In 1986, Terry Peabody made a promise to his family, or at least to the women in his family. They wanted him to go into the wine business, with two conditions: The business would never be sold, and it had to be a family business that would evolve into a lasting legacy. Peabody was a successful enough businessman to make that promise a reality.
Although his search for a winery encompassed France and America in addition to his native Australia, Peabody ended up in New Zealand. He was attracted not only by the winemaking culture of that country but by the youth, energy and pioneering spirit. The vitality of New Zealand appealed to Peabody’s entrepreneurial side---he was dreaming of creating wines that would eventually become the benchmarks for New World production.
The result was Craggy Range, located in Hawkes Bay on the eastern coast of the North Island. In a country known primarily for commodity wine, Craggy Range produces only single-vineyard releases. Along the way Peabody was fortunate to meet up with Steve Smith, a viticulturalist who had just become a Master of Wine, and Smith has been lending his talents since the winery was launched in 1997.
Melon, lemon zest and red apple highlight the nose of the 2011 Kidnappers Vineyard Chardonnay ($22). Understated on entry, the wine expands in the mid palate into a plump style highlighted by flavors of citrus, ripe melon and peach. The acidity is mouthwatering, and a nice spicy edge emerges on the extreme length. In addition to the usual suspects (fish and shellfish), this would be a good match for chicken, veal and pork in light sauces.
The nose of the 2010 Te Muna Road Pinot Noir ($40) reveals herbal notes and scents of crushed red berries. The wine is bright and exuberant in the mouth, with crisp acidity highlighting flavors of black cherry, strawberry and raspberry. The texture is pure, the fruit is vibrant, and the wine is enormously appealing to drink---either on its own or with a range of dishes ranging from game fish to white meats.
Vivid aromas of black fruits, minerals, fresh herbs and truffles distinguish the nose of the 2010 Te Kahu ($22), a blend of 80% Merlot with small amounts of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec blended in. In the mouth, the wine is medium-bodied and ripe, with supple tannins and a beautifully concentrated essence of black raspberries. Once again, good acidity carries the fruit onto the finish.
This is an impressive trio of releases from Craggy Range---memorable, distinctive, and well worth seeking out.
Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History, published by Lyons Press (Globe Pequot); for more information, go to http://www.iconicspirits.net.