Since the planting of the first 5 hectares of vines in 1976, the vineyard has grown steadily and now covers a total of 56 hectares of Coonawarra Terra Rossa soil. The principal variety planted is Cabernet Sauvignon, which accounts for 70% of the area whilst the addition of Merlot, Shiraz, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Chardonnay make up the total vineyard area of 58 hectares.
The Balnaves first wines were made on a contract basis at a neighbouring winery in 1990. The operations soon overtook the existing facility and a striking new 600 tonne winery was built and in operation for the 1996 vintage. To build an expandable winery and barrel storage facility, designed to be in harmony with the surrounding viticultural envelope through seasonal change. The winery was to complement the cellar door and had to be a striking visual element of deliberate form and colour as an enhancement to the landscape.
The vineyard is divided into small blocks of between one and two hectares, which take into account depth of soil, trellis design, vine clone and row direction. The quality of wine produced from these small blocks is evaluated each year and recorded. This practice proves the validity of the French concept of terroir, the effect that microclimate; geological features and other factors have on the quality of the wine produced. Such effects are clearly seen in the small Balnaves vineyard at Coonawarra.
Doug Balnave's initial working life was spent in the sheep industry until he became involved with wine production in 1971 when he was offered the position of Development Manager of the vineyard to be developed in Coonawarra by Hungerford Hill. After 17 years with Hungerford Hill he left that company to establish a vineyard development and management company in 1988.
Doug Balnave has been involved in various state and local bodies representing the wine industry including SA Wine & Brandy Association, Limestone Coast Wine Industry Council, Phylloxera Board and inaugural President of the Coonawarra Vignerons Association. He is an active member of the Penola Pipe Band and past president of the Coonawarra Guinea Pig Racing Association.
The Balnaves winery's awards are testament to the commitment to quality and never ending quest to produce the best wines. The Balnaves winemaking team are led by Qantas/Gourmet Traveller winemaker of the year for 2005/2006 Peter Bissell, his passion for wine is evident in every wine he produces.
Peter has spent a year and a half in France working as assistant oenologist for A Moueix et Fils in Libourne who owns Ch. Fonplegade (St Emilion) and Chateau Moulinet (Pomerol), amongst others. He also worked in the laboratory and tasting rooms outside vintage and in the cellars during the 1985 vintage. Peter worked the 1987 vintage with Adam Wynn at Mountadam, then with Gerry Sissingh at Lindemans Hunter River, John Vickey at Leo Burings and Andrew Pirie at Pipers Brook in 1988.
Peter was appointed Wynns winemaker in 1989 working at Wynns Coonawarra Estate with Peter Douglas until 1995. Peter did vintages as a flying winemaker for Penfolds in Russia (1993), for the Laperouse project in the South of France (1994), worked in the Coteaux de Languedoc and visited Bordeaux in 2000. Peter Bissell has also judged at the Hyatt, McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley the Riverina wine shows.
The winery's featured bell tower, which acts as a local beacon for visitors as well as offering an unprecedented panorama over the Coonawarra Vineyards has won a number of design awawrds. To complete the vision, a wine maker with passion and skill Peter Bissell, join the Belnaves in 1995 as the company winemaker. It is a partnership that has flourished and as a result Balnaves wines have won many awards, the most recent and exciting being Peter Bissell winning the Qantas/Gourmet Traveller Winemaker of the year award. Well done Pete, the team is very proud of you.