My first Hawke’s Bay wine and dine experience was at the Craggy Range Winery’s Giants Winery Complex, a tantalizing preview of my amazing foodie experience in New Zealand. From breathtaking views to fine wine and sumptuous local food, Craggy Ranch Winery on the Giants Winery Complex was a memorable tour and progressive dinner!
Let’s start with the view. Situated at the base of the steep slope of Te Mata Peak with Craggy Range to the southeast, the views are, well, sweeping of the warm-sun filled valley, which before the dreamers of Craggy Range Winery came along, was considered useless wasteland. Not fit for orchards, sheep or market gardens and destined to be a quarry until Craggy Ranch founder Terry Peabody and Steve Smith, Master of Wine, noticed several terroris – French term used to describe the inherent characters of soil, climate and culture — and what they felt was perfectly created for vines. Thus began the Craggy Range wineries concept of providing single vineyard vintages. That means no mixing of wines and vineyards.
If you’ve been to New Zealand, you know that the local Maori people’s legends are as powerful as any, and the legend of Te Mata – The Fallen Giant – inspired the Craggy Range vineyard’s Giants Winery Complex name. Here in the Gimblett Gravels Winegrowing district, the Craggy Range Winery grows Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah.
My visit was during a chilled rainy evening, so we began our progressive experience in the heart of the Giants Winery complex in the Craggy Range Cellar Door. My first Craggy Ranch wine tasting began with a fresh, crisp, slightly fruity Sauvignon Blanc, Avery Vineyard in Marlborough from their South Island vineyard. This was my favorite New Zealand wine of the entire trip, and I wish I’d have tucked a few in my check-in bag!
We then moved to the Sophia Barrel Room, a cool, lower level oversized room surrounded by wine barrels and the perfect place for private events. This is where I had my first taste of Carpaccio Wagyu beef, courtesy of First Light Foods, specialists in Venison and Grass fed Wagyu. Wagyu literally means “Japan Beef” and is a delicacy, slightly richer tasting than regular beef, almost bison-like.
Our finale was a short walk to Craggy Range’s world class restaurant Terrôir for vineyard cuisine inspired by the region’s land and sea. Terrôir specializes in wood fired and rotisserie cooking. Here the roast chicken is spit-turned in front of you on a roaring wood fire, and the grilled figs were picked one hour before, all paired with perfectly matched single vineyard wines of Craggy Range.
Of course, a starter would have to include Craggy range extra virgin olive oil complementing a Terrôir bread selection and wood roasted garlic.
It’s here that I sampled my first taste of Venison, a Terrôir signature dish; roasted ‘Firstlight’ venison loin, pickled cabbage, pancetta, potato, horseradish, paired with the 2009 Sophia Bordeaux blend. I was extremely impressed! The venison was not gamy at all, very good.
Somehow I managed to dive into the dessert too: Ginger bread, lemon thyme semi freddo, rhubarb confit, but I passed on dessert wine, preferring to return to my new favorite Craggy Range wine, the Sauvignon Blanc, Avery Vineyard, Marlborough.
A visit to Craggy Range’s Giants Winery south of Napier is another must-do when visiting Hawke’s Bay, and a perfect beginning to your New Zealand food and wine experience. And if you want to make it a complete experience, you can also stay, wine and dine by booking accommodations at one of the two Craggy Range Cottages.
The Giants Complex, a Craggy Range Winery
253 Waimarama Road, Havelock North
Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Blog & Photos © Diana Rowe