Check out the new, mobile-friendly!

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. 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.

Member comments   3 comment(s)

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 member and you can!

To protect the quality of our conversations, only members may submit comments. To learn more about member benefits, take our site tour.


= members only

Keep me logged in      Forgot Password?

Job Opportunities

Passionate about wine? Wine Spectator magazine is looking for an enthusiastic copy editor in the New York office.

Email Newsletters

Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions
New! Ratings Flash | New! Unfiltered

» View samples
» Or sign up now!
» Manage my newsletter preferences


The marketplace for all your wine needs, including:

Wine Storage | Wine Clubs
Dining & Travel | Wine Auctions
Wine Shops | Wine Accessories