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"The Balnaves family, Coonawarra and Cabernet Sauvignon are concentric circles, indivisible from one another,” declares James Halliday. So true: they’re Coonawarra to the core. Doug Balnaves and children Kirsty and Pete were all born in Penola and the winery sits at the heart of the famous Terra Rossa strip, where Doug started planting vines in 1976. Former Qantas Winemaker of the Year Pete Bissell is the other essential piece of the puzzle, helping this producer to the title of James Halliday Winery of the Year in 2008. 

Immediately appealing for its perfume, a lock in through choc-mint, sage, dark berry, violet and liquorice (raspberry and salted) scents. Yum. The palate is supple, finely wrought, just juicy but shaded with very fine tannins. Flavours roll long, fine, floating on sweet fruit, cool acidity, sleek line of oak and a web of building tannin firmness. It’s a beautiful young wine but should mature with complete grace. Just so charming, and great drinking. Tasted: March 2016; Alcohol: 14.5%; Price: $40; Closure: Screwcap; Drink: 2017-2030; Rating: 94 Points; Mike Bennie; The Wine Front

From three vineyards, matured for 19 months in French oak from big-name coopers. A serious cabernet showing just what Coonawarra can do in a top vintage; it is intense, complex and packed with cassis/blackcurrant fruit, savoury tannins and positive oak. Drink by: 2053; Price: $42.00; Date Tasted: Feb 2015; Alcohol: 14.5%; Rating: 96; James Halliday Wine Companion

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