Posted on March 7th, 2010
The Craggy Range story begins with Terry Peabody and his family. Terry an American by birth who migrated to Australia and established a waste management company which was later to develop global reach as Transpacific Industries.
A key philosophy for the company was always sustainability. That is, treating waste as a resource rather than, well, any old rubblish. In particular, part of Peabody’s fortune was founded on a discovery or an invention where fly-ash from power stations could be used a a replacement for cement in ready-mixed concrete.
This focus on sustainability and a desire for a sustainable business for future generations lead him to wine. Of course, as the saying goes to make a small fortune making wine you need to start with a large one. In recent times, winemaking or to be more precise, vineyard ownership became a bit of a trophy for many of the world’s richest people. And why not, you pays your money you takes your choice.
With Terry Peabody and his family, this wasn’t quite the case. They could have snapped up a trophy Bordeaux chateau or a property in Napa. So while their fortune originated in waste management, their legacy to their children, grandchildren and future generations is wine. They are demonstrably in it for the long term, with their wine business held in a trust which can’t be sold on for 100 years after their death.
Why wine? Around the table, their love of wine centred around the classic French regions of Bordeaux and Burgundy which they wanted to emulate if not quite replicate.
This focus on finding a sustainable legacy is also reflected in the 10 years looking for the perfect place in which to grow the perfect wine. Their search for perfection led them to New Zealand and Steve Smith.
Terroir or place is only one part of the winemaking equation, you also need a skilled carer of the grapes.
This search led them to distinguished Kiwi viticulturist Steve Smith whose career has so far spanned academia, research, and of course growing the grapes. He’s also a Master of Wine (MW), one of only 300 or so people in the world to have achieved the highest academic achievement in the wine industry.
It doesn’t stop there. In 1996 he was listed by Decanter as one of the fifty most influential people in the wine world. He has worked with two of the leading South African producers, Rustenberg Estate and Hamilton Russell, known for their premium Bordeaux and Burgundy styles respectively.
With the Peabody-Smith partnership, what we have in 8 or 9 short Craggy Range vintages is wine of international repute. Awards include the highest ever collection of high scores for a New Zealand winery by Robert Parker Jr. and the only New Zealand winery in the Wines and Spirits Top 100 Wineries in 2005, the first time a New Zealand winery has been on this prestigious list.
In the second installment on Craggy Range, I’ll take a peak at the vineyards and the wines.