During our recent visit to New Zealand, we stopped by the beautiful tasting room of Saint Clair Family Estate. Set in the midst of rows of Marlborough grape vines, the tasting room and its Vineyard Kitchen offer views of the dramatic Richmond Range. We knew we had a treat waiting for us. Winemaker Hamish Clark is the 2017 Winestate New Zealand Winemaker of the Year, and his Saint Clair wines are award-winning.
Saint Clair Family Estate Story
In 1978, Neal and Judy Ibbotson began planting grapes in Marlborough. By 1994, their quality wines generated awards. That year, all wines from the first vintage won medals, and their award-winning record continues today. According to the winery, Saint Clair Family Estate won more top awards for Sauvignon Blanc than any other New Zealand producer.
Senior winemaker Hamish Clark joined Saint Clair in 2001. We were very eager to meet him, but unfortunately a communications snafu with reps in the U.S. meant we didn’t have the opportunity. But thankfully our hostess Celeste organized a tasting of his wines for us instead.
Saint Clair produces Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Riesling, Viognier, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Merlot, Syrah and more. These wines are available in five ranges at varying price points. Here are our favorites of the wines that were poured for us.
Saint Clair Wairau Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2018
The International Wine Challenge in London recently awarded Saint Clair’s flagship wine Wairau Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2018 with the International Sauvignon Blanc trophy and the New Zealand trophy too. This is the style of Sauvignon Blanc that we prefer – crisp and refreshing, with flavors of grapefruit and stone fruit, plus salty minerality on the palate. This exceptional food wine is drinking well now and can be cellared for up to three years. We brought home this stellar wine to enjoy with seafood on our lakeside deck.
Saint Clair Omaka Reserve Chardonnay 2017
This elegant Chardonnay won the gold medal at the Sommelier Wine Awards 2018. Aromas of peach, spice and vanilla lead into a creamy yet silky palate, with flavors of peach, grapefruit and biscuit. According to Saint Clair, the wine will continue to evolve over the next 5-10 years with careful cellaring. Our hostess recommended pairing this with roast chicken. But we think it would also be delightful during crab season here next month. So we brought a bottle home with us.
Saint Clair Pioneer Block Twin Hills Pinot Noir 2017
Grapes are sourced from a vineyard nestled between two hills that line the sides of the Omaka Valley. The soil is compact and rich in clay, which the winery says is conducive to growing quality Pinot Noir. Aromas of boysenberries and plums, with a hint of vanilla and coffee, are followed by dark flavors of plums, red berries and spicy notes. Of note, this Pinot is approachable now, but can be cellared for five years or more. Pair it with rack of lamb, turkey or salmon.
Saint Clair Pioneer Block 17 Plateau Block Cabernet Merlot 2015
This lovely wine blends 78% Cabernet Sauvignon and 22% Merlot. The grapes are sourced from the Gimblett Gravels wine region of Hawkes Bay. A pretty nose of blackberries, dark chocolate and spice grabs attention. A silky, smooth texture features flavors of red and dark berries, with hints of licorice and spice. You could drink this wine immediately with lamb or grilled meats. Or you could put it down for up to eight years and enjoy the developing flavors.
We very much enjoyed Saint Clair’s wine, and appreciated the beautiful setting of the tasting room and vineyard kitchen. But if you aren’t planning a visit to New Zealand, you can still access many of these wines, which are available for purchase in the U.S. and Canada.
Margot and Dave