From the tasting team

Tyson Stelzer: Penfolds’ California Collection

By Tyson Stelzer

17 Feb, 2021

Penfolds has unveiled four new premium reds in its inaugural California Collection. Here, Tyson Stelzer shares his thoughts on the unprecedented range and his reviews on the wines.  

Penfolds has announced the launch of its inaugural California Collection of four cabernet sauvignon and cabernet shiraz blends, a unique fusion of Californian grapes with Penfolds know-how, even blending in a little South Australian fruit for good measure.
The forays of Australia’s most iconic brand into global winemaking, first in New Zealand, China and Champagne, now in California and soon to be Bordeaux, have been met with more than their share of raised eyebrows. To be fair, Champagne was a far stretch from the Penfolds DNA, and the wines were not made by Penfolds. But California is a much more natural fit for the brand, a significant historical proposition, and the wines show it.

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California is a much more natural fit for the brand, a significant historical proposition, and the wines show it.

These are brand-new releases with a history dating back a third of a century. The company purchased a 50 per cent share in California’s Geyser Peak Winery in 1989, planted some 160 hectares of Californian vines from Kalimna and Magill Estate cuttings in 1997 and 1998, bottled shiraz in 2006 and 2007 (still in the cellars, never released), ultimately merging with Beringer Blass in 2005 and Diageo in 2015, bringing a significant cache of Californian wineries into the fold.
This furnished access to small parcels of what chief winemaker Peter Gago describes as “the best vineyards in California” and the opportunity to vinify them within the US facilities of Treasury Wine Estates, with the hope of establishing a dedicated Penfolds California winery down the track.
In Peter’s words, the wines are made “our way”, right down to importing AP John barrels from the Barossa, setting up tanks with heading down boards (“unheard of in California!”), even changing the canopy management in the vineyards. “The soil and the sun are Californian, but everything in between is Penfolds!” he grins.
The range, all from the 2018 vintage, comprises the Bin 600 Cabernet Shiraz ($90), Bin 704 Cabernet Sauvignon ($120), Bin 149 Cabernet Sauvignon ($220), and the pinnacle Quantum Cabernet Sauvignon ($950). This is an impressive and compelling set of releases, most notable for their unanimous and distinctive expression of the luscious, deep fruit core of Californian cabernet, harmoniously translated with the enduring structure and confident framework that proclaims Penfolds.
“This is our world now,” Peter declares. “Globalisation means we are playing in many continents.” The first Penfolds Bordeaux releases are expected in 2022 or 2023.

The Penfolds California Collection 2021 officially releases on March 4. 

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