I've always been a bit confused about Penfolds. They seem to want to be a producer of many high-quality boutique wines, but they are obviously a big, high-volume producer. In my heart I want to write them off as an assembly-wine mega producer. But every time I sit down with a glass of Penfolds, I'm impressed. Visiting the winery only reinforced my confusion.
The winery is one of the most disappointing in the Barossa Valley; don't come expecting a Mondavi style cellar door. Its much more industrial and utilitarian. For example I found it very frustrating that even though I had signed up for a private library tasting, the room was lit with buzzing fluorescent lights making it nearly impossible to see the true color of the wines.
And the tour I took of the production facilities proved quite clearly that you can produce very high quality wines from industrial style wine making. There were lots and lots of pumps, miles of pipes, and acres of barrels. Yet out of that comes some nice wine.
2006 Bin 51 Eden Valley Riesling
Note: Made by Wolf Blass
Very light pale straw colored. Strong green apple nose. Much more fruit-forward than most Australian Rieslings that I've had. Definitely green apple tastes. Interesting "fuzzy" faze in the finish. Nice acid. Reasonable finish. AU$25.50
2006 Bin 311 Tumbarumba Chardonnay
Note: Source from New South Wales, made by Wolf Blass
Very pale for a Chardonnay, touch of green. French style Chardonnay nose. Beautiful light oak - just the right amount of oak for me, a nice balance between the Napa-style full oak and the Kiwi unoaked style. Nice creamy finish. I like this. AU$39.50
2004 Cellar Reserve Sangiovese
Plum colored, a bit cloudy. Mint, menthyl nose, a bit earthy. Nice round flavors, fruit is still there. Great with caramelized onions and braised meats. AU$43
2004 Bin 138 Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre
Dark purple. Nice floral nose. Dark flavored than expected, multi-layered with coffee notes. Tar in there. Finishes toward caramel. AU$26.90
2005 Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz
More viscous in the glass than usual. Nose of violets, black pepper, flowers. Definitely sweeter floral taste highlights. Feels tight. Kind of a european style syrah - due to Coonawarra being cooler? AU$25.50
2004 Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz
Big nose. In your face flavors of burnt toast, plum skins. Hard tannins. Kind of stewed stone fruit flavors. AU$12.90
2004 Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon
Big Cab nose, missing the minty thing I've gotten in a lot of Aussie Cabs. Not a lot of cab flavor. AU$32.50
2004 Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz
Very restrained nose, not much aroma; bit of licorice. Warm flavors, cinnamon, a nice blend. Cab flavors open up on the finish. Penfold's biggest restaurant wine in Australia. AU$48.90
2001 Magill Estate Shiraz
Only single vineyard shiraz made by Penfolds, old-style small lot production in separate facility. Color headed towards brick end of crimson. Interesting nose - savory, rum-raisin ice cream, touch of holiday spice. Very elegant tasting - chocolate and spice cake. Very well integrated, smooth tannin. Some vanilla on the finish. Nice stuff. AU$88