A product of the ever restless wine doyen Brian Croser, Tapanappa is a particularly focused and aspirational Australian project serving to pickup where Croser left off (with Petaluma).
The project itself was setup in partnership with the Cazes (of Chateau Lynch Bages) and the Bollinger families and was formed soon after the sale of Petaluma in 2001.
There is plenty more to the story behind the Tapanappa name, the projects intentions and plenty of terroir focused information (including the very apt vineyard nomenclature) on the Tapanappa website so in truth you probably don't need too much information to fill in the back story. In fact, Croser himself tends to bring the attention with him, and the Tapanappa project has already had plenty of airplay (in Australia at least).
What's more interesting then is how much of a second generational family project this really is: You have Brian Croser as the man behind the concept, but ably supported by his daughter Lucy Croser, the Business Manager of Tapanappa. Lucy is then married to Xavier Bizot, of the extended Bollinger Family (whom are an aformentioned Tapanappa partner). Xavier then is the General Manager of Tapanappa as well as maintaining a spit on the Bollinger board.
Just to further enhance the family connections, the Tiers vineyard, source of the wining Chardonnay below, is still owned by Ann Croser, who now divides the fruit between Tapanappa and Brian's previous project, Petaluma (though this will resort to being all Tapanappa fruit in time).
It's an interesting collaboration too in a wine business sense, as the setup mirrors the old vs new investment pattern that has been repeated all over the wine world, yet has largely (with exceptions) skipped super high quality Australian wineries. It will be fascinating then to see what happens to this partnership in the longer term, and see if is this sort of business model gains more traction in the process.
Regardless, and perhaps thankfully, the wines are already full of character, with the utmost care and intention given to finding real quality terroirs and serious vineyards helping to sort that out early. All that remains now is the requisite time for it all to come together...
Onto the wines:
These were tasted with both Xavier & Brian in attendance & all served in quality glassware (which helps no end).
Tapanappa Tiers Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2008
Quite brilliant. Rich, exotic, powerful modern Chardonnay. Oaky, nougat nose with ultra fine wood showing quite prominently, before a sour and textural, finely spicy palate thats very much in the oaked grapefruit style contemporary cool climate style. Very finely delineated wine that, with time, is going to get even better as the oak integrates further. 2 years should do the trick. 18.2/94+
Tapanappa Foggy Hill Fleurieu Peninsula Pinot Noir 2008
Much more enjoyable than the last time I tasted it (big bowled Riedels help) this is definitely not a Burgundian Pinot, yet it's still a stylish wine. Sour cherry and rhubarb on a stalky, rather masculine and brawny nose. It's missing some intensity on the middle palate which is not surprising given it's only the second crop, finished off with well integrated acidity.
Should be even more impressive given further vine age. 17.3/91+
Tapanappa Whalebone Vineyard Wrattonbully Merlot 2006
Apparently the Whalebone vineyard turns 35 this year, with Brian first sighting it back in the early 80's when he was working with Geoff Weaver (who was producing Cabernet from it). The vineyard shares the same celebrated soil structure as its Coonawarra neighbours, so it's of little surprise that Croser was so likely to source it out again.
It's a bit of a challenging wine to rate though this wine, most likely due to the deficiencies of a stand alone varietal Merlot. The nose shows spearmint and eucalypt in a quite leafy and even herbal style, a character that I don't mind but it can certainly polarise. From here it's a dry, dusty, taste-the-red-soil savoury dry red of proper appeal and nice dry tannins. My real quibble though is the warm, liquered finish, which derails all the good work of the rest of the wine, literally leaving a rather average taste in your mouth. No doubt it will improve with time, but that heat may only get worse. 17.0/90+
Tapanappa Wrattonbully Shiraz 2007
The only stuggler in this lineup (though it is the cheapest), maligned by the perils of this ridiculously hard vintage. Day old roast beef nose with some curious, gumbooty overtones, it smells sweaty, horsey and dried out, leading to a sweetly minted, mixed ripeness palate with the oak further sitting on top and a herbal finish. It's actually a much better drink than it sounds, but it's just a tad unbalanced. 16.0/86
Tapanappa Whalebone Vineyard Wrattonbully Cabernet Shiraz 2006
One of a very limited number of single vineyard Cabernet Shiraz blends, this savoury, firm and rather old world inspired red blend is extremely classy but also desperately in need of time.
With a bright, yet dusty, red/black fruit & red dust nose, tinged with a touch of volatility. The palate is tight, just medium bodied and firmly built with dry tannins and a sawdusty, earthen, and fruit backward expression that is quite appealing. A little heat on the finish is again noticeable, though it seems better integrated here than the Merlot. Still, this is a high quality, interesting wine that will only get better with 5-8 years bottle age. Good stuff. 17.6/92++
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