Brian Croser has a 400-head (NB. should read 4000 head) sheep farm near Tunkalilla, way down on the Fleurieu Peninsula on the ocean (below McLaren Vale) where he has planted a few acres of Pinot Noir because it reminds him of the Sonoma Coast. Croser sold Petaluma, the winery he and his wife, Ann, started to Lion Nathan a few years ago and now has Tapanappa in partnership with Jean-Michel Cazes and Bollinger. He has a tidy stack of barrels now filled with the first vintage, 2007, which has just finished fermenting. Tasted from barrel, the wines actually do remind me of Sonoma Coast wines, with their pure, ripe fruit character and minerality. I think he’s onto something. Most Australian Pinot Noir is pretty insipid stuff, except for a few pockets in Victoria. This vienyard actually has room to grow, if the finished wine is as good as anticipated. Croser has also replanted the top section of Tiers, the home vineyard at Petaluma Winery in the Adelaide Hills, to Dijon clones of Chardonnay. Ann still owns the vineyard, but half the grapes are sold by contract to Lion Nathan. Croser gets the young vines at the top for Tapanappa. The first vintage, 2005, was a stunner. Tapanappa is best known for its Cabernet-Shiraz blend, Whalebone Vineyard. Meanwhile, Croser is close to a deal with Lion Nathan to buy back the Petaluma Winery facility. Lion Nathan retains the brand and plans to consolidate the winemaking with its other South Australian operations.