Craggy Range with Steve Smith
After the fun of last night, what better way to celebrate than a serious tasting and a good lunch. The focus was Craggy Range, a leading New Zealand producer, and it was hosted by MD Steve Smith (right), who is a specialist viticulturalist by training (he's worked with controversial viticultural guru Richard Smart before) and who is an MW.
We began by looking at a range of leading Sauvignons from New Zealand, first without food, and then with - the point being that those preferred by the group without food differed from those preferred with. Two of the wines were from Craggy Range, and generally these performed better with food. It's a textural thing, apparently.
Then we went to Craggy Range reds. First, three Bordeaux blends and three Syrahs from 2005. They were fantastic, particularly the Syrahs, which were mightily impressive, showing lovely freshness as well as intensity, with a distinctive peppery character and brilliant definition. Serious stuff.
Then Pinot Noir. Six different components from the Te Muna Vineyard in Martinborough, 2006 vintage, with different clones and oak usage. These were fantastic, with a couple striking me as dead ringers for utterly serious Grand Cru red Burgundy. Thrilling expression and structure: I've never encountered new world Pinot this good before. These components and others are blended together to make two wines, which we then tried: the Te Muna Vineyard Pinot Noir and the Aroha (a new supercuvee). Both were great.
Finally, with lunch four more wines, the pick of which was the Quarry 2001, a Bordeaux blend from the Gimblett Gravels, which is verging on first growth Bordeaux quality. A stunning wine that has wonderfully dense, expressive, earthy, minerally fruit of ripeness but also definition. It's just about drinking now but has the stuffing and structure to improve for many years to come.