Craggy Range Winery
Craggy Range Winery
Species: American white oak
Architect: John Blair, Blair & Co, Queenstown, New Zealand
The iconic Craggy Range limestone scarp in New Zealand’s Hawke’s Bay casts its warm morning glow across the land below. And it is here in one of the most beautiful landscapes imaginable that the internationally significant Giant’s Winery rests comfortably within an eclectic assortment of buildings.
Australian businessman Terry Peabody and his family had searched for 10 years to find the right place to fulfil a dream – to make some of the world’s best wine. And everything came together when they encountered Steve Smith – a Kiwi who, to this day, is the world’s only specialist viticulturist also holding a Master of Wine.
Acting as a consultant, he bought the land in the Tukituki Valley where the winery and farmhouse-style complex of owners’ houses, cellar door, restaurant and other buildings now stand among vineyards.
“It was many months later before I actually met the Peabodys here,” he says, waving a large hand in the general direction of the picture postcard view through his office window. “And we spent the weekend talking about our respective ambitions.”
More than a decade on, and now a partner and director of the internationally successful enterprise known as Craggy Range Winery, Smith says the chance to build something spectacular and iconic in that beautiful setting was an important part of the attraction of being involved. “Not to mention starting a brand from scratch, and it being a greenfields operation. It was just a great opportunity.”
In developing the design brief with Queenstown architect John Blair, Smith wanted something that would also reflect the personality of the company’s yet-to-be-created brand.
“I had my thoughts on what the brand should look like from a packaging point of view, but we also had to link that with our personal ambitions. We certainly wanted a beautiful building. And it had to feel like it was a ‘New Zealand’ building – not replicated from some other place.
“Because we also wanted to use as much natural material as possible in the structure it needed a very real feel. It couldn’t feel old-fashioned; a call to the heritage of wine, perhaps, but a modern building,” he says with the insight of a man who almost became an architect instead of a pioneer in vineyard cultivation techniques.
The great chateaus of Bordeaux were a major inspiration. “They are the properties we love and we spent a lot of time studying their history. Without the vines and those buildings created over hundreds of years, Bordeaux would not be a particularly beautiful place.
“Many of those wonderful properties are based around the chateau, where the guests are hosted, and where the owners and staff often live. There is obviously a winery, a place to store barrels and places for equipment, etc. – all on a property surrounded by vineyards, like a small village.
“That was a very strong philosophical calling for us. We didn’t just want one big building – we wanted to feel like this was a small village where people worked, lived, entertained and hosted, and where wines were made and vines grown.”
The choice of natural materials for the Craggy Range ‘village’ includes an arresting external mix of natural limestone and copper-coloured ‘fired’ Hinuera stone (a volcanic ash/pumice), which also appear in the brand palette. A laminated pine lattice links the restaurant with the cellar door and administration building, and a mix of New Zealand beech and western red cedar stand sentinel at the main entrance.
But it was the choice of interior finishing materials that caused the greatest debate. “We thought we should use French oak where possible – mainly because of its very strong connection with wine, and we wanted to be very puritan,” says Smith.
“But Mary [Peabody, also a director] loved American oak and the more we looked at it, we realised it was a better choice for us. It has a strong history and connection to furniture-making and joinery, is easier to source and, in New Zealand at least, we felt the quality was better.”
Blair wanted a timber that would be stable and relatively hard in the context of the various intended uses. “American oak was selected in preference to English [European] species because it was more cost-efficient and exhibited a visual grain characteristic.”
As a result, virtually every interior surface that is ‘touched’ is American white oak, including all desks, chairs, the boardroom table, doors, fittings, reception, administration building wall linings, restaurant chairs and tables and the beautiful zinc-ended cellar door counter. “American oak has become a very important part of the overall Craggy Range image.”
Timber species in the highly rated Terrôir restaurant feature the soft shades of American white oak tables and chairs, juxtaposed by the powerful presence of recycled ironbark columns and beams brought across from the old Brisbane wharf, giving the interior an immediate sense of history.
Oak was also considered for the restaurant ceiling, but Smith was nervous about the building being too ‘formal’ for its provincial setting. “I wanted the local farmer to be able to drive up in his truck, take his boots off at the door and walk in. And I felt if we ran the oak theme right through it would be too formal.”
Instead, the sarking is grooved and rough-sawn marine pine ply, and the beams are laminated pine. “We had a big debate about using recycled Australian hardwood for the beams, but it didn’t feel right in the New Zealand context.”
In the winery and barrel halls all exposed timber is treated and sealed and given two coats of matt polyurethane to lock in any bacterial contamination living in the wood that might taint the wine.
As in Bordeaux, a key part of the Craggy Range marketing strategy is entertaining guests and showing them where the product is made. “I love producing something from the land and having it represent itself in other places in the world,” says the man who likes to make wine with minimal intervention from the winery. He believes in an intensive hand management technique he calls ‘footprints in the vineyard’.
Select a species:
- American alder
- American ash
- American aspen
- American basswood
- American beech
- American yellow birch
- American cherry
- American cottonwood
- American elm
- American gum
- American hackberry
- American hickory & pecan
- American hard maple
- American soft maple
- American red oak
- American white oak
- American sycamore
- American tulipwood
- American walnut
- American willow