Tales of wine, people and travel

Fried chicken, hip hop and other inspirations from Matt Stafford

Matt Stafford is the chief winemaker at Craggy Range Vineyards in Hawke’s Bay and is popping down to New Zealand’s so-called windy city for a pop up dinner on Monday night 20 August at Egmont Street Eatery…


Matt makes five of New Zealand’s priciest wines – the Craggy Range Prestige Collection – so I asked him about what inspires him in wine and in life.


What wine, person or event got you hooked on winemaking?

Whilst finishing off my studies in soil science my lecturer Dr Peter Almond suggested I look at the concept of terroir within New Zealand Wine.  One of the first people I then corresponded was Steve Smith MW (founding director of Craggy Range) and it was immediate – I could see the passion one can have for a piece of land and the quest that should be taken to capture its unique qualities within a bottle of wine.


What’s your favourite part of each day?

Opening bottles or tasting barrels to see how wines evolve and what stories emerge.


What’s your pet wine peeve?

People treasuring wines too much.  There are so many interesting bottles tucked away by people starting out on their wine journeys that just need drinking.


What’s your top piece of advice to all wine lovers?

Quality over quantity.


How do you like to unwind after vintage each year?

Running around Hawke’s Bay and spending time watching and playing sport with the family.


Your favourite drink is…



Your favourite food and music with your fave drink is…

Fried chicken and mid-90s hip hop.


What’s your most memorable wine experience ever and where was it?

An afternoon spent tasting with Jacques Lardiere at Louis Jadot last year is still making my head spin –  40+ years of experience in trying to explore the same vineyards and capture their beauty and reason for being.


If you could make wine anywhere in the world, what would it be?

It would be a dream to work with fruit from the Musigny vineyard in Burgundy.


If you had to choose your last ever glass of wine, what would it be?

Hopefully something a grandchild has crafted.


Craggy Range pops up restaurant has a special VIP night on Monday 20 August for a tasting of the 2016 Prestige Collection wines followed by a four course dinner by Terroir restaurant chef Casey McDonald.

Book here: or here:

Taupo Expo hits the spot…

You know what they say about overnight success stories?

Kirsten Searle is a new visionary on the Gisborne wine scene as co owner and co founder of the second incarnation of Matawhero Wines

Behind every single one of them, there are two decades of hard graft as someone works hard to turn their dreams into reality. And Kirsten Searle of Matawhero Wines (pictured above) is an outstanding example.

As is this year’s Merchant of Taupo Scenic Cellars 15th Annual Wine, Craft Beer & Food Expo.

There were about 500 people at this year’s event, which was held last Wednesday in downtown Taupo.

It was a great night. And there was an outstanding range of wine, beer, food and spirits, including the exceptionally good Lighthouse Gin from the Wairarapa.

The annual event attracted 30 producers this year. These included all of our favourites from Astrolabe to Whitehaven, with Bach Brewing, Clearview Estate Winery, Coal Pit Wines, EuroVintage, Mills Reef, Moa, Moet Hennessey, Sapori d’Italia, Thomson Whisky and Tickety Boo, to name but a few of the top notch industry stalwarts who made the event such a great success.

The man at the helm of the Merchant of Taupo is Dale Henderson, who is thrilled to see the annual expo go from strength to strength – and is on a constant quest to refine it each year, which ensures that visitor numbers grow and the quality is constantly growing.

This year there was more food on offer from healthy salmon and rocket salad to deliciously tasty Over the Moon Dairy Company cheeses, which began in 2007 and have grown to become one of the North Island’s best quality cheese producers today, based in Putaruru. There were tasty chicken nibbles and sweet treats. And there was no shortage of interesting wines to match with them, including Lallier Champagnes and Kopke Port – two brands that we bring in directly, ensuring massive value for money when it comes to high quality at a modest price.

It was great to taste Whitehaven Wines from Marlborough, which supplied a wide range including the fresh two year old 2016 Whitehaven Marlborough Riesling (one of this country’s best kept delicious wine secrets) to the four year old 2014 Whitehaven Pinot Noir – drinking superbly now.

One of the freshest wines of the night was the brand spanking new 2018 Craggy Range Martinborough Sauvignon Blanc, a zesty little number which had been in the bottle for a brief two weeks at the time of tasting. It was drinking well too, given its youthful stage in life.

These and other wines, beers, spirits and food were the tip of an extremely successful wine expo, which had a fun, friendly vibe and clearly a strong following from Taupo locals.

It’s been 15 years in the making.

Let’s raise a glass to the next 15 – and wish Dale and the Taupo team continued success.

Craggy Range pops up (down) to Wellington

Craggy Range chef Casey McDonald pops down to cook for three nights next week at Egmont Street Eatery as part of Wellington on a Plate…

Craggy Range has news and it’s all good for Wellington fans of the Hawke’s Bay winery, which will pop up in the capital next week for three nights  from Saturday 18 August to Monday 20 August.

The reason for the pop up restaurant is two fold.

Terroir Restaurant at the winery is currently closed for renovations, so the restaurant is coming our way instead. And the Craggy Range pop up is part of this year’s Wellington on a Plate.

Local Hawke’s Bay flavour is the order of the day at the pop up eatery. Food will be prepared by Terroir restaurant’s chef Casey McDonald, who plans to bring produce from the Bay.

The Craggy Range pop up restaurant operates on Saturday 18 August and Sunday 19 August at Egmont Street Eatery. There is a special VIP night on Monday 20 August for a vintage release of the 2016 Prestige Collection wines.

The tasting will be followed by a four course dinner prepared by Terroir restaurant chef Casey McDonald.

Find out more here: or here:

  • Read more about the Craggy Range Prestige Collection wines from 2016 on this blog. Watch this space.
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