|Cellar Reserve =|
By that I mean that (apparently) Peter Gago (Penfolds Chief Winemaker) and his team have more independence and control over their own operation than anyone else in the TWE machine. So much so that they even spend plenty of time in their own exclusive little outpost - Magill Estate - which is conveniently located 85.4km away from the TWE megaplex at Nuriootpa.
And what happens when the cat is away? The mice will play. Or such.
Which brings us to the Cellar Reserve Range. From what I can gather it's a range of wines that are as much Peter Gago's plaything than anything else, the gear where he can indulge his passions, push the boundaries a fraction and generally make the wines that Peter Gago wants to make. They're still built within the Penfolds South Australian idiom (of course) so you're not going to see a cloudy, natural Barossan dry Muscat (though that would be fun) but you might see some interesting wines.
The following Cellar Reserve wines then are (I believe) only available at the Penfolds Magill cellar door and are only made in very small quantities. Given the quality on offer I've got to say that it's worth a trip to Magill alone just to try them for yourself. Lot's of enjoyment here, even for someone who is hardly a Penfolds fanboy.
Oh and I had the good fortune of tasting through the wines with young Penfolds winemaker Steph Dutton, who shattered the perception of Penfolds winemakers as wisened old folk (men) whom have Barossan Shiraz for blood and Max Schubert's signature tattooed on their (ass) cheeks. Rather, Steph is a bright, Melbourne born wine wanderer with a sharp mind and a solid understanding of where Penfolds sits and where it needs to be sitting. She was exactly the right person to be talking about what is really the experimental end of the Penfolds program: Steph should be the one to talk about the Cellar Reserve Tempranillo to skeptical pricks like me who were in high school when the 90 Grange came out, whilst Gago takes devout fans through Bin 128 verticals (my least favourite Bin wine).
Penfolds Cellar Reserve Traminer 2010 (High Eden, Eden Valley, SA)
The 'Traminer' nomenclature is a nod to the labels of yore where Gewurtz was always labeled as Traminer. This is sourced from the Woodbury vineyard in High Eden that is apparently 20 years old now. 13.5% alc. 10 g/l RS. RRP $35
Juicy! Lychee richness to the nose shows serious,slightly candied, residual sugar lifted opulence. The palate is a wonderfully textured and intense thing, quite luscious and full but still wonderfully fresh. Real intensity here! Seriously good Gewurtz with a good line through the finish and plenty to give. 18.1/93
Penfolds Cellar Reserve Pinot Gris 2010 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
5% barrel ferment. 13.5%. RRP $35
Fleshy, chalky pear nose. Light, white peach and white flower fruit. Nice and clean if just a bit 'vanilla' and boring in this context. 17.3/90
Penfolds Cellar Reserve Chardonnay 2010 (Balhannah, Adelaide Hills, SA)
Sourced from a single vineyard in Balhannah. 35% new oak, wild yeast fermented. 13.5%. RRP $35
Whipped butter, lovely oak and white peach on the nose. Very fine, white peach and nectarine creaminess. Lovely length, fresh, vibrant and long. Classy, fine Chardonnay this even if it's very young. 18.5/94
Penfolds Cellar Reserve Pinot Noir 2010 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
Produced in open fermenters with heading down boards. This spent 9 months on gross lees with little or no sulphur added. Gago unashamedly makes this as a full bodied style. 14.5%. RRP $45
Ripe and full, slightly stewed nose. Spicy, glace fruit if just a fraction overripe. The palate too is very full, extractive and hard, with roughly hewn tannins and bitter astringent tannins. There is obviously fruit substance here but it's just not delicate enough really, though I think it should improve greatly with further time in the bottle (hence the fairish score). 16.5/88
Penfolds Cellar Reserve Tempranillo 2009 (McLaren Vale, SA)
Also produced in open fermenters and basket pressed. 14.5%. RRP $45
Rich meaty style with very sweet ripe red fruit and dark chocolate oak. Earthen, soft and rich palate with gritty tannins and lots of good flavour, if just a fraction overripe. Fruit sweet but with good tannins this is entirely likeable (and should improve with age too). 17.5/91+
Penfolds Cellar Reserve Sangiovese 2006 (Barossa Valley, SA)
Sourced from two Penfolds vineyards in the Barossa - at Kalimna and Marananga. Natural ferment, 4 and a half weeks on skins post ferment before being basket pressed. 12 months on gross lees without sulphur in 5yr old French barriques. Unfined and unfiltered. Gago's favourite plaything apparently. 14.5%. RRP $50
Rather forward and meaty with a rather authentic, evolved nose, this looks proper spicy and varietal. Evolved, chunky and savoury palate with excellent gritty tannins. Intensity, flavour and style. I really liked this just because of how Sangio it is. Rich Barosssan Sangio - not Chianti - but still tasty! Such a surprise. Will look even better with more bottle age too. 18/93+
Penfolds Cellar Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (Barossa Valley, SA)
There's a little Block 42 Cabernet in this which Steph reckons sticks out prominently (such is it's distinctive glory). 18 months in 100% new French oak hogsheads. 14% alc. pH 3.44. RRP $200
Boom! Cedary, choc cedar nose, it's very ripe and full, if just a fraction roasted and blocky. Lots of thick, extractive, vanilla black and blueberry fruit in the Barossa first, Cabernet second mould. The kicker is all about the Penfoldian thick tannins, which are long and dry, if just a little oak driven. Still, this is one seriously fine wine, no question about it. If you like Penfolds reds, you're going to love this. Baby Block 42 without question. 18.6/94+
Penfolds Cellar Reserve Viognier 2010 (Lyndoch, Barossa Valley, SA)
A late harvest style, this is ice-wine lite, made up of late picked Lyndoch fruit that is then frozen before fermentation (just to further concentrate the flavours). 150g/L RS. 9% alc. pH 3.06 TA 7.1g/L. $25 for 375ml
Passionfruit, guava and supercharged, super concentrated, very ripe peach fruit. Sweet and juicy, if just a fraction broad. It's juicy and fun if a little simple. Tasty. Liked it very much. 17.7/92
(We recorded a video with Steph at the end of the tasting too where she talks more about the philosophy and methodologies. Well worth a quick look here)