Tasting the range at Craggy Range

matt stafford jamie goode

For the last couple of days I’ve been hanging out at Craggy Range, in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand. I was last at Craggy in 2007, on my first visit to New Zealand. The personnel have since changed, but the goal hasn’t – to make some of New Zealand’s top wines. There are 80 hectares of vines in the Gimblett Gravels district of Hawke’s Bay, and about the same in Martinborough at the Te Muna Road vineyard, and these form the core of the range. They also have vineyards in Marlborough, but they no longer have any in Central Otago. These are the notes from a range tasting I did with winemaker Matt Stafford (he’s pictured above with me and my red wine stained tasting teeth).

Craggy Range Te Muna Road Riesling 2016 Martinborough, New Zealand
Planted on the terrace, all hand harvested, long pressing, rough rack the next day before fermentation, sit quite warm at 18 C, all stainless steel in 2016. None of this was made in 2015 because of botrytis. In 2016 went in and put the fruit into balance early on in the growing season. pH is 2.8-2.9 most years so it carries 8-10 g rs/l without tasting sweet. So pretty and lively with lovely pure fruit: citrussy and fine with nice texture and some tangerine detail. Lovely elegance and really pretty fruit, with a touch of sweetness on the finish. 91/100

Craggy Range Te Muna Road Sauvignon Blanc 2016 Martinborough, New Zealand
Relatively warm night time temperatures in Martinborough produce Sauvignon that’s usually less punchy than Marlborough. 15-20% is barrel fermented each year, hand harvested and whole bunch pressed. Lovely aromatics here with a tropical passionfruit character. Very lively and expressive on the palate with lovely detail and complexity. Very fruity and vivid with nice crisp lemony acidity backing up the more exotic fruity notes. Really lovely. 92/100

Craggy Range Kidnappers Vineyard Chardonnay 2015 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Silty clay loams near the coast, 30% wild ferment. First crop 2006. Puncheons, 10-15% new, with a little bit of stainless steel too. There’s a toasty, slightly vanilla edge to the nose with lovely pear and peach fruit. Very forward. So fresh and complex on the palate with some toasty, nutty oak backing up bright tangerine and peach notes. There’s a lot of freshness and complexity here, and it has elegance and brightness. 92/100

Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Chardonnay 2015 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Fermented in barriques, with 30% new. Wild ferment. Nice spicy matchstick edge to this. Fresh and complex with real detail and complexity. Citrus with a touch of white peach. Fresh, mineral and complex. 93/100

Craggy Range Te Muna Four 2015 Martinborough, New Zealand
This is a Marcel Deiss-inspired field blend of Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. Winemaker Matt Stafford calls this the chameleon wine because on different days it shows so differently. He destems the Gewurztraminer and leaves it to sit overnight, and then whole bunch presses the rest, there’s a rough rack to older barrels and it’s left to ferment. Wonderful aromatics of lychee, grapes, ripe pears and spice, with a hint of baked apple. The palate is fresh and with sweet fruit but also nice acidity, and it tastes quite dry (just 4 g/l residual sugar in this vintage). There’s a slightly smoky, spicy edge to the fruit. Complex and delicious. 92/100

Craggy Range Te Muna Road Pinot Noir 2015 Martinborough, New Zealand
15-20% whole bunch. Fresh and vivid with lovely detail to the cherry and plum fruit. There’s good structure, a hint of rhubarb, and lovely brightness and intensity. This is still primary and detailed with lovely focus. Nicely complex and bright. 93/100

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Craggy Range Aroha Pinot Noir 2014 Martinborough, New Zealand
First vintage was 2006, after a prestige Pinot was trialled in 2003. This was winemaker Doug Wisor’s favourite lots from Te Muna Road. He’d left some special lots of Pinot on Steve Smith’s desk the Friday before Doug died in a kitesurfing accident. 28% new oak, which is less than there used to be. 50% whole bunch. There’s density and elegance here hand in hand, with fine grained tannins and a touch of oak. Fine red cherries with some tea leaf notes and nice savoury detail complementing the fruit. Has real elegance and presence, and this should develop beautifully. Matt Stafford describes this as ‘the prettiest wine we’ve made.’ 95/100

Craggy Range Aroha Pinot Noir 2013 Martinborough, New Zealand
Complex, meaty, spicy and structured with dense black fruits and some fresh red currant notes, as well as a savoury edgy note lurking under the fruit. Has lovely focus and great concentration, but needs a bit of time to unfurl. Potentially pretty serious. 94/100

craggy range le sol

Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2015 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Beautifully peppery and vivid with lovely sweet black cherry fruit, some black pepper and clove, and some lovely grippy tannins under the sweet fruit. This is so drinkable but it also has a more serious side. Very fresh and a bit edgy and wild. So peppery. 93/100

Craggy Range Le Sol Syrah 2014 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
This is the top Syrah from the Gimblett Gravels vineyard, and it mainly comes from Block 14. Smoky, spicy and peppery with lovely dense, sweet black fruits. Delicious stuff: there’s some polish here, but there are edges, too. Dense, concentrated black cherry and blackberry fruit with nice structure. Has a bit of wildness, but also elegance and finesse. Very stylish and brooding. 94/100

Craggy Range Le Sol Syrah 2013 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
This is a dense, structured wine. There’s some lovely floral aromatics, with sweet black cherry and some raspberry. There’s finesse here, and a silkiness to the sweet fruit, but today it is showing a bit of reduction. Give it some time and I think it will be fabulous. 93/100

Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Merlot 2015 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Fresh, vivid and grippy with a bit of spiciness and hints of pepper, as well as a bit of green. Grippy and firm on the palate, and a bit angular. Finishes tannic. 90/100

Craggy Range Te Kahu 2015 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Merlot-dominant blend with some Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. All barrel, about 20% new. Fresh and focused with a lovely gravelly edge to the lovely expressive red and black fruits. It’s really assured and harmonious with midweight fruit working in harmony with the structure. 92/100

Craggy Range Sophia 2014 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Very sophisticated, complex and quite elegant, with sweet, alluring berry fruits and lovely gravel and chalk notes. Pretty, polished and accessible but with some seriousness, too. Lovely with with real focus. The tannins are really well managed here. 94/100

Craggy Range Sophia 2013 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Spicy, grippy and dense with a bit of smokiness with grip and density to the berry fruits. Quite tannic and drying, with real density to it. A big wine that needs more time to show what it’s capable of. Finishes dry and firm. 93/100

craggy range block 127

Craggy Range Block 127 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
This is a field blend of Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Syrah. In 2010 they did a young vines selection that blended varieties, but this was a more serious wine inspired by some really good Malbec this vintage. Another one was done in 2015. Floral, fresh and vivid with lovely freshness and a nice green hint. Lovely supple, direct, pure cherry and raspberry fruit drives this wine, and there’s a real elegance to it. So supple and drinkable, yet with some seriousness. 94/100

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