I have been declining most wine invitations the past year for various reasons – life’s too short to do everything – but like the Gladstone visit a couple of months ago, the Yealands lunch with winemaker Tamra Washington at Wine Chambers in Auckland was one I was keen to accept.
I hadn’t met Tamra before but I have heard much about her, brought up in Marlborough, started her winemaking career there, then travelled the world spending much time in Italy before returning home to take on the role of Chief Winemaker at Yealands. I’m also familiar with some of the Yealands wines, particularly of late the Peter Yealands Sauvignon Blanc 2012 with its bright tangy fruity deliciousness and its gold medal magnetism.
More familiar to me is Yealands stunning location. I visited there in October 2009 when, as part of The Marlborough Wine Weekend, the Awatere Valley regional tasting was held in a marquee dramatically sited in a vineyard right on the cliff edge overlooking Clifford Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Then in March 2010, on the way to MG Car Club National Rally in Christchurch, I suggested to the wine pourer that we take a detour that way, especially as the new winery and cellar door was now open.
Yealands’ vineyards cover most of the land from State Highway One (SH1) right to the coast on the south side of the Awatere River. Look at the map pictured we drove north east along Seaview Road after turning off SH1 at Seddon (A), stopped at the winery cellar door (B) then continued south, now no longer on seal, through Reserve Road, Cable Station Road, Blind River Loop Road and Kapanu Road to rejoin SH1 (at C) after passing the salt works at Lake Grassmere. But for most people visiting the Yealands Estate winery, they’d leave State Highway One at Seddon and return the same way again. Which ever way you go, it is worth the effort.
At a trade fair in Auckland in 2009 I tasted the Yealands ‘Pete’s Shed’ 2008 Tempranillo. It was a light style from the first crop of young vines and I hoped I’d be able to taste Tempranillo from Yealands again some day. This was that day.
Yealands Estate Single Vineyard Tempranillo 2010 is a dark cherry red in the dim light room I was in. Ah – with its vibrant red and blue fruit aroma, hints of tar and an almost rustic savouriness it reminds me of a young Spanish wine, perhaps a Crianza without too much influence of oak. Creamy on first tasting with subtle smoky nuances, violet jam, this is a medium bodied wine yet it has mouthfilling richness with tobacco notes and woody herbs on the smooth, fine tannined finish.
The notes for this wine say it was aged in 2 and 3 year old French oak, so it’s not surprising the oak influence is minimal. Alcohol is 14% and it was bottled 19 months after harvest.
Interesting impressions from the people around me, one person likening it to a cross between pinot noir and syrah, another to pinot noir and cabernet. But if you drink young, lightly oaked, ripe fruited tempranillo or Rioja – you’ll find a lot of this in the Yealands. The future looks very promising.
Tamra explains this is planted on the warmest site on the Seaview part of the estate and is the best they have made so far, as the ripest. “The style of wine depends on the vintage,” she says.
The wine was skilfully matched to a seared duck breast, braised whitloof, hazelnut puree and whole baby carrots with truffle oil and air dried mandarin segments. The wine and food combination was inspired.
In addition some other wines were tasted including two Sauvignon Blancs from the 2012 vintage that showed distinctive site variation.
Yealands Block S1 Sauvignon Blanc 2012 is from a warmer site and today displayed tropical fruit, melon and grassy notes and while initially austere, as the Awatere wines can tend to be, the fruit expands to become quite luscious rich and mouthfilling on the fresh juicy finish. This was rather nice with a salmon confit served with a rocket pesto.
Yealands Block L5 Sauvignon Blanc 2012 is from an exposed coastal site where winds from the south and east prevail. Quite a restrained wine in every respect, but refined at the same time. It has fumé character that Sauvignon Blanc sometimes assumes naturally and while austere there’s a pineapple nuance and pea shoots on the lingering finish. A perfect match to a powerful tasting wood smoked salmon.
Yealands Single Vineyard Gewurztraminer 2011 accompanied a panna cotta and freeze dried pineapple dessert. I hadn’t had freeze dried pineapple before and this was amazing – but the sweet vanilla bean panna cotta and wine were better as separate entities. Aromatic and spicy – and definitely some pineapple tropical notes, it’s just off dry with a light viscosity to the texture and finishing with white pepper, jasmine and cardamom. Lovely wine.
Lastly a chance to taste Yealands Estate Gruner Veltliner 2012 that had been opened for some journalists prior to lunch. Now this is an interesting wine. The bouquet reminds me a little of tropical guava and there’s a subtle gunflint-like smokiness too. In the palate gooseberry and guava are reminiscent of Sauv Blanc but without the overpowering pungency, then a bright white pepper-like spiciness and light viscosity to the texture, finishing dry. I think this is terrific drinking as an aromatic white wine style so perhaps the cooler seasons suit this varietal in New Zealand. And with more and more foraying into this varietal, the future looks exciting.
Find more about these wines from the source: www.yealands.co.nz