Given the amount of time we spend in the wineries of Marlborough, we thought we should share some of our insider knowledge with everyone out there and highlight these wonderful businesses and venues. Perhaps you live locally and have been meaning to visit the cellar doors for years? Or perhaps you live further afield and have long wanted to discover more about where your favourite wines are made? We can assure you, there is a wonderful world of wine knowledge, characters and stunning settings waiting to be explored.
This week we’re focusing on another of Marlborough’s longstanding family owned wine success stories – Saint Clair Family Estate. Owners of Saint Clair, Neal and Judy Ibbotson, were among the early grape growers in Marlborough, first planning their vines in 1978. In 1994 they first made their own wine under the Saint Clair label and their high quality wines have been winning accolades ever since. Awarded mostly for their Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, they also produce notable Pinot Gris, Viognier, Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Merlot, Malbec and Syrah. You will have seen their wines available under their ranges including Reserve, Pioneer Blocks, Premium and Vicar’s Choice.
Judy and Neal’s three children are also closely involved in the business with son Tony producing the designs for the labels since the early days as a student and now responsible for label, packaging and advertising design from his Sydney-based consultancy. Daughters Sarina and Julie both work at the winery in sales and marketing. The family ethos is continued at Saint Clair with a small team of long-serving winemakers, viticulturalists and vineyard managers who are also integral to the success of these beautiful wines.
In 2008, Bob Campbell, Master of Wine, wrote this about Saint Clair in the Air New Zealand in-flight magazine:
“Saint Clair now makes the country’s and perhaps the world’s best Sauvignon Blanc. Saint Clair has won more top awards for Sauvignon Blanc in recent years than any of the three or four hundred other local producers.”
Saint Clair is not only famous for its wine, but in New Zealand it is also famous for its annual autumn vineyard half marathon. Set against a beautiful Rapaura backdrop of post-harvest vines, the thousands of runners from around the country and overseas are greeted with musicians, seafood and even boutique chocolate treats as they near the finish line – at the Saint Clair cellar door!
The Saint Clair cellar door is situated in a recently renovated and very sophisticated building alongside the Saint Clair Vineyard Kitchen. A wide range of award- winning wines is available to try and the new wine preservation system has to be seen. The Vineyard Kitchen has the freshest of local produce and Marlborough delicacies on the menu. The day’s specials are handwritten up on the brown paper scroll on the wall, and little snippets of the company (and Ibbotson family) history are engraved into the tables and around the building – and it’s that hands-on, personal level of detail you find throughout the company.
If you want to spend a bit longer enjoying the food, wine and beautiful outdoor setting here, as well as Pātaka – a gourmet food store selling New Zealand artisan food and New Zealand gifts – just across the car park, talk to us about how we can fit this in to your winery tour, or we could even tailor a personalised wine tasting trip just for you.
We hope you take the time to discover this Marlborough jewel. We know you’ll love it.
Sounds Connection Pick
As someone with a soft spot for ‘bubbles’ Sarah couldn’t go past recommending Saint Clair’s méthode traditionnelle “Dawn”. This fantastic wine was named in honour of Dawn Ibbotson – the matriarch of Saint Clair (and owner Neal’s mother) who turned 100 years old in December 2014.
Sarah believes it is one of New Zealand’s finest sparkling wines, with delicious toasty and biscuity notes, and tasty hints of white peach on the nose and the palate. Perfect for any celebration.
Very limited release, so be quick to try, and buy!