When I received the wines of Craggy Range from New Zealand, I experienced that momentary thrill that I get whenever something has taken a very long trip from the farm to the table. Yes, I know that with that statement, millions of locavores suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I like the eating local thing when the season's good and the region's good. When it comes to drinking local, I like our local beers but otherwise everything else is coming on a truck or a plane or a boat from a very long way away. The green tea leaves that gently stained the water in my teacup this morning like an artist's brush resting in a jar of mineral spirits came from somewhere in China. Everyone gripping a Starbuck's cup is holding onto something that came from Colombia or Kenya or Indonesia or elsewhere.
There are heated arguments over shipping costs and packaging costs and lots of other factors, but at the end of the day I am that six year old boy staring at the globe while lying on the floor, checking out all of these interesting places on the bottom of the sphere. Why is New Zealand a separate country from Australia? What does New Guinea have to do with New Zealand or New York or New Jersey? Why do all the pictures of New Zealand in National Geographic look a lot more like Ireland or Scotland instead of the South Pacific? As a child, I had to seek out these answers, and today, the luxury goods of the islands are delivered to my doorstep. What a wondrous time to be alive.
2011 Craggy Range Kidnapper's Vineyard Chardonnay
Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
$20, 13% abv.
Very interesting for a Chardonnay. Lots of green apple and pear, balanced acidity, slightly tart. Fascinating and ultimately delicious with some grilled shrimp with lime. The name of the Vineyard comes from Cape Kidnappers in Hawkes Bay, where Captain Cook's crew got into an altercation with the locals and they tried to nab a Tahitian servant from the H.M.S. Endeavour. A bit ironic that they named the cape after that event when later, Cook would die after attempting to hold Hawaiian King Kalaniʻōpuʻu hostage.
2010 Craggy Range Te Kahu Gimblett Gravels Vineyard
Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
80% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Malbec
$20, 13.5% abv.
When this first arrived I was thinking that it was a Pinot Noir and let it rest in the cellar next to other representatives of that grape. And then when I served it, I knew it was something much different. While mellow and mild, this has definite structure and the balance of black cherry and leather and chocolate is incredible. Highly recommended and a great bargain, not to mention showing that New Zealand has an opportunity to do some Bordeaux or Meritage blends that can stand out.
I hesitate to quote directly from press releases or company websites, but to explain the name of this wine I could not add anything to the following: "Te kahu means 'the cloak' in Te Reo Maori and refers to the mist that envelops our Giants Winery in the Tuki Tuki Valley. Legend has it that this mist was used to protect a mythical Maori maiden from the sun as she visited her lover Te Mata."
Another two wines, another two stories, and that little globe of cardboard with raised mountain features continues to spin at the slow rate of once per day, in a dance around the sun 365.25 times a year...
Note: These wines were received as samples.