The Stony Brook story starts in the late 1980s when the McNaught family fell in love with Franschhoek and purchased a piece of land with a plan to create premium-quality wines reflecting the area and the styles of wine they most enjoyed. In 1995, the McNaughts sold their first farm and purchased an old fruit farm, now called Stony Brook.
The McNaughts replanted the farm to vines and built a small cellar. Their focus was on Cabernet Sauvignon, Semillon and Chardonnay and they began to produce the first wines under the Stony Brook label.
By 2011, Craig McNaught joined his parents at Stony Brook and took over as winemaker.
The farm is peaceful and quiet, tucked away in the bo-hoek region of Franschhoek. "It's a magic little area," said Craig when we caught up with him recently.
Stony Brook maintains an old world winemaking philosophy.
"I think we're old world at heart, very much old world at heart, taking a lot of inspiration from specifically Spain and Italy in terms of winemaking. Our SA climate is much more like Spain or Southern Italy than France."
"While our approach to winemaking is traditional, our outlook on planting and assemblage is an exploratory one, allowing us to find a unique way to express our soils, climate and remarkable site in Franschhoek. We take the best of what we can plant and we plant it. We handle all the grapes with a lot of respect. We're just trying to make age-worthy wines."
Stony Brook's latest development has been the introduction of Tempranillo vines. The result is their critically-acclaimed wine, Ovidius, created with Tempranillo alone and a real delight to drink.[caption id="attachment_1173" align="alignleft" width="640"] The Ghost Gum at Stony Brook from where the Ghost Gum range takes its name[/caption]
Stony Brook produces a wide range of low volume wines.
Their red wines are not very fruit driven, unlike what you would expect from many SA reds. This is largely due to the maturation process. Craig's winemaking style is more Italian, a little more rustic. All varieties spend at least 28 months in barrel but the oak is not there to add flavour. It purely adds structure. To maintain the character of the wine, sulphur is only added after a year.
"I always find wines a bit more interesting when you have to search for the flavours and they don't smack you in the face when you pick up the glass," Craig told us.
Here are a small selection of their wines. You can find the remainder that we stock on our website.
The nose offers dark fruit, wonderful cigar box and caramelised blackberry aromas with a little red pepper, showcasing new-world fruit paired with old-world winemaking techniques. There is sweet, concentrated ripe red fruit on the palate, matched with big, well-integrated tannins and a bright, elegant finish. This wine can be cellared for 10 to 15 years. It was named after Max the Jack Russell, one of Stony Brook's residents.
The Cabernet Sauvignon grapes for this wine were the first block planted on the farm when the McNaught's arrived. The 2014 will be the final vintage from this block as it is no longer producing enough grapes. Make sure you get some of these bottles before they are gone. The first vintage from the new block will be 2018.
There is a classic, lead pencil, cigar-box aroma that is immediately evident on the nose, followed by ripe, dark cherry and blackberry fruit. The rich oak component follows from the nose to the palate, where there is a lovely balance between acidity and firm tannins. The finish is long, clean and savoury, asking to be paired with a succulent meat dish. The wine has great potential to be cellared and should continue to impress well beyond 2030.
Pale gold in colour with glints of vibrant green. The Chardonnay component offers fresh citrus and butterscotch on the nose, while the Semillon gives richness and a suggestion of honeycomb on the palate. The oak is perfectly balanced and complements the fruit and natural structure of the wine. The brightness and oak contact will allow this wine to age and change gracefully for up to 8 years from harvest. The Semillon will come to the fore as the wine matures. A wonderful accompaniment to seafood or creamy pasta dishes.
Ripe black cherries, with hints of cigar box on the nose are followed by concentrated, rich dark fruit on the palate. There are multiple layers of complexity, with round, intense tannins balancing the natural acidity of the Tempranillo grape.
The name pays homage to the Roman poet, Ovid, who is quoted on the front label of this wine: “Chance is always powerful. Let your hook be always cast; in the pool where you least expect it there will be a fish.”
If you are unfamiliar with Stony Brook, let me encourage you to try their wines. You will definitely enjoy them. There is a lot to uncover in each of their range. Visit Stony Brook on the Hard To Find Wines website today to place your order.