Doug Balnaves is a true man of the land, born and bred in Penola, the small town that marks the epicenter for the rural Coonwarra wine region. Originally a land famous for its sheep farming, Coonawarra is now internationally recognized as a place for world class Cabernet Sauvignon vines grown on its unique Terrarosa soils.
Doug and his wife Annette established ‘Balnaves of Coonawarra’ with their first 5 hectares of vineyards planted in 1976. Pete Bissell came on board as Chief Winemaker in 1995 and, along with the next generation of Balnaves’, Kirsty (General Manager) and Peter (Viticulturalist), they developed a fully functional winery. Now with 58 hectares of sustainably farmed vineyards, the Balnaves family operate with an unmatched knowledge of the region and strong sustainable values and expectations toward their land and each other.
Peter Balnaves manages the estate vineyards that sit in the southern half of the famed Coonawarra Terra Rosa soil. This section of the region provides about one metre of Terrarosa earth with Ironstone speckled throughout, sitting over a limestone bedrock so dense that the vines can hardly penetrate.
Coonawarra also provides a genuine cool climate and these cold nights guarantee a long and mostly even growing season. The result of this land and climate is fruit with great flavor development and natural balance, with bright acidity and firm, mouth-filling tannins. Peter and his team lead the way in Coonawarra with precision viticulture, understanding every inch of their vineyards, acutely managing water supply and their ageing vines.
A quick chat with winemaker Pete Bissell will leave you feeling like you previously knew very little about Cabernet Sauvingon. Pete really is a leader of the style, and takes a very old world approach to this unique New World region. Pete adopts a Bordelaise approach toward their Coonawarra fruit and the results are remarkable, long lived Balnaves wines.
The wines here are dense, firm but supple, great pull through the palate, very subtle oak integration and outstanding structure and length. The fruit is an array of red, blue and black, there is some bitumen minerality and a lick of spearmint. If not already, the wines of Balnaves should be a part of any Cabernet conversation, adding great alternatives to the wines of Bordeaux and Northern California.