The glass of wine was in London, the night big and the company good. Kim and Erica Crawford and David Gleave MW pondered wine styles of the world with youthful self-righteousness and decided the world needed a clean, top quality, fruit driven Chardonnay devoid of the heavy oak used at the time. The two babies who arrived shortly after propelled Kim and Erica to realise the notion and Kim Crawford Wines was established in 1996. Four thousand cases of wine were produced.
The fledgling company was one of New Zealand's first virtual wineries, grapes were sourced from growers, the wine was made at other wineries and sales, marketing and admin managed from their central Auckland home. They had no name to call it by, no vineyards, roads or peaks, so they simply called it Kim Crawford Wines. Sauvignon Blanc, Unoaked Chardonnay, Tietjen Gisborne Chardonnay and Semillon, with Riesling added to the portfolio the following year.
The first shipment was sent to the UK, but David Gleave had left the company he was with and the Crawfords were stuck with half the production in Auckland. They approached Joe Jakecevich at Hancocks in Auckland, the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship for both parties was born.In 1998 the company started exporting small amounts to the US, Canada and Australia. Rebekah Andrae joined the company to manage admin one day a week, she is still there today as a vital and key staff member
The Kim Crawford label now needed a face, a place to visit and to taste wine, something which could not be done at an inner city home filled with toddler's toys. In 1999, the Crawfords were able to build a beautiful tasting room and cellar door facility at the coastal settlement of Te Awanga in Hawke's Bay. They did this with the help of a group of prominent Hawke's Bay grape growers headed by Jim Scotland.
In the beginning of 2000, a state of the art winery was opened in Marlborough. The winery has enabled Kim to pick grapes at optimum ripeness without restriction of processing facilities, contributing significantly to improved wine quality. About the same time, the Crawfords bought vineyard land to secure grape supply as world-wide demand for Marlborough wines soared.
Along with serious winemaking and good wine, the intention to have fun, explore new boundaries and stay in touch with their wine consumers has always been of the utmost importance. There is a widely held belief at this winery that a happy working environment is transferred to the bottle ... you can almost taste it! One industry observer comments "They are a formidable pair, Kim's skill is inside the bottle in the wine, Erica's is on the outside in brand image and marketing"
"The modern wine industry's emphasis on technology has undoubtedly brought great benefits. However, winemaking is just as much an art as a science and a wine can certainly benefit if the winemaker's personality is present and discernable in the final product. There really is no reason why New World wines should suffer from uniformity"
The Kim Crawford label is now well-recognised in some of the world's most sophisticated markets. In some senses, Kim has travelled a long way from his rural boyhood. But pulling on his boots and tramping round the vineyard is still central to his role. And he cherishes the days he gets to spend with his own children on the family farm in the green Waikato.