CW Wines’ Stonehaven success: Exceptional wines from a once-mothballed winery
In 1998, Hardys built its $18 million, 10,000-tonne Stonehaven winery and storage facility at Padthaway. The logic seemed obvious: South Australia’s Limestone Coast region had a long history of grapegrowing and winemaking via its most distinguished of Coonawarra vineyards, 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 January 6, 2003, after a long and eye-watering battle over its boundaries.
Mount Benson was gazetted on March 18, 1997, Padthaway on November 29, 1999, Wrattonbully on July 5, 2005, Robe on August 15, 2006 and Mount Gambier on December 21, 2010. There is neither rhyme nor reason as to 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 and the sheer remoteness of all parts of the Limestone Coast led to the closure of Stonehaven. Large wine companies walked away as the winery was mothballed.
Years passed until CW Wines – a South Australian family company with other wine investments – acquired the winery, the brand, and 235ha of 23 blocks of nine varieties.
CW’s timing could not have been better. Early in 2021, winemaker Ben Wurst was presented with a cornucopia of grapes: 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 at cwwines.com.
2021 STONEHAVEN RESERVE COONAWARRA CABERNET SAUVIGNON
Sourced from adjacent rows of 40-year-old 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 a week apart, the first with preferment maceration, early pressed to French hogsheads. Juicy medium-bodied style with layers of flavour, ranging through blackberry, tar, licorice and plum, then a dark chocolate farewell. 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, with 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. Ticks all the boxes.
94 points, drink to 2035, 14.5% alc, screwcap, $30
Halliday, James. "CW Wines’ Stonehaven success: Exceptional wines from a once-mothballed winery" Web article. "The Australian". Weekend Australian Magazine 25/8/23. https://www.theaustralian.com.au/weekend-australian-magazine/cw-wines-stonehaven-success-exceptional-wines-from-a-oncemothballed-winery/news-story/b3b059b0f23dc9e924afbb82aae2c602