLaren Vale. We were also advised that “one vineyard is across three of the wines”, but they are not able to name it as yet.

 

Why include Shiraz? As Gago says, “because it works”.

 

Dark purple in colour. At the moment, still very tight, even closed. The nose exhibits spices, dry herbs, coffee beans, lead pencil, leather and chocolate. But mostly deep black and blue fruits. A sweet core of these delicious black/blue fruits. Plushness exudes from beneath the tight exterior. Oak is still very much evident, though melding impressively. Some early complexity is emerging. Seamless, there is both grip and good acidity here. Powerful, firm tannins. Excellent length. This is, however, a wine which needs some serious time. It really would benefit from years in the cellar. Despite the dominance of Cabernet, it does exhibit a link to Grange and the Penfold’s DNA. 97.

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@Ken Gargett Thanks for the great write up. I did some research before I bought the Bin 704’s, but a lot more detail in your post than I had seen. I will probably wait a while but I am certainly looking forward to trying it at some point. 

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3 hours ago, BrightonCorgi said:

Not exactly wine or booze, but wine related...  A claret pitcher.  I believe from early 20th century.  Been wanting one for a bit and it's really over the top.  Gives pouring wine a hedonistic touch.  I have a couple mid 19th century decanters and late 18th century funnel, but a claret pitcher has been on my radar for a while.

that is a cracker. would not be surprised if it was older than early 20th. be interesting to find out. 

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Tell them, Ken made me do it. Those articles are trouble for impulse buyers like me. Ha ha! Then again, very much looking forward to trying these while it's still warm down south. Cheers. Now to find fresh anchovies and iberico jamon.

IMG_8106.jpg

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4 hours ago, Bill Hayes said:

Tell them, Ken made me do it. Those articles are trouble for impulse buyers like me. Ha ha! Then again, very much looking forward to trying these while it's still warm down south. Cheers. Now to find fresh anchovies and iberico jamon.

those Navazos are absolute crackers and i have just got a set of the trio of lustau sherries for their 125th anniversary. heaven. 

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Tonight’s drawing is a jewel, Aberfeldy 24yo “Exceptional Cask”. Haven’t tried it yet, but after a meal of blackened rockfish and spinach I’ll get back to it!

A6DE2E6F-A140-48A6-A54F-76F3A5AF239D.jpeg

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Since we don't have Total Wine in Oregon, I grabbed a Doorly's XO while visiting a friend in Washington this weekend. Really solid, quite dry with a clear sherry undertone.

 

I really dislike the WA liquor tax!

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10 minutes ago, Ken Gargett said:

as opposed to other taxes? 

No sales tax in Oregon, but the WA tax adds about 40% to the shelf price.

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