Penley Estate is located in the heart of Australia's greatest Cabernet wine region: Coonawarra. Established in 1988 by Kym Tolley, a direct descendant of the pioneering Penfold and Tolley winemaking families, Coonawarra's famed Terra Rossa soils were selected for their ability to produce terroir-driven wines of true regional character. The Estate is now widely regarded as one of the region's leading producers.

"Penley Estate is one of the finest Coonawarra producers, fashioning wines of greater richness, nuance and aging potential than most of their peers."
Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate
  • Founded: 1988
  • Owner: The Tolley Family
  • Winemaker: Kate Goodman
  • Size: 410 acres
  • Climate: Cool climate; cold & wet winters, long cool ripening season
  • Key Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz


Kym Tolley, one of Coonawarra’s most experienced winemakers, has over 25 years winemaking behind him. Prior to establishing Penley Estate in 1988, he spent 15 years with Penfolds, under the tutelage of Grange creator, Max Schubert.

The style mandate at Penley Estate is essentially one of balance and harmony, while showcasing the unique varietal fruit characters of Coonawarra. The wines are fruit rich, showing good intensity and definition, while avoiding overt oak and heavy grape tannin – instead they have layers of complexity that build with time.

There are three distinct ranges in the Penley Estate portfolio:

Phoenix Cabernet Sauvignon, Hyland Shiraz – the ‘entry level’ wines, 100% estate sourced fruit and displaying true regional characters.

Chardonnay, Cabernet Shiraz, Merlot – richly textured wines, upping the ante in concentration and flavor.

Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Select Shiraz – there’s always a few small parcels off the estate that are destined for greatness – Tolley gives them the Rolls Royce treatment in the winery and the ‘Reserves’ are born.

All of Penley’s wines are designed to age, although the senior wines will easily develop for a decade or longer.

Some key winemaking techniques that Kym utilizes in the winery include:

  • traditional heading down fermentation tanks (submerged cap) – both 4 and 8 ton capacity
  • cooler fermentation temperatures
  • barrel fermentation at the end of the primary ferment (malolactic ferment is also completed in these same barrels)
  • wide selection of oaks, primarily barriques from France plus small amount of fine grained American oak
  • wine is made in batches, which are kept separately, so that the blending process is completed over the period of maturation
  • batches are based on vineyard site, varietal clone, fermentation tank and oak type


The 410 acre estate (total land holdings) is centrally located in the heart of Coonawarra, with the vines planted on the famed ‘terra rossa’ soils – bright red loams overlaying soft limestone. The limestone base is a critical factor in this region as it provides good water drainage – without it much of the region would be waterlogged.

Penley Estate’s vineyard plantings include Cabernet Sauvignon (112 acres), Shiraz (49 acres), Chardonnay (13 acres), Merlot (10 acres), Cabernet Franc (5 acres). Each varietal was planted with a particular site selection in mind i.e. lighter soils for Shiraz and the more traditional terra rossa soils for Cabernet Sauvignon.

Kym Tolley is a firm believer that “a healthy, balanced vine is a good vine.” To ensure vine and fruit quality, the following vineyard practices are employed:

  • mix of machine trim and hand pruning to develop a balanced vine producing 2 to 3 tons per acre.
  • a water deficit program is pursued. The objective here is to have good soil moisture into spring as the vine develops, with little added water though to veraison. Controlled supplemental water is then maintained to enable the vine to survive the mid summer heat, as the leaves need to be active up to the early autumn harvest.
  • machine harvesting is utilized as it allows the winery to harvest at the peak of the grapes’ flavor profile while ensuring that evenly ripened grapes are coming into winery. It also means that harvest can be completed quickly when inclement weather may cause issues – which can happen any time in this cool region.