Brian Croser announced in late September that he’s resigning from the chief winemaker post at Petaluma Wines, the South Australian winery he founded in 1976. Croser’s departure follows four years of consultancy at Petaluma that he arranged through Lion Nathan, the company that took over the winery in 2001.
“I hate giving up my 30-year-old baby, but that’s life,” he says.
Now that Croser is satisfied that “plans for Petaluma that were in place before the takeover have endured and developed,” he says that “it’s time that the old team and new owners got on with it.” He will turn his attention to Tapanappa, a project that he cofounded with the Cazes family of Bordeaux, and the Bollingers of Champagne. Tapanappa’s fruit comes from the 30-year-old Whalebone Vineyard in Wrattonbully, which the group purchased in 2002.
Senior winemaker Con Moshos, who has been with Petaluma since 1981, will take over as chief winemaker. Andrew Hardy will remain in his capacity as general manager, and Aaron Brasher will continue his tenure as marketing manager.
“It takes three of us to try and fill Brian’s shoes,” Moshos jokes.
The changing of the guard doesn’t mean the winery’s founder will be out of sight or out of mind. He will still live in the Piccadilly Valley, adjacent to the Petaluma winery. As Croser told Australia’s Wine Business Magazine, he remains “intrinsically involved with Petaluma as its founder (with my wife, Ann), near neighbor, fruit supplier, outgoing winemaker of the wines, up to and including the 2005s, and former employer and consistent friend of the long-term employees on the site.”
“There are no big changes [to the current Petaluma wines] planned,” says Moshos. “Dealing with the variations from vintage to vintage is enough [change], and any subtle refinement will be just the continuation of what we have always done.”
Meanwhile, the first Tapanappa wine, a 2003 Whalebone Vineyard Shiraz Cabernet, has just debuted in London. Palm Bay Imports will be bringing 300 6-bottle cases of the unfiltered wine (total case production: 950) to the U.S. in the coming months. Croser has also just planted Riesling (soon to be followed by Pinot Noir) in Oregon’s Eola Hills, and is in the process of developing a site in Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula, which he expects will be a promising location for both Pinot Noir and, of all things, Marylands Farm lamb.