Stonehedge meets the Royal Cliff deVine Club members

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Stonehedge wines are amongst those emanating from the Napa Valley in California USA, and while the label is relatively unknown in Pattaya, it is well thought of in the US.

Stonehedge is a family company who bought into the region in 1990, but did not offer wines to the marketplace until 1992. A family company, it is headed by Shahin Shahabi, the President and CEO. Of interest is the fact that the Shahabi family emigrated from Iran to America to place new roots both for their vines, and the family. Shahin holds a viticulture and winemaking degree from Napa Valley College as well as a business and marketing degree from University of California, Los Angeles.

(L to R) Antonello Passa, GM of Royal Cliff Beach Resort Pattaya; Shahin Shahabi, vintner at Stonehedge Winery; Panga Vathanakul, Managing Director of the Royal Cliff Beach Resort Pattaya; and Natthachai Chaiprom from the B.N.K. Pattaya Wine Gallery Co., Ltd.(L to R) Antonello Passa, GM of Royal Cliff Beach Resort Pattaya; Shahin Shahabi, vintner at Stonehedge Winery; Panga Vathanakul, Managing Director of the Royal Cliff Beach Resort Pattaya; and Natthachai Chaiprom from the B.N.K. Pattaya Wine Gallery Co., Ltd.

The Royal Cliff Hotels Group’s Royal Grill Room and Wine Cellar has been the outstanding venue for some memorable wine dinners over the past decade, and has been awarded the Wine Spectator magazine’s highest accolades every year in that time including the 2014 “Best of the Awards of Excellence”.

The wine agent for the Stonehedge label was K. Natthachai from the BNK Pattaya Wine Gallery.

The reception wine was a Cool Fish, Pinot Grigio 2012, another Californian wine label, owned by the Shahabi brothers. To get the taste buds sharpened before the five course dinner, the Royal Cliff’s Executive Chef Walter Thenisch had supplied oysters with a ginger vodka dressing, crabmeat salad with salmon eggs and an olives and Bocconcini ball with lemon dressing.

Natthachai Chaiprom (center) poses for a photo with Richard Smith and his wife Janet.Natthachai Chaiprom (center) poses for a photo with Richard Smith and his wife Janet.

MC for the evening was the Royal Cliff General Manager Antonello Passo who introduced Shahin Shahabi to the members and guests. Shahin spoke on how they are a small but exclusive winery producing “California style” wines, but their wine production is done with gentle care from vine to bottle, as opposed to some of the mass-market wines which he described as using “Coca-Cola production” methods.

(L to R) Dr. Iain Corness, Shahin Shahabi, vintner at Stonehedge Winery and Pratheep Malhotra, Managing Director of the Pattaya Mail Media Group.(L to R) Dr. Iain Corness, Shahin Shahabi, vintner at Stonehedge Winery and Pratheep Malhotra, Managing Director of the Pattaya Mail Media Group.

The first course was a Yellowfin tuna, topped with seared-peppered citrus-tomato relish, arugula leaves, shaved pecorino sardo in a herb-infused olive oil. This tasted even better than the description, and was taken with a Stonehedge, Sauvignon blanc 2012 which had a strong nose and was refreshing on the palate. I enjoyed this wine very much, and was a popular choice amongst the deVine club members.

The second course of five featured a pan-fried barramundi fillet on stewed baby carrots, green peas and fava beans. This was another great dish and was taken with the Stonehedge Chardonnay 2012, but this wine was not as pleasant as the Sauvignon blanc, but as always, wine appreciation is an individual matter.

(L to R) Paitoon Ritdej, Food & Beverage Director of Royal Cliff Hotels Group Pattaya; Natthachai Chaiprom from the B.N.K Pattaya Wine Gallery Co., Ltd.; Savek Meprasertsak, Hotel Manager of the Ocean Marina Yacht Club Pattaya; Niwat Promsricha, F&B Manager, Royal Cliff Grand Hotel Pattaya; and U-tid Varoonbunjong, F&B Manager Royal Cliff Beach Hotel Pattaya.(L to R) Paitoon Ritdej, Food & Beverage Director of Royal Cliff Hotels Group Pattaya; Natthachai Chaiprom from the B.N.K Pattaya Wine Gallery Co., Ltd.; Savek Meprasertsak, Hotel Manager of the Ocean Marina Yacht Club Pattaya; Niwat Promsricha, F&B Manager, Royal Cliff Grand Hotel Pattaya; and U-tid Varoonbunjong, F&B Manager Royal Cliff Beach Hotel Pattaya.

Half way through the dinner and we were regaled with a roasted veal tenderloin on fresh grilled asparagus spears served with veal jus, premium black summer truffles and Parmesan crisp. The accompanying wine was the Stonehedge Merlot 2011 from the southern Napa valley. This was a smooth wine and went well with the tender veal.

As a palate freshener before venturing into the main course we enjoyed a fabulous Yuzu lime sherbet. I enjoyed mine so much, I did not turn down the offer of a second one! An advantage of being at the top table with K. Panga Vathanakul, the owner, and Antonello the GM.

The main dish was an American-style slow-cooked beef short ribs on enhanced vanilla potato and cauliflower mousseline, and had my vote as the dish of the evening. The wine with it was also my pick of the evening, the Stonehedge Cabernet Sauvignon 2011. Nice body and finish, reminding me of some of the better Australian cabernet sauvignon wines.

Hosts table, with Antonello Passa, GM of Royal Cliff Beach Resort Pattaya; Shahin Shahabi, vintner at Stonehedge Winery; Panga Vathanakul, Managing Director of the Royal Cliff Beach Resort Pattaya; Pol. Gen. Narongvith Thaitong; Dr. Iain Corness; and Pratheep Malhotra, Managing Director of the Pattaya Mail Media Group enjoying their food and wine.Hosts table, with Antonello Passa, GM of Royal Cliff Beach Resort Pattaya; Shahin Shahabi, vintner at Stonehedge Winery; Panga Vathanakul, Managing Director of the Royal Cliff Beach Resort Pattaya; Pol. Gen. Narongvith Thaitong; Dr. Iain Corness; and Pratheep Malhotra, Managing Director of the Pattaya Mail Media Group enjoying their food and wine.

The gourmet dinner ended with a baked chocolate tart with lavender-infused ice cream, fresh berries and frozen Kiwi fruit, taken with a Stonehedge Terroir Select Muscat Canelli 2009, an interesting dessert wine which was not too sweet to the tongue, to offset the sugars in the dessert.

The first course was a yellow fin tuna, topped with seared-peppered citrus-tomato relish, arugula leaves, shaved pecorino sardo in a herb-infused olive oil. This tasted even better than the description.The first course was a yellow fin tuna, topped with seared-peppered citrus-tomato relish, arugula leaves, shaved pecorino sardo in a herb-infused olive oil. This tasted even better than the description.

Once again the Royal Cliff had produced another excellent deVine wine dinner with Walter Thenisch continuing to impress, even after all the years he has been the executive chef, he still comes up with new dishes, rather than recycling old ones.

And congratulations to Antonello and the deVine Wine Club for another interesting wine label.

The wines were available later for the deVine Wine Club members to purchase, and the Stonehedge Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 seemed to be on everyone’s shopping list. I was quite fortunate to be able to include one for my own cellar.

A veritable entourage of wine connoisseurs were treated to a memorable night with the Royal Cliff deVine Club.A veritable entourage of wine connoisseurs were treated to a memorable night with the Royal Cliff deVine Club.