Craggy Range Winemaker’s Dinner at Smokehouse Grill

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Single Vineyard, Single Minded is what Craggy Range calls itself and what Craggy Range is. The owners’ focus is single vineyard wines, which is what makes Craggy Range so unique in the wine world. Terry Peabody and Steve Smith teamed up with a common vision and started the business, owned by the Peabody and Smith families in 1997. Pictured is Steve Smith, MW, managing director and viticulturist of the New Zealand Craggy Range. craggywinemaker.jpg


In their search for the very best vineyards planted with vines most suited to that particular terroir, they zeroed in on the Gimblett Gravels Winegrowing District of Hawkes Bay (for Bordeaux style reds) and Martinborough (for Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc vines).

chef.jpg Precise, finely tuned farming combined with respect for winemaking traditions alongside the most modern technology is Craggy Range’s recipe for success. Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc from Te Muna Road vineyard, Martinborough, is the estate’s largest selling wine, but it was Le Sol from Gimblett Gravels vineyard that really put Craggy Range on the international map. Le Sol is an iconic first wine that made people sit up and take notice. “The critics went crazy,” said Steve Smith, “and the people loved it.”

Pictured above is Chef Mayank at Smokehouse Grill
I met Steve recently at a winemakers’ dinner organized by Brindco at the Smokehouse Grill in Delhi. Steve is a Master of Wine, the first viticulturalist in the world to achieve this distinction, which he succeeded in doing at his first attempt in 1996. Craggy Range is unusual in having three qualified winemakers, each with their own speciality. Steve is assisted by two others who oversee different wines – Syrah and Chardonnay for one and Pinot Noir, Riesling and Pinot Gris for the other.
After the Estate’s best selling Sauvignon Blanc 2007, which we drank with the appetizer that evening, we progressed to a pale, straw-coloured Chardonnay 2006 streaked with green tones from Gimblett Gravels. It drank beautifully with the Seared scallops and Smoked artichoke tart. Released only a month ago, the wine had a juicy mouth feel with excellent body and length balanced by crisp acids. The recommended retail price in New Zealand and Australia, respectively, is NZD$ 27.95 and AUS$ 44, while in Indian fine restaurants and hotels, it costs under Rs. 5,000.
In the Gimblett Gravels district where Craggy Range has 100 hectares, the land is very stony, unfit for orchards or sheep, but ideal for grapes which thrive on poor soil where the vines have to struggle for nutrients. Located on the same latitude as Madrid, away from the cooling effect of South Pacific breezes, this is the only part of New Zealand that is as warm and dry as the great wine growing regions of Bordeaux and Hermitage. “The stones attract the heat during the day and act like an electric blanket at night,” said Steve.
Craggy Range Pinot Noir from the Te Muna Road vineyard, which has a different type of rocky soil is another favourite of US critics. “The beauty of single vineyard wines is that different markets go for different wines,” observed Steve. “The 2006 is just being released. Over time and in the glass, it really opens up. We love the tannins because they hold the whole wine together and make it really good with food.”
Next on the menu was Craggy Range Sophia, a Bordeaux style blend with 62% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Franc and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon. Steve, who is the viticulturist specialist for this style and for Sauvignon Blanc, called it a classic Right Bank Bordeaux blend. “Not a lot of these blends are made in the rest of the world,” he said. Sophia was accompanied by bacon-wrapped grilled tenderloin spiked with red currant jus.
Le Sol, the next wine was a densely coloured vibrant purple, with intense aromas, rich with fine, silky tannins. Although typically paired with game meats, its lush, sensuous texture went just as well with ravioli of wild mushroom which was the vegetarian option to smoked shank of lamb at our dinner.
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Aman and Madhulika Dhall. Harshal Shah and Thomas Sauzet are seen in the background

Craggy Range wines are all bottled as single estate wines. They are the best possible product of their terroir and the winemaker, as well as the particular weather conditions of every vintage. With age, the vineyards which were developed in the late 1990’s and are still relatively young, will reveal their true character and potential. But Craggry Range estate is not one to rest on its laurels. Their aim is to make the greatest wines in the land, that stand shoulder to shoulder with the best in the world.
These unique wines are brought to us by Brindco and can be enjoyed in most top hotels and restaurants in the country.
For more on Craggy Range and its wines, visit www.craggyrange.com

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