New chief winemaker joins New Zealand’s Craggy Range

New Zealand winery Craggy Range has appointed a new chief winemaker as it embarks on its largest investment in more than a decade.

Craggy Range winery at the foot of Te Mata Peak (Te Mata o Rongokako)

Australian winemaker Julian Grounds is set to join the Hawke’s Bay-base winery next week, after relocating to New Zealand.

Grounds was previously chief winemaker at McHenry Hohnen in Margaret River, founded by the founder of Cloudy Bay, David Hohnen, and has worked in Central Otago, Oregon, Burgundy and Yarra Valley. He was also named Dux of the 2017 Len Evans Tutorial, one of Australia’s most prestigious wine industry accolades, and Dux of Viticulture and Oenology at Curtain University, where he won the Leeuwin/Talijancich award for future leadership.

Grounds takes over from Matt Stafford. who was at Craggy Range for 13 year, seven of them as chief winemaker, before announcing his departure in September to pursue other opportunities.

On announcing the appointment in late November, Craggy Range CEO Michael Wilding said it came at one of the most exciting periods for the winery since it was founded in the late 1990’s.

“We are not only achieving incredible success both here and abroad, but after a three year search, the Peabody Family are making their largest new vineyard investments in more than a decade. Julian will play a pivotal role in defining the plantings and trials as we embark on this journey, which will not only support our growth, but most importantly will push our quality and leadership in the ultra-premium NZ wine category further,” he said.

In June the company doubled the size of its estate after purchasing a neighbouring 132ha estate in Martinborough on the Te Muna Road, which had been farmed by the Donald Family for four generations.

Speaking at the time of the acquisition, Wilding said the company had experimented with vineyard sites all over the country during the past 15 years, but that the Martinborough region had “surpassed all other regions in our mind” for the style of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir they wanted to produce.

“This is a remarkable achievement given that Martinborough is only 1,017ha compared with Central Otago’s 1,896ha, Hawkes Bay’s 4,600ha and Marlborough’s 25,000ha. While it is a small region it is clearly punches well above its weight from a quality perspective,” he said.

Owner and chairman Terry Peabody said the large investment would help satisfy the strong demand for its wine internationally.

Craggy Range was established in 1997 and produces single vineyard wines from the Gimblett Gravels region in Hawke’s Bay and vineyards in Martinborough.

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