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Michael Bancks at Terroir at Craggy Range Winery

by Emily Bell with photos by Antoinette Bruno
Vol. 13
May 2010   
  • Terroir at Craggy Range Winery
  • 253 Waimarama Road
  • Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
  • 64 (0) 6 873 7126
  • Sommelier Michael Bancks
  • Many sommeliers won’t ever get to see the wineries that stock their wine lists. But a lucky few, like Michael Bancks, not only get to see the wineries, they get to work on them. Bancks is in the enviable position of being sommelier at a winery restaurant, Terroir at Craggy Range Winery in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand. Not only is Bancks at a restaurant that emphasizes wine pairing—“Terroir Restaurant is a platform to showcase the wines of Craggy Range,” he says—but he’s in one of the most exciting New World wine destinations there is. New Zealand wines offer some of the highest quality product without the high price points of comparable wineries in France. And with rocky soil with excellent drainage that is also clay and mineral-rich, Craggy Range provides optimal growing conditions for its carefully selected vine stock to acquire all the subtle nuances of terroir. None of this is lost on Bancks, an Advanced Sommelier on his way to becoming a Master Sommelier later this year.

    When it comes to pairing, says Bancks, he and Chef Leyton Ashley consider everything from the get-go. And the Terroir pairing experience is comprehensive, each dish and pairing a stepping stone to the next. “An initial pairing will be chosen based on the flavor profile of the dish and wine together,” Bancks explains, “while at the same time looking to build on earlier courses’ wine matches to enhance the dining experience as a whole.” What makes the pairings so terroir-specific, says Bancks, is that at Craggy, “we only make single vineyard wines. None of our vineyards are blended together.” The end result is a wine that pours with real depth, varietals that speak not only of the sunlight, but the soil, expressing the grape, place, and time from year to year and bottle to bottle.
Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Vineyard Syrah 2004
Firstlight Venison Carpaccio, Walnut, Chioggia, and Juniper
Pairing Note
This pairing showcases two of New Zealand’s prized regional products at their lightest and most ethereally delicious: the venison of Firstlight Farm and the Syrah of Craggy Range. From their Gimblett Gravels vineyard, with 120 hectares of land acquired from a mining enterprise, Craggy Range produces a Syrah,called “Block 14”, that typifies the nuance of the varietal while also faithfully expressing the vintage. For instance, this particular Syrah has less pepper than normal and is slightly softer, the result of a cooler summer in Hawke’s Bay. The soft heat of the wine, with its delicate dark fruit, is well matched by the thin, cured slices of pepper-crusted venison, accompanied by walnuts, beets, juniper, watercress, and pomegranate. The earthy, peppery, nutty, sweet, and tart flavors of the accompaniments gently resonate with the Syrah, reinforcing the robustness of venison without interrupting its lightness as a carpaccio.
Craggy Range Old Renwick Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Grilled Scampi, Heirloom Tomato, Basil, and Native Smoke
Pairing Note
Chef Ashley’s scampi is sweet and smoky, resonating with the minerality and soft stone fruit of the Old Renwick Sauvignon Blanc. “With such a long and beautiful coastline,” says Bancks, “it is New Zealand’s abundance of seafood that excites me when it comes to pairing.” Growing in the rocky soils of an old riverbed, Bancks’ choice of a Craggy Winery’s 2009 Sauvignon Blanc has soft notes of hard-earned fruit balanced by minerality—the result of the vines struggling through the clay and rock. Creamy white peach and nectarine notes dance against a bright citrus acidity, and the whole sip catches the natural sweetness of the shrimp, which are smoked at the table under glass, and served with local organic heirloom tomato, fresh basil, and amber-sweet muscovado jelly. The wine is notably crisp, with grassy notes that lift the fresh basil and provide enough acidity to pair with the tomatoes, while also cutting through the richness of the creamy buffalo mozzarella. The impression of the pairing is both refreshing and lush at the same time.
Craggy Range Te Muna Road Vineyard Pinot Noir 2004
Seared Duck Breast, Confit Duck Leg, Foie Gras Boudin Blanc, Cabbage, and Baby Turnips
Pairing Note
This dish from Chef Ashley is a lesson in subtle richness. Duck breast is cooked sous vide, with just the slightest pan sear to finish, while the boudin blanc is a simple composition of chicken mousse, egg whites, cream, and brandy, with just enough foie gras whipped in at the end to impart its luxurious, delicately meaty richness. The midlly earthy ccompaniments of turnip puree, cabbage, and baby turnips add textural contrast and subtle grassy sweetness to the dish. Bancks wisely pairs this with a 2004 Te Muna Road Pinot Noir, with its slight earthy, barnyard must and gamey fruit. The Pinot gets its character from the vineyard, where “some very complex clay and mineral components play a big part in impacting on the wine style.” The resulting vintage has acquired enough structure and depth to stand up to the complexity of the dish without overpowering the subtle richness of the duck and boudin blanc.
Craggy Range Sluicings Vineyard Pinot Noir 2007
Rose Veal, Soubise, Crumbled Veal Sweetbreads, and Crab Apple Jelly
Pairing Note
A younger Pinot than the 2004 vintage, Sluicings Vineyard Pinot Noir has more lush fruit and cherry on the palate, making it a strong accompaniment to Chef Ashley’s veal soubise and sweetbreads. Named for the color of the meat, the rose veal is cooked sous vide to tender perfection, accompanied by crispy sweetbreads that have been dusted in flour and ground fennel seed and deep fried in soy bean oil. Tart, tangy crab apple jelly squares round out the dish, cutting through the sweet, meaty flavor profile of the veal and sweetbreads and echoing the deeper red fruit of the 2007 Pinot. Bancks chose this older, lighter Pinot because it works with the delicate nature of the veal, with layered floral notes of thyme that highlight the fennel in the sweetbread coating.
Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels 'Les Beaux Cailloux' 2005
Paua Raviolo, New Zealand Scampi, Kina Butter, and Citrus
Pairing Note
In Chef Ashley's ravioli, the dark package of squid ink ravioli reveals a creamy, citrusy interior, packed with the lush briny sweetness of sea urchin and local abalone, called paua. Bancks chose a wine closer to the style of Chablis, with Chardonnay grapes that are lightly oaked for three to four months in older barrels that are only 15% new wood. A brief time in the contact of such seasoned oak imparts a light but complex character to the Chardonnay, leaving a lovely acidity that cuts through the rich texture and flavor of the salty sweet kina—or sea egg, a Maori summer favorite—butter. The brief oaking also preserves classic lemon citrus notes that echo the salty morsels of paua and the lemon foam, while the softer body of the wine resonates with the lush filling of the pasta and the sweetness of the sea urchin.
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