It is incredible how quickly Yealands Estate in the Awatere, Marlborough, has become a most significant player in the New Zealand wine industry. Peter Yealands is a tireless promoter of his creation and the environmental friendly and sustainability initiatives set up are indeed noble. The advantage of starting from scratch is that such important issues in today’s modern world can be accommodated if not embraced. And it seems Yealands has taken the second path, all the more remarkable taking into consideration the sheer size of the operation. However the difficulty about starting from new is that everything has to be designed, acquired, or put into place, without any foundation to be based on. The foresight and planning stages are crucial, but to carry out the work is the hard graft.
Tamra Washington has been the winemaker from the start, at a brand new winery with a clean slate – and not all the walls constructed or completed! Her and Yealands Estate’s first vintage, 2008 was a difficult one, with Marlborough experiencing the high yield issues that led to the ‘savalanche’. However, with each vintage since, the bar has been raised, and results surpassing the targets and criteria for quality. (Click here to read my reviews of the 2010 releases.)
On the way, she has equipped the winery, set up systems and formed a winemaking and production team to manage fruit from 820 ha of vines planted in 120 different parcels and handling a crush of 10,500 tonnes for Yealands plus an extra 4,000 tonnes for contact winemaking. A daunting task without an existing infrastructure. No doubt Tamra was selected for the position partly due to her experience in running a 15,000 tonne winery, and consulting at a 60,000 tonne winery in Italy. I believe when Yealands Estate is a little more established, Tamra’s story will be a fascinating one…
Tamra showed some samples of 2011 juice in tank and barrel. Textbook examples have been made. Lime-flavoured Riesling, and passionfruity Sauvignon Blanc are what Marlborough can produce consistently and Yealands has that. Of more interest is a very delicate, feminine Pinot Rosé in the works. Also in tank is Gruner Veltliner and Viognier, cutting edge stuff anywhere in the country. Supplementing the Marlborough Pinot Noir is a tiny parcel of Gibbston Central Otago Pinot Noir that Tamra has acquired through her contacts. And also tasted was some first crop Tempranillo! In addition to this new material, the viticultural team are beginning to identify blocks that are providing distinctly superior fruit. One such parcel is the ‘Donnelly’s Block’, the fruit from which has already been vinified and bottled separately under the ‘Single Vineyard’ tier.
Starting from new is difficult, but in a very short time, great progress has been made. It will be interesting and no doubt rewarding keep an eye on the developments at Yealands Estate.