Long before wine producer Penfolds released their inaugural California Collection this March, they imported heritage vines to the US from their South Australia vineyards and planted them in the soil of Camatta Hills Estate in the town of Paso Robles. One of the most coveted and collected wines portfolios in Australia, Penfolds then dedicated more than 20 years to their Californian exploration—and now four wines have come to market that embody the brand’s signature house style as well as their experimental spirit stateside.
In 2018, Penfolds senior winemaker Stephanie Dutton and winemaker Andrew Baldwin traveled to the Napa Valley for their first California harvest—with the intention of releasing a commercial vintage (2005 and 2006 vintages were produced at Camatta Hills, which isn’t in Napa, but were never sold). Of the inaugural four wines that resulted from this 2018 endeavor, two do more than reflect the ethos of a brand stretching between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres; they embody a literal cross-continental wine blend.
Referred to as “wines of the world,” the 2018 Quantum Bin 98 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2018 Bin 149 Cabernet Sauvignon predominantly contain Napa Valley cabernet which Penfolds sourced from Oakville and Rutherford, but the former is blended with shiraz, while the latter is blended with cabernet—both originating in South Australia. For Quantum, which is matured in oak for 16 months, that means textured layers of finessed tannins and ripe fruit. For the Cabernet, which rests in French and American oak, it means a tight tannic structure with a bit of bright acidity.
The other wines in the collection, the 2018 Bin 704 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2018 Bin 600 Cabernet Shiraz, sit at a more accessible price point. The former is a silken expression of what Napa cabernet can be, with notes of chocolate and dark fruits; in the latter, grapes from Penfolds’ original 1998 vine cuttings in the US feature in to cabernet-shiraz blend, which is spicier and medium-bodied.
During the California collection’s international unveiling (which was hosted online), we tried all four wines and found each had its own flavorful merits. Those familiar with and appreciative of the Penfolds house style will find welcome variations and refined developments. The same can be said for Napa Valley consumers. For the casual wine consumer, the prices may be prohibitive but for those looking to celebrate, these four wines really do sing an international success story.
Images courtesy of Penfolds