Craggy Range 2015 Aroha, Sophia and Le Sol
The Peabody family and Craggy Range have now released the 2015 vintage ‘Prestige Collection’ wines to the market, interestingly approaching retailers, resellers and consumers, before obtaining assessments from wine critics and reviewers. The reason behind this was primarily logistical, and not a strategic one, but I must report that I received a number of enquiries from retailers and consumers if I had tasted the wines yet, and what I thought of them. It is rather humbling to know that many of the public do like to know my (and other critics’) thoughts on the wines, before they decide to purchase!
I don’t think consumers need worry about the quality of the 2015 ‘Prestige Collection’ wines from Craggy Range. The 2015s are the third successive releases from outstanding vintages experienced in Martinborough where the ‘Aroha’ Pinot Noir comes from, and the Gimblett Gravels where the ‘Sophia’ Merlot-based wine and ‘Le Sol’ Syrah come from. The real question is how do the 2015s compare in style to the 2014s and 2013s? It’s primarily a matter of the growing season, and as previously noted, 2013 was regarded as one of the greatest growing seasons in Hawke’s Bay in living memory. The season was warm, not unduly hot, but very dry. The wines possessed richness, ripeness sinew and energy. They were and remain magnificent, and should live for a very long time. (Click here to see my reviews of the 2013s.) Surprisingly, 2014 was a warmer growing season than 2013, but it was tempered with rain events at what were deemed the ‘right’ times. The wines are more generous and plumper, more approachable than the 2013s in a general sense, though I felt the 2014 ‘Sophia’ to be particularly primary in fruit expression (click here to see my reviews of the 2014s). They too should live well.
The 2015 growing season was yet again different to 2014 and 2013. Both Martinborough and the Gimblett Gravels experienced a cool start with potential frost damage. The fruit set in Martinborough was compromised and yields are down by 50%. However warm and dry weather from the end of January brought up the ripening resulting in a condensed vintage. In Martinborough, the management of the high skins and seeds to juice ratio, as in 2005 and 2007 was crucial. Lower yields were also experienced in the Gimblett Gravels vineyards, but very warm and benevolent weather resulted in healthy and ripe fruit. The effects of Cyclone Pam proved of no consequence.
Craggy Range’s chief winemaker Matt Stafford sees the 2015s as yet another great year for the ‘Prestige Collection’ wines. The proven performance of certain blocks, the best handling of the varieties and the elevage of each of the wines needs only minor adjustments in years such as 2013, 2014 and 2015 to achieve the level of quality aspired for. Stylistically, much of our appreciation is based on personal preferences. Matt states that the "2015 wines are more reserved than the preceding 2014s. There is a lovely tension between fruit and tannin across all of the red wines”. Matt says that the 2015s represent "the heightened maturity of our vineyards and maturing approach in the cellars”.
Here are my reviews of the Craggy Range 2015 ‘Prestige Collection’ wines. To me, the wines do not quite have the opulence of the 2014s, or the nervosity and brilliance of the 2013s, but they are certainly in the same quality league. The Gimblett Gravels wines possess a little more elegance, but the Martinborough Pinot Noir is very serious. On the surface, they appear to be able to be enjoyed earlier than the wines of the other two years, but this is deceptive, as they have considerable extract and depth, and will keep as well or nearly as well as the wines from 2014 and 2013. Those lucky enough to acquire wines from all three vintages will have a great deal of enjoyment comparing them over the coming years. www.craggyrange.com
FEATURED WINES IN THIS REVIEW
Craggy Range ‘Aroha’ Te Muna Martinborough Pinot Noir 2015Pinot Noir from New Zealand - Wairarapa & WellingtonReview Date : 22-Jun-2017Very dark, deep-hearted black-hued ruby-red colour, a little lighter on the rim. The nose is full and voluminous with evenly packed aromas of dark-red and black cherry and berry fruit complexed by fragrant dark-red and violet florals melded with whole bunch stalk perfumes. This is seamlessly integrated and very harmonious in expression, with increasing depth, unfolding layers of detail in the glass. Medium-full bodied, the palate has rich and vibrant, lusciously sweet and ripe fruit flavours of dark-red cherry and berry fruit layered with complexing notes of savoury whole bunch stalk perfumes, dark and dried herbs, intermixed with dark-red and violet florals. The fruit richness is supported by considerable fine-grained tannin extraction, and the wine flows along a velvety textured line with fresh acidity lending tension and drive. The flavours carry to a very long, sweet and lusciously rich, complex-nuanced finish. This is a sweet, vibrant, lusciously rich, dark-red berry and cherry fruited Pinot Noir with complex layers of whole bunch, herb and floral notes on a velvety palate of great depth. Match with wild duck and pork, and Asian cuisine over the next7-9 years. Hand-picked fruit, packed in small crates and cooled down to 5°C for transport to Hawkes’s Bay for vinification. 45% clone 667, 30% Abel and 25$ clone 114, from the mid-slope Blocks 9, 10 and 16, the Abel from Block 19 outside this area, indigenous yeast fermented with 50% whole clusters to 13.5% alc., the wine spending 15-25 days on skins and aged 9 months in 30% new French oak barriques. 19.5/20 Jun 2017 RRP $135.00
Craggy Range ‘Sophia’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Merlot/Cabernet 2015Blended Red from New Zealand - Hawke's BayReview Date : 22-Jun-2017Very dark, near impenetrable black-hued purple-red colour, a little lighter on the edge, and very youthful in appearance. The nose is intensely concentrated and tightly bound with elegantly penetrating aromas of dark redcurrant, blackcurrant and plum fruit entwined with spiced and cedary and pencilly oak, along with subtle layers of fresh dark herbs, minerals and a suggestion of iron-earth. Medium-full bodied, the palate is beautifully proportioned with rich, succulent fruit flavours of blackberries, black and red currants with dark-red plums. The fruit unfolds spice notes with cedary and pencilly oak, along with notes of herbs and minerals. The fruit is vibrant with plenty of acid energy, and along with the richness forms an elegantly concentrated heart, with balanced tannin structure and grip. The textures carry the wine to a densely packed, long and sustained finish of black fruits, herbs, spices and cedary oak. This is a vibrant, elegantly proportioned, succulently rich Merlot-based wine with black fruits, herbs and oak on a well-structured and packed palate. Match with roast lamb, beef and venison, and semi-hard cheeses over the next 10+ years. A blend of 73% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon and 13% Cabernet Franc, the fruit hand-picked and fermented to 14.0% alc., with pump overs, the wine spending approx. 5 weeks on skins and aged 19 months in 45% new French oak barriques. 19.0+/20 Jun 2017 RRP $105.00
Craggy Range ‘Le Sol’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2015Syrah from New Zealand - Hawke's BayReview Date : 22-Sep-2017Full, black-red colour, near saturated with youthful purple hues. The nose is full, deep and densely packed with concentrated layers of ripe blackberry fruit and subtle nuances of dark raspberries, unfolding violet florals with liquorice, black plums, spices and iron-earth elements. This is a powerhouse of a wine. Full-bodied, the palate has deep and densely concentrated flavours of blackberry fruit with black plums, dark raspberries, and notes of liquorice, spices and iron-earth minerals. The flavours are mouthfilling with great breadth, and the fruit is supported by considerable extract and structure, the tannins very fine-grained and powdery. The acidity is integrated and balanced, and the flavours carry to a fulsome, long and sustained, powerful finish of black fruits and spices. This is a 10-15 year wine. 100% MS Heritage clone, selected from Blocks 8-14, hand-picked and fully destemmed, and fermented to 13.7% alc., the wine spending 18-28 days on skins and aged 17 months in 30% new French oak barriques. 19.5/20 Sep 2017 RRP $135.00 Very dark, saturated black-hued purple-red colour, a little lighter on the rim, and very youthful in appearance. The nose is softly concentrated with densely packed and deep aromas of ripe blackberry fruit and black plums entwined with liquorice and Asian spices, unfolding violet florals and notes of iron-earth minerals, and layers of cedary oak. Medium-full bodied, the palate is rich and lusciously fruited with deeply concentrated flavours of ripe blackberries and dark raspberries, black plums, and subtle notes of liquorice and a fine layer of Asian spices intermingling with violet florals. The oaking is beautifully balanced and integrated, with the palate showing iron-earth and mineral complexities. The fruit is supported by very fine-grained tannin structure providing considerable grip and texture, which carries the rich fruit to a long, dry, fine-textured, exotic-fruited finish of spices, florals and minerals. This is a deeply concentrated, elegantly rich Syrah with considerable fine-grained tannin structure and gip with layers of exotic fruit, spices, florals and oak. Match with roasted and slow-cooked game meat and casseroles over the next 8-10+ years. 100% MS Heritage clone, selected from Blocks 8-14, hand-picked and fully destemmed, and fermented to 13.7% alc., the wine spending 18-28 days on skins and aged 17 months in 30% new French oak barriques. 19.5/20 Jun 2017 RRP $135.00