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It’s a brave soul who would pit his wines against some of the world’s best — and challenge a roomful of wine writers to judge them all blind. But that’s just what Terry Peabody and Steve Smith — the owner and wine maker, respectively, of New Zealand’s Craggy Range Winery — did recently in New York. They wanted to prove that a boutique winery from Down Under could produce, in less than a decade, wines of such merit that they would measure up to the likes of a Peter Michael Sonoma Valley Chardonnay or a famous Bordeaux like Ch�teau Ang�lus. The venue was Per Se, the latest haute cuisine temple of French Laundry chef Thomas Keller. The opening round consisted of a couple of delicious young Craggy Range wines served as aperitifs (a 2003 Sauvignon Blanc and a 2002 Merlot). But then the real fun began, with the wines being served in three “flights”: first Chardonnays, then Merlots, and finishing up with Syrahs. The writers were told in advance the names of the wines being poured, but were not told which was being poured in which glass. I liked all the Craggy Range wines, red and white; but I liked some more than others. I thought the 2002 “Le Sol” Syrah was the best of a very fine lot, being stylish, plump, and juicy. Others preferred the elegant 2002 “Sophia” Hawkes Bay Merlot. Given that the first vintage at Craggy Range was 1999, the tasting was a ringing endorsement, both for the vineyards and the wine making. Were they the absolutely best wines of the day? No. These were, instead, the Domaine Leflaive’s 2001 Chevalier-Montrachet, a lovely, mineral-laden Chardonnay; the 2000 Ch�teau Ang�lus, plummy and smooth, beautiful on the palate, my favorite wine of the day; and a gem from the famous Rh�ne grower Chave, his 2000 Hermitage, which smelled of cooked, spiced plums and leather. But I can’t drink these very often — not at $175 to $350 a bottle. The Craggy Range wines top at $60 a bottle. Are they worth it? Well, consider who the judges were: some of the most finicky wine tasters in America. And the answer: an emphatic yes. FRENCH, AMERICAN, KIWI – 2003 Craggy Range Te Muna Road Sauvignon Blanc, $20 – 2002 Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Vineyard Merlot Hawkes Bay, $35 – 2003 Craggy Range “Les Beaux Cailloux” Chardonnay Hawkes Bay, $50 – 2002 Craggy Range “Sophia” Merlot/Cabernet Franc Hawkes Bay, $50 – 2002 Craggy Range “Le Sol” Syrah Hawkes Bay, $60 – 2001 Chevalier-Montrachet (Domaine Leflaive), $350 – 1998 Penfolds “Grange” South Australia Shiraz, $350 – 2000 Ch. Ang�lus (St. Emilion), $235 – 2000 Ch. Hosanna (Pomerol), $215 – 2000 Domaine J.L. Chave Hermitage, $175 – 2000 Kistler “Cuv�e Cathleen” Sonoma Chardonnay, $175 – 2001 Peter Michael “Mon Plaisir” Sonoma Chardonnay, $70 (For this case I’ve listed the Craggy Range wines we tasted, along with my favorites among the other contenders.)

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