Wine review of Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc, Carggy Range Chardonnay, Craggy Range Te Kahu

Craggy Range Shows off the Diverse Flavors of New Zealand

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Over the last five years, New Zealand wines have made a lot of headway in the United States. Not that long ago it was really just the New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs that got attention. And those wines deserve notice, as New Zealand produces some distinct examples of Sauvignon Blanc that resonate with wine lovers. Pinot Noir led the charge when it came to grapes from New Zealand getting attention other than Sauvignon Blanc. However, there are plenty of other varietals also doing well there, and it’s good to see them on our shelves adding to the choices we have when picking out a wine. Craggy Range was founded in 1997 with the idea of making single vineyard wines that are a real expression of each vineyard site, from vintage to vintage. This month I look at three of their current releases.

The Craggy Range 2010 Martinborough Sauvignon Blanc was produced from fruit sourced at the Te Muna Road Vineyard. This offering is 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc. After the fruit was harvested it was fermented in a combination of stainless steel and French oak barriques using select yeasts. Barrel aging followed, in French oak over a period of 6 months; 5 percent of the barrels were new. This wine is available in the U.S. and more than a dozen other countries.  Here it has a suggested retail price of $21.99.

Fresh cut grass and citrus aromas are both integral parts of this wine’s nose. Lemon ice and lime flavors star through the palate, along with tropical fruits such as papaya and hints of mango. Vanilla and white pepper spice emerge on the finish, along with some tart orchard fruit notes. This wine has zippy acidity and a crisp finish that keeps you coming back to the glass for another sip. This wine serves as a bit of a composite of Sauvignon Blanc favor profiles. It features some of the grassy elements long associated with New Zealand examples of the grape, but also offers equal citrus and tropical fruit characteristics that are more strongly associated with other Sauvignon Blancs.

The Craggy Range 2010 Hawkes Bay Chardonnay was produced exclusively from fruit sourced at Kidnappers Vineyard. This wine is 100 percent Chardonnay. Three quarters of the fruit for this selection was hand-harvested. Fermentation took place in a variety of vessel types including stainless steel, oak tanks, French oak puncheons and barriques. Both native and selected yeasts were utilized. Barrel aging took place over 5 months in French oak of various types, and 8 percent of the oak was new. This wine is available in more than 10 countries worldwide, including the United States, and it has a suggested retail price of $21.99.

Apple, Bartlett pear and spice are the most pronounced aromas that light up the nose of this 2010 Chardonnay. Flavors of Golden Delicious apple, Anjou pear and Meyer lemon dominate the flavorful and fruity palate of this wine. Minerals, white pepper and gentle apple pie spice characteristics are all part of the finish, which has good length. This is a clean, crisp Chardonnay that shows off boatloads of big varietal fruit flavors. If you want to know what Chardonnay really tastes like, unencumbered by overly obtrusive oak characteristics, this is a great wine to seek out.

The Craggy Range 2009 Hawkes Bay Te Kahu was produced entirely from fruit sourced at the Gimblett Gravels Vineyard. This offering is a blend of Merlot (80 percent), Cabernet Franc (12 percent), Cabernet Sauvignon (5 percent) and Malbec (3 percent). Half of the fruit for this blend was hand-harvested. Fermentation took place in stainless steel utilizing selected yeasts. Barrel-aging followed over a period of 15 months in French oak barriques, and 22 percent of the oak was new. This Bordeaux-inspired blend is available across the United States and in eight other countries worldwide; it has a suggested retail price of $21.99.

Leather, cigar box, blueberry and plum aromas are all in evidence on the nose of this 2009 blend. Copious blackberry, cassis and cherry flavors dominate the palate of this wine. Black pepper, tobacco and nutmeg join in as well. Cherry characteristics continue to echo through the finish, which has remarkable length -- long enough in fact to be noteworthy. This is a terrific blend, dominated by Merlot but showing off each varietal beautifully. The Cabernet Franc in particular shines.

These three wines from Craggy Range are excellent values in the $20 price range. They’re well-balanced, focused wines that show off their varietals incredibly well. In the grander scheme these wines also highlight the diverse wines being produced in New Zealand today. The Chardonnay is a particular standout that epitomizes everything that can be right about that grape when it’s handled appropriately. These wines are priced well enough not to be limited to special occasions. However, their quality makes them quite worthy of serving to friends and family during the holidays.

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