By Jamie Drummond.

Tasting at Craggy Range with Steve Smith MW

Tasting at Craggy Range with Steve Smith MW

2009 Craggy Range Riesling “Otago Station Vineyard” Waitiki Valley
Pear, lime and all manner of floral blossoms. Lower alcohol (10.9%) but with amazing poise and balance of residual sugar and acidity. Juicy but not sweet. Made in a style similar to a good Mosel.

2009 Craggy Range Pinot Gris “Otago Station Vineyard” Waitiki Valley
A lovely oily viscosity coupled with honey and spice. Not just about drinking a glass of fruit. Steve Smith states that in order to make good Pinot Gris one has to make it like Pinot Noir. Would be perfect with dressed crab… actually, I was very hungry when tasting this and obsessing about dressed crab.

2009 Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc “Te Muna Vineyard” Martinborough
A real grown-up’s New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Floral notes, capsicum, gooseberry and lime leaf. It was a warm vintage and so fruit was picked early to preserve the wine’s nerve. Bloody lovely talcum powder finish too. Head and shoulders above the rest.

2009 Craggy Range Viognier “Gimblett Gravels Vineyard” Hawkes Bay
Coming from a number of sites with a little more topsoil than most. The grapes are very tannic in the vineyard and it is tricky to get the flavours out without creating a tannic monster. Pretty high in alcohol (14.5%) but wears it very well indeed. 2 year old barrels are used and 6 months of lees contact. This gives the wine a most pleasant texture. The malic acid gives some true cut in this wine.

2009 Craggy Range Chardonnay “Gimblett Gravels Vineyard” Hawkes Bay (Tank Sample)
Made in the style of a tighter Puligny Montrachet, this wine exhibits all that one does not expect from a New Zealand Chardonnay. According to the Winemaker there has been a move towards this decidedly linear style. Precision Winemaking. Really very good indeed.

2008 Craggy Range Chardonnay “Les Beaux Cailloux” “Gimblett Gravels Vineyard” Hawkes Bay
A much richer and fatter style than the previous Chardonnay and not a wine for everyone’s taste. Ripe fruit is coupled with just the right balance of acidity with well-integrated oak. Exhibits a crafted phenolic line that is evident in many of Craggy Range’s whites.

The Sleeping Giant mountain range

2008 Craggy Range “Aroha” (Pinot Noir) Martinborough
Meaning “Love” in Maori, the Aroha is a stunning example of New Zealand Pinot Noir. Combining the 115 and Able (La Tache) clones this wine shows impressive “knit” with the Able giving a savoury note whilst the 115 contributes blackness and richness. Not green but wet bark/wet forest. Incredibly concentrated and dense. Undoubtedly more of a Burgundy lover’s wine than a Californian fan’s.

2008 Craggy Range Syrah “Gimblett Gravels Vineyard” Hawkes Bay
In lab Syrah from the famed Gimblett Gravels tends to show levels of Rotundone (read: pepper characteristics) that are simply off the charts… and this is no exception. Despite the fact that Gimblett Gravels Syrahs once had a reputation for being “all bones and no flesh”, this vintage certainly disproves that reputation. The penny dropped after tasting this wine… Gimblett Gravels Syrah can be identified in a blind situation… look for blue flowers and armomatic oils… camphor, sandalwood. Benchmark stuff here.

2008 Craggy Range Merlot “Gimblett Gravels Vineyard” Hawkes Bay (Tank Sample)
According to Steve Smith MW this vintage was a challenge in many ways, with control of cropping levels being essential. Much of this wine is declassified Quarry and Sophia and so one gets a lot of bang for one’s buck, as they say. Shows good density and supple tannins. Nicely structured.

2008 Craggy Range “Te Kahu” “Gimblett Gravels Vineyard” Hawkes Bay (Tank Sample)
This is a great introduction to Craggy’s Bordeaux style blends… although they’ll curse me for using the B word as not once have I heard it used whilst down here. It’s interesting, this wine contains 3% Syrah for the first time, and I may be fooling myself but I honest think I can detect that little squirt of pepperiness. Honest. A very well crafted wine that shows this winery’s mastery of assemblage.

2008 Craggy Range “Sophia” “Gimblett Gravels Vineyard” Hawkes Bay
It has taken Craggy Range many years to get to this point with Sophia, and it has been well worth it. Focused around a delicious core of Merlot fruit this wine is everything a New Zealand Merlot-based blend should be. Plummy, complex and dense with an impressive underlying structure that lifts this wine into the ethereal.

2008 Craggy Range “The Quarry” (Cabernet-based blend“Gimblett Gravels Vineyard” Hawkes Bay
I have previously appreciated Craggy Range’s Cabernet-heavy blends before, but this one really knocked me out. Very impressive Cabernet aromatics show minerality missing from so many wines in this category. Tight as a gnat’s chuff, but showing amazing potential. Exceptional. In fact I’ll go as far as saying it is “Crazy Good”

2008 Craggy Range “Le Sol” (Syrah) “Gimblett Gravels Vineyard” Hawkes Bay
Craggy Range’s top Syrah doesn’t disappoint. This is some serious wine. The camphor aromatics are framed by that elusive pepperiness (in spades) and touched with a teeny dash of mint/eucalyptus. For me it is all about the mouthfeel: dense and yet it dances on the tongue, tightly wound tannically and yet giving and generous. Very, very good.

Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution.