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Looking Glass Revealed.


"I was working the streets of Manhattan seeing top restaurant buyers, selling Hogue Cellars and Erath Winery, and each account complained about their Cloudy Bay allocation. The market had gone crazy for this new style of Sauvignon Blanc and they couldn't keep it in stock," says Rich Hanen owner of Vintage New World, a wine marketing company in Seattle about Cloudy Bay mania. "When I got back to Seattle I called my friend, AI Portney, who has a rolodex stuffed with cards of people making wine all over the world. I asked him if he knew anyone in New Zealand with wine to market." That call in 1998 set the New Zealand invasion in motion.

"Two weeks later I'm on a plane to Auckland to visit Erica and Kim Crawford. I came back with a purchase order for the first two containers of Kim Crawford wines."

Erica Crawford says that Kim Crawford's wine entrance into the U.S market came with challenges. "We built the brand with one restaurant's trust at a time. We had to teach the trade about New Zealand--where it is, and that it was not part of Australia. We were the third New Zealand brand in the United States and we learned three important things: People loved the flavor profile and the zippy freshness of our Sauvignon Blanc. We had to challenge perceptions of fine wine in screw cap closures. And the popularity of the Lord of the Rings film helped us connect consumers to New Zealand."

The Kim Crawford brand, a phenomenon built over time, led to many changes for the Crawford family. Recalls Erica, "We had to work very hard in getting it started and had two small children. While one of us sold wine, the other stayed with our daughter and son. When Constellation purchased the brand, we had a one-year transition contract and I stayed on to gain knowledge in how to make wine at lower price points. I walked out 10 years ago."

Bound by a non-compete agreement, Kim and Erica went about planting vineyards and became growers, investigating how organic conversion worked in New Zealand. "We got to know our environment a little at a time. By 2012 we had finished a 100-acre planting and began converting to organic farming. In New Zealand, formal certification takes four years to achieve. Along with the vineyards, we started a compost-making facility and set aside land for cattle and sheep. They are keen on doing the mowing for us."

Recently the Crawfords took on a 25-acre vineyard parcel in Central Otago on New Zealand's South Island. Central Otago, the world's southernmost commercial wine growing region, devotes the majority of its acreage to Pinot Noir. Erica notes, "we are working to restore the soil health in that vineyard before we can convert it into certified organic land."

The future holds more adventures for this creative and resilient family business. Rory and Pia Crawford have grown into young adults, and Rory has set his eyes on working in the family business. He's interned in Margaret River in Western Australia as well as at a retail wine shop to familiarize himself with flavors and regions of wines from the other parts of the world. Erica says, "Rory needs to work for other people first. Kim and I both feel he needs perspective and experience to avoid getting locked into one way of thinking.

Erica eagerly talks about a new winemaking development for Loveblock wines. "We put up about a thousand cases of a naturally-made orange Sauvignon Blanc without added sulphites. We like the results that green tea powder brings as the anti-oxidant."

About the current market, Erica remains realistic. "We started over with a clean slate, made some great wines, and returned to a very crowded world. It's a completely different marketplace now and requires us to work harder than ever. But our truly authentic story about our very authentic venture energizes us. Our greatest joy comes from meeting all the warm, wonderful people in the business."
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Title Annotation:LOOKING GLASS
Author:Ryssdal, Lars
Publication:Art Culinaire
Geographic Code:8NEWZ
Date:Jun 22, 2019
Previous Article:Looking Glass: We send three wine professionals an unmarked bottle, they tell us what it is.

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