Brian Croser rose to prominence in the mid-1970s when he left his position as chief winemaker with Hardys to begin the celebrated wine science course at Riverina College in New South Wales. At the same time he also founded an influential wine consultancy and his own winery, Petaluma. He lost control of Petaluma in 2001, and was left looking for a venture of his own. That venture is Tapanappa, a new super-premium label launched by Croser in collaboration with Bollinger and Jean-Michel Cazes.
The first wine released was the Whalebone Vineyard red, which comes from a vineyard just outside the Coonawarra appellation, in Wrattonbully. Croser first made a wine from this vineyard in 1980, and was so impressed by it that he has been trying to buy the vineyard ever since.
The vineyard now has thirty-year-old vines, with yields of a ton an acre (roughly 15 hectoliters per hectare). The Whalebone Red 2004 is the second vintage of this wine. It has a sweet, perfumed nose of red and black fruits with a bit of Coonawarralike minerality. There is really nice balance here, and it is smooth and complex. The palate has sweet rounded fruit countered by firm but silky textured tannins. It comes across as quite New World in its sweetness, but there is good depth and complexity. The hallmark of this wine is its superb balance; unlike many Coonwarra Cabernets, there is less of the minerality, gravelly greenness, and the extra ripeness makes this a more complete wine.