Craggy Range - Hawkes Bay-Martinborough-Central Otago - New Zealand

What's a billionaire to do when his wife and daughter demand he establish a business for the family's legacy? Well, if it's Terry Peabody, you hire the most lauded experts, seek out land with the most potential, and build a state of the art winery to create the first single vineyard wine label in the southern hemisphere; Craggy Range in New Zealand. Peabody made his fortune in a myriad of businesses; recycling power plant waste, building hydroelectric infrastructure, even trucking. He had no experience with wine outside of being an educated consumer. Enter Steve Smith, the first viticulturalist to also become a Master of Wine, he was quite simply the best man for the job. With Peabody's resources and business savvy joining Smith's expertise and talent pool, they created Craggy Range in 1997 and have gone on to win countless awards, be featured in the best restaurants around the world, and along the way, have set the standard for the potential of New Zealand's terroir. One of the most impressive parts of the endeavor is the fact that all the wines are from single vineyards despite total production reaching 70,000 cases.

From the beginning, Craggy Range has had the long goal in mind. They did not simply plop down their winery on the first appropriate vineyard location but instead found homes for the grape varieties and specific clones that Smith calculated would be the most successful.  All this at a time when much of the winemaking landscape of New Zealand was largely unproven. The company's vineyards range all over the country and consistently represent an honest, unmanipulated reflection of the terroir and vintage. This is also a reflection of a strong commitment to a more passive style of winemaking, especially when one considers that many of the wines are not at their best for decades. As for the legacy, Peabody has placed the company in a 1000 year trust, ensuring the family will be a part of it for a long, long time.

Of their currently released wines, many are showing their great potential and others already shining.              

My highlights:

2013 Te Muna Road Vineyard, Sauvignon Blanc, Martinborough

Richly floral, with lean grapefruit and lime on the nose, joined with a little jasmine. Palate is tart initially transitions to a richer, stonefruit middle with a present but balanced acid structure throughout. Its refreshingly reminiscent of more mineral driven Loire SB, due in part to the limestone remnants in the soil, partial whole bunch (15%), and no new wood. A solid value to boot, retailing in the US for around $24.

2011 Le Sol, Gimblett Gravels Vineyard, Syrah, Hawkes Bay

Reflective of the cooler vintage from the start, this is an opulent, but ultimately balanced and complex wine, due in part to the stony soil that helps to mitigate temperature fluctuations. Cocoa, spice and plum aromas match its deep opaque color. Texturally silky, the wood, alcohol and acid are all in place to see this wine develop into something special for those that have the patience to wait. A perfect wine to celebrate your position at the top of the food chain after successfully hunting your own game.

2011 Te Kahu, Red Blend (Mer 69%,CS 13%, CF 9%, Mal 9%), Gimblett Gravels Vineyard, Hawkes Bay

The first wine of the Craggy Range line I tasted almost 10 years ago, it remains my favorite. With Merlot making up the lion's share, it has an austere, mild nose with a light touch of new wood (19%) with herbs and tobacco. Juicy, ripe red fruit mingles with vintage-reflective tannins mitigated by the more black fruit contribution of Cabernet Franc and Malbec.