Ant Mackenzie has been a winemaker for other people for his whole career, but of late he’s begun making wines under his own name. His first winemaking job was at Framingham in Marlborough, and then he moved to Spy Valley, and his final stint in Marlborough was as group winemaker for Mud House for a year. He moved to Hawkes Bay in 2009.
Here he worked for Julian Robertson who owned Te Awa, Kidnapper Cliffs and Dry River. During this spell he bought a 2 hectare vineyard near Havelock, and that’s now the basis for his wine project, Craft Farm. Ant still consults and teaches, but increasingly he’s focusing on his own wines.
Craft Farm is his top label, but he also makes a more consumer-friendly range called Theory and Practice, and here the Syrah and Chardonnay are the bread and butter. In addition, there’s a fun range called Toño, which is based on Spanish grape varieties.
Ant is now in his fourth vintage with Theory and Practice and third with Craft Farm.
The wines are nicely packaged, and the inspiration for the labels comes from the iconic Penguin book cover. They are quite fabulous.
Toño Albariño 2016 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
The third version of their own vines. The first one was peachy, the second one lean, and people preferred the richer one. Fermented into two clay Tinajas into old barriques. On lees for a year. This has nice precision with a textural palate showing nice stony notes and crystalline citrus, alongside some richer pear and peach notes. Very fine-grained with lovely fruit. It’s a lovely textural wine with lots of fruit. 91/100
Craft Farm Chardonnay 2017 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Bought-in fruit this year because it was a tough vintage. Wild ferment in barrel with full solids. Unfiltered. Very fine and toasty on the nose: aromatic with bread, citrus and mineral notes. Very appealing, mealy and focused on the palate with pear and grapefruit, as well as some interesting bready notes. Expressive and mineral. 94/100
Craft Farm Chardonnay 2016 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Off the home block, made in the same way, but filtered this year. Clone 15 and 809 (Muscat clone). Sulfuring a little earlier for these than the Theory & Practice wines, because these Craft Farm wines evolve after bottling. Delicate and mineral with a lovely acid thread. Subtle toast with lovely pear, citrus and table grape fruit with a savoury, smoky, slightly saline edge to it. Lots of interest here: it’s a vital, delicious wine. 95/100
Craft Farm Chardonnay 2015 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
This has lovely concentration and weight to it. Home farm. There’s some toast and spice with a hint of cabbage and some lovely pear skin and peach richness. This has lovely precision as well as some depth and richness, with a spicy, lemony finish. Developing really nicely. 94/100
Craft Farm Rosehip 2016 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Mainly Muscat but also Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Albariño, fermented on skins. All from the home block. No filtration. Fermented for a couple of weeks on skins in a one-ton fermenter, foot trodden then in tank for a year, full malolactic. 30 ppm sulfites added before bottling. Beautifully floral and exotic on the nose with lychee and mandarin notes. Fine, expressive fruity palate with nice depth and texture. Delicate with some hints of green tea, and well managed tannins. Lovely stuff. 94/100
Craft Farm Syrah 2016 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Ant has been working with Lyon’s Vineyard in Bridge Pa, and he’s also entered an arrangement where they have established the vineyards on some of their land for his use and this will be on stream next year. Chave clone. Elegant, fine and a bit peppery with a Burgundian character to it. So refined and quite delicate with supple fruity personality: black cherry and plums. Has a nice light, expressive personality. 93/100
Craft Farm Syrah 2015 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Structured, fresh and briny with some black pepper notes and a delicious savouriness. Concentrated and compact with vivid raspberry and black cherry fruit. Has a bloody, iodine edge and lovely acidity. Firm and decisive. Impressive stuff. 95/100
Craft Farm Syrah 2014 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
First vintage. Has some whole bunch. A ripe, warm vintage. Floral nose with some chocolate and spice framing. Youthful, peppery and quite grippy on the palate with freshness and structure. Quite briny with a firm, dry finish. Very stylish and savoury in style, but still very pure. 93/100
Craft Farm Pinot Noir 2017 Martinborough, New Zealand
From a vineyard that Larry McKenna used for Escarpment’s Pahi. It’s one of the first planted in the region, owned by Braden Crosbie who started a wine brand called On Giants Shoulders. Jannine Rickards and Huw Kinch have also made wines from this vineyard too. Did the fermentation down in Martinborough. 25% whole bunch (the 2018 is 100% whole bunch), no fining or filtration. This is a really pretty red fruits style that’s sappy and soft with a fine-grained structure and lovely floral perfume. Lovely mouthfeel with a little savouriness and a long, soft red cherry finish. 94/100
Craft Farm Gewurztraminer 2015 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
25 g/l residual sugar. Wonderful aromatics, with green tea in the mix alongside the lychee and table grape aromas. Hints of honey, too. The palate is concentrated, bold and delicious with viscous lychee and grape notes, and lovely grainy structure. Finishes long, off-dry and nicely spicy. Real finesse and intensity. 95/100
Craft Farm Gewurztraminer 2014 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Very soft and textural with a fine-grained structure under the sweet lychee and tinned pear fruit. There’s real finesse and purity here, with pristine fruit. Lovely texture with nice precision and focus, but also richness. 93/100
Craft Farm Gewurztraminer 2016 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Concentrated, ripe and intense. Soft and smooth with luscious, fleshy apricot, table grape and lychee flavours as well as some spicy complexity. It’s very sweet but there’s lovely weight and balance here with a fresh finish. Real finesse and purity here. 95/100
Find these wines with wine-searcher.com
- Tony Bish and The Urban Winery
- Ant Mackenzie, Craft Farm
- Ash Ridge
- Collaboration Wines
- Sileni and their Pinot Noirs
- Clearview Estate
- De La Terre
- Trinity Hill