When thinking about New Zealand wine, one typically thinks of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. My mind immediately goes to the grassy and grapefruit aromas of the Sauvignon Blanc and the minerally character of the wine. Such was the case when I had the privilege of meeting Winemaker Natalie Christensen and tasting Yealands Wines over lunch at Crustacean in Beverly Hills. I was highly impressed with the quality and elegance Yealands produces, especially their Sauvignon Blancs.
My first encounter with Yealands was in 2014. At the time, Peter Yealands owned the winery, and I noted that he was a man one might say is one with the land as he encouraged harmony with nature. His endeavors always have included the terrain and its relationship to flora and fauna. In New Zealand, his name to fame was the creation of farming Greenshell mussels. He made this one of the top exports from New Zealand. Later he established deer farms before creating the winery.
Although Peter has retired, his legacy lives on in the winery, vineyards, and wine, especially in sustainability and utilization of green practices. Sustainability is of utmost importance as the winery was the first to be awarded the Toitū CarboNZero certification. In addition, they are accredited by the Sustainable winegrowers New Zealand programme.
Winemaker Natalie Christensen
Natalie Christensen’s background is quite diverse and colorful, like the outfit she wore when we met her. Music was her love growing up. She obtained a Bachelor of Music and is classically trained as a double bass player. She wanted to compose music. Natalie also has a Master of Science degree and a graduate diploma in Oenology from the Eastern Institute of Technology in Hawke’s Bay. In 2018 she was named the World’s Most Influential Women in Wine by Drinks Business. She is a woman of many talents.
The wine bug hit when she grew bored with one of her jobs and worked a harvest at her brother’s suggestion. She started her winemaking career in 2006 as an Assistant Winemaker. She moved up the ladder to winemaker at Matahiwi Estate in the Wairarapa. Shortly after, an opportunity availed itself to work in Spain with the Jorge Ordonez Group on their Albarino project.
Natalie joined the Yealands team in 2015. She became chief winemaker in 2018. Her love of music and wine goes hand in hand and reflects in the elegant nuances of the variety she works with, especially her love of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
Some of the winery’s sustainable aspects include using solar and wind turbines for the power generated at the winery. A herd of Babydoll miniature sheep acting as weeders and mowers to assist in pest control are seen strolling in the vineyards. The compost used in the vineyards is a little different than most. In addition to recycling the grape skins, seeds, stalks, and pruning remains, it combines unprocessed lime, seaweed, and bark. The vineyard has twenty-five hectares of wetlands designed to capture water run-off from the vineyard but also act as a natural habitat for birds and wildlife, which in turn assist with weeding and mowing the vineyard.
In addition to utilizing green practices and reducing its carbon footprint, the winery incorporates a holistic approach to winemaking. To this extent, one will fine classical music played throughout the vineyard and winery, bringing another type of harmony that balances man, land, and nature together.
Located in the Awatere Valley region of Marlborough, Seaview Vineyard, the largest privately owned vineyard in New Zealand, is a rugged yet scenic pastoral paradise. The vineyard consists of 1200 hectares with 1000 planted in vine and stretches from the foothills of the Kaikoura Ranges to the undulating downs overlooking Cook Strait. The location is cooler and dryer, and the climate is coastal, wild, and windy. The ocean breezes and proximity to the sea bring in the saline mineral qualities to the wine.
Think Boldly and Tread Lightly
On the Estate Single Block Sauvignon Blanc bottle, it states, “Think boldly, tread lightly.” I think this best describes the cool climate Sauvignon Blanc from Yealands. They are bold yet elegant. This elegance is what makes the wines tread lightly.
Rosé of Sauvignon Blanc – Pink Sauvignon Blanc?
What’s up with Pink Sauvignon Blanc? It smells like Sauvignon Blanc, but the color throws you. Some call it the weirdo wine, but it grows on you. This wine came into being when a UK customer requested a Rosé.
Yealands Sauvignon Blanc Rosé: A simple whiff of the wine, you know it is Sauvignon Blanc with grassy, herbaceous grapefruit notes. But the color comes from the 2% Merlot that is added, which makes the wine creamier and more rounded.
New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
I sample three distinct Sauvignon Blancs.
Yealands Sauvignon Blanc: The grapes come from selected parcels in the Awatere and Wairau Valleys. The combination of the two vineyards brings forth the herbaceous minerally notes of Awatere, while the bright citrus notes of the Wairau Valley make the wine fresh with nice acidity and minerality.
Yealands Estate Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc: The fruit comes from coastal blocks of the Seaview Vineyard in the Awatere Valley. The wine is rich and deep for Sauvignon Blanc and represents the highest graded fruit. It is a true expression of terroir with its salinity and minerality. The wine is a perfect example of what I call bold yet elegant, with notes of savory herbs, minerals, and crushed oyster shells.
Yealands Estate Single Block S1 Sauvignon Blanc: The wine is another example of the bold elegance from Yealands. This Sauvignon Blanc won the Best Sauvignon Blanc in the world in 2021 at the International Wine Challenge in London. This single block is located on a warmer site in the Seaview Vineyard. Find layers of Tropical and stone fruit juxtaposed with more limey flinty flavors.
Yealands Pinot Noir
The Yealands Estate Single Vineyard Pinot Noir is bigger with a soft and dusty expression of savory notes. The wine displays flavors of ripe fruit, mostly cherry. The wine ages in a mixture of French oak barrels with 20% new oak for nine months.
The vision of both Yealands wines and winemaker Natalie Christensen comes through in these cool climate wines, especially in the bold elegance of their New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
Striving to achieve the best quality yet preserve our environment through breaking-edge sustainable techniques further expresses Yealands Wines terroir and their contribution to the New Zealand wine scene.
Note: Common to the wine industry, this writer attended a hosted wine-tasting luncheon with Yealands. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure.