Log In / Join Now

what we're drinking now

Editor at large Harvey Steiman joined Wine Spectator in 1983.
Harvey Steiman

An Australian Cabernet for the Cellar

Petaluma Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot Coonawarra 1999

Harvey Steiman
Posted: June 16, 2010

I didn’t have much time to prepare a fancy dinner for a visiting musician friend, but I figured we could test our new oven convection setting with a roast chicken, and I pulled what I thought would be an interesting Australian claret-style red from the cellar. The chicken came out great, remaining juicy under its crisp skin, and the wine went well beyond interesting into immensely satisfying.

Petaluma’s 1999 Coonawarra bottling blends Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from a vineyard planted by Len Evans (one of the most influential figures in Australian wine in the late 20th century) at the edge of what is now the Coonawarra Geographical Indication. Historically, the Coonawarra appellation has produced some of the best, most claret-like wines in Australia.

Although I am an agnostic when it comes to Australian Cabernet, neither a fan nor a denigrator, this one fills the description perfectly. It arrays its mint, sage and cedar savory notes around a transparent core that still echoes with currant and dark berry fruit. 91 points, non-blind, for its gorgeous balance and quiet grace. Definitely worth cellaring, and sharing.

WineSpectator.com members: Get scores and tasting notes for more recently rated Australian Cabernets, along with our quick list of Top Values among Australian reds, for $25 or less.

Don Rauba
Schaumburg, IL —  June 16, 2010 11:29am ET
Harvey, I really enjoy the freshness and intensity of R Wines "Big R" Cab. If one can just taste it for what it is, and not what it's not, it's delicious. The 2005 can still be found in some places.
Tom & Nancy Brown
Louisville, KY - USA —  June 20, 2010 8:16am ET

I had never heard of this producer before but just recently our local wine mart started selling the 2002 Petaluma Coonawarra at a discount and so I bought a botlle and absolutely loved it. It definitely tastes like a high-end cabernet. I went back and bought two more for the cellar.
David Dobberpuhl
Omaha, Ne —  June 20, 2010 6:45pm ET
Don Rauba is right. The 2005 Big R rocks and I just wish I had more.

Harvey, thanks for the recent reviews of Aussie wines. More than anything, you seem fair and consistent--more than I can say for some.

Would you like to comment? Want to join or start a discussion?

Become a WineSpectator.com member and you can!
To protect the quality of our conversations, only members may submit comments. Member benefits include access to more than 315,000 reviews in our Wine Ratings Search; a first look at ratings in our Insider, Advance and Tasting Highlights; Value Wines; the Personal Wine List/My Cellar tool, hundreds of wine-friendly recipes and more.

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.