New winemaker at Craggy Range

Having moved up "through the ranks" as part of the Craggy Range winemaking team Matt Stafford has been appointed the widely acclaimed Havelock North vineyard's chief winemaker.

Mr Stafford, who joined Craggy Range in 2006 as an associate winemaker, will take the reins from Rod Easthope on June 1 and his first major focus will be preparing the winery for the challenge of the upcoming harvest.

Though Mr Easthope is set to step aside from the role he will continue with the winery - as a consultant to the winemaking team and will work closely with Mr Stafford as the new harvest is approached.

Mr Stafford will be responsible for Craggy Range's entire portfolio of its single-vineyard wines.

He said he was thrilled to take on the role.

"I have learnt a tremendous amount over the past six years working with Rod and [viticulture director]" he said.

"I have enormous respect for what has been achieved already and I am excited about continuing on the journey with such an amazing and talented group of people."

Craggy Range's owner, Terry Peabody, is equally enthusiastic about Mr Stafford's new role.

"We pride ourselves on hiring the best people in the wine industry and it is particularly rewarding to have someone like Matt come through the ranks with us and to now be leading our winemaking team," he said.

"The Craggy Range wines are building a legacy for future generations of my family and I have no doubt that Matt can build on the great work that's already been done."

Mr Smith had worked alongside Mr Stafford since he arrived and said he had an "amazing" work ethic and a great ability to get the best out of the winery.

"He is an incredibly gifted winemaker with a great palate and a total understanding of the wine styles of Craggy Range."

Mr Stafford graduated from Lincoln University with a BSc (Soil Science) and a Postgraduate Diploma in Viticulture and Oenology, and had worked closely with grapes sourced from the famed Gimblett Gravels and more recently with the company's vineyard on Te Muna Road in Martinborough.

Further afield he had worked harvests in France, Marlborough, Australia and California, and in 2007 was the inaugural recipient of Air New Zealand's Inspiring New Zealanders Scholarship which allowed him to work the 2008 vintage at the famed Chateau Valandraud property in Bordeaux.

It also provided extensive travel throughout the other great wine regions of France, spending time with the likes of Dominique Lafon, Philippe Guigal and Jean-Louis Chave. He also has extensive wine judging experience at prestigious wine shows in New Zealand and Australia.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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