The $18 million, 10,000-tonne Stonehaven winery and storage facility was built by Hardys in 1998. The logic seemed obvious: the Limestone Coast region had a long history of grapegrowing and winemaking via its most distinguished of Coonawarra, but the other five subregions of Mount Benson, Mount Gambier, Padthaway, Robe and Wrattonbully had little or no viticultural history. Indeed, even Coonawarra was not gazetted as a region until 6 January 2003 after a long and eye-watering battle over its boundaries.
Mount Benson was gazetted on 18 March 1997, Padthaway on 29 November 1999, Wrattonbully on 5 July 2005, Robe on 15 August 2006 and Mount Gambier on 21 December 2010. There is neither rhyme nor reason why the vignerons plying their viticultural trade should have taken their time as they did: seven years of hugely expensive litigation ultimately led to the borders being drawn on a far wider and more expansive scale than any proposal by the most liberal of the original litigants.
Changing demands in the market, then a Mexican stand-off of likely, and the sheer remoteness of all parts of the Limestone Coast, led to the closure of the Stonehaven Winery. Large wine companies walked away as mothballs smothered the winery. Life flickered as Sue Bell (on duty as the winemaker) tried to breathe life into it.
Years passed until CW Wines, a South Australian family with other wine investments acquired the winery, the brand, and 235 hectares of 23 blocks of nine varieties. CW’s timing could not have been better timed. Early in 2021, winemaker Ben Wurst was presented with a cornucopia of grapes in two levels: the entry point 11 Stepping Stone varietals ($20), then the heartbeat of six Limited Vineyard Release regional wines ($30), and a single Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($60) that is a totally convincing best of vintage.
The wines are still best acquired online via www.cwwines.com
2021 Stonehaven Reserve Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon
Sourced from adjacent rows of 40yo vines; hand-pruned to control the yield to 5t/ha; cold maceration and pressed direct to oak for 18 months in French hogsheads. This is a seriously good cabernet from an excellent vintage. Its length is exceptional, as is its structure and slinky tannins, part fruit, part oak.
97 points, drink to 2045, 14.5% alc, Diam, $60
2021 Stonehaven Limited Vineyard Release Robe Shiraz
Picked in two small batches one week apart, the first with preferment maceration early pressed to French hogsheads. Most attractive juicy medium-bodied style with layers of flavours ranging through blackberry, tar, licorice and plum, then a farewell of dark chocolate. Finesse and elegance are its calling cards.
95 points, drink to 2040, 14.5% alc, Screwcap, $30
2021 Stonehaven Limited Vineyard Release Padthaway Shiraz
Ferment completed in barrel; 18 months maturation then individual barrel selection. Very good expression of both place and variety, ditto texture and structure. Fresh cherry berry fruit and fine-spun tannins; skilled oak handling. Ticks all the boxes.
94 points, drink to 2035, 14.5% alc, Screwcap, $30