Stonehedge 2016 “Grand Reserve” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

Posted by Keith Wallace

Stonehedge 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Grand Reserve
Stonehedge 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Grand Reserve

Another Mystery Wine

I took a deep dive while trying to figure out who made this wine.  I hadn’t heard of Stonehedge before tasting this monolithic  Cabernet Sauvignon.  The label seems to have been started by Shahin Shahabi. He was cited in 1995 by Wine Spectator  article, “Napa Valley’s Stonehedge Makes Impressive Debut.”

From the beginning, this was a negotiant business with an eye towards international wine marketing. The original wines were made at Golden State Winery in St. Helena from purchased grapes. And he hired some serious marketing talent to launch the brand.

David Sayre began his career with United Vintners moving from production to marketing and in 2002 launched Prospect Brands sourcing and developing brands like Stonehenge and Cameron Hughes. Mr Sayre holds degrees in Chemistry, Business Administration and Graduate degrees in Marketing and Economics.

From 2002 to 2007, Mr. Sayre was also responsible for design, package development, sourcing, production and marketing for Stonehedge Wines, and developed a national distribution chain which grew this national brand to 250,000 cases

Mr. Shahabi went on to form the Smith-Anderson Wine Group of Napa. Under that group, he created a half dozen more wine labels, including a “Dawson Creek Winery.”

the wine was first produced for a wine distributor in Scandinavia who also sold it to several European markets. Its name was chosen from a popular television series of the same name that was a much-admired show in Scandinavia.

He also launched a Diamond Ridge Vineyards and Winery. Not to be confused with Diamond Ridge Vineyard in Lake County (or New Zealand). There was a Graymont Estate as well, but that disappeared from wine shelves in 1996. There was also a Napala Winery, a 39 North, Cool Fish, and Koo Loo Loo Vineyards, all of which have long disappeared from wine shelves.  Some of their websites now redirect to online pharmacies.

Havens Wine Cellars

This would be a story about another Napa dream that died on the vine, except for this “Grand Reserve” and Shahabi’s other wine label: Havens Wine Cellars. He purchased that winery’s intellectual property when its assets were liquidated in 2009. I worked for Havens a decade earlier, so I was unfortunate to see its ending. And even more surprised to see it resurface in 2013 at my local wine & spirits store.

The wines being produced under the Haven’s label were very good.  Not as good as the original, but very good. In particular, the 2015 and 2016 vintages were a step above. Only recently, when I bought this Stonehedge Cabernet for review did I realize the connection: for a short period of time, Stonehedge and Havens had the same winemaker.

From 2015-2016,  Eric Hanson was the winemaker for Smith-Anderson. He directly managed both brands. This was his first work as head winemaker after graduating from UC Davis, and his commitment to the Napa-style is quite evident. Sadly, this is also the only bottle of Stonehedge he will ever work on. The winery at UC Davis hired Eric Hanson as Assistant Winemaker in May 2018.

Wine Review

Full-bodied, oak-driven, and decadently textured. Definitely geared towards the expense-account crew at the downtown steak houses across America. Toasted spices, a hint of varietal green notes, and a megaton blast of melted chocolate. A healthy edge of freshness keeps the dark fruit flavors from melting into jam.  Listed at $55, this came in at under $30 in Philadelphia. At that price, this is a good find.

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