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The single vineyard ‘Pioneer Block’ wines of Saint Clair require separate handling, the winery using 250 small tanks to manage this. The amount of detail for winemakers Matt Thomson and Hamish Clark and their team is considerable, but the result is a fascinating range of wines that express their origin and site. In essence Saint Clair is bottling ‘terroir’ for keen wine enthusiasts to ponder and enjoy. The quality per se of the ‘Pioneer Block’ wines has been extremely high as well, reflecting the identification of superior as well as individual vineyards by Saint Clair’s owner Neal Ibbotson.
Winery Team Takes Top Honour13 October 2008 It is the high quality team at Saint Clair Family Estate that landed the winery top honours at the Marlborough Chamber of Commerce's Business Excellence Awards, says the company director.
Neal Ibbotson said winning the supreme business excellence award was a "huge achievement" for the staff.
"We're just so fortunate that we have such great people working with us at Saint Clair," he said.
"It's our very good people that made the difference."
Mr Ibbotson and his wife Judy started Saint Clair in 1978, growing contract grapes for Montana muller thurgau cask wine. Sixteen years later the vineyard began producing wines under its own label, making three in its first year.
Saint Clair's first sauvignon blanc won a gold medal and ranked in Cuisine magazine's top 10 wines.
Those accolades gave the winery confidence to increase production and start exporting.
Saint Clair now has a range of 30 wines, which are enjoyed in New Zealand and in 55 countries around the world.
The company has also gone on to become one of New Zealand's most awarded wineries and it has produced the nation's most awarded wine, the Saint Clair Wairau Reserve Sauvignon Blanc.
The winery started out with what is now known as their Doctor's Creek vineyard on Blenheim's New Renwick Rd, and now has five vineyards in Marlborough.
The team of 15 permanent employees swells to between 35 and 40 during vintage, and Mr Ibbotson said he was proud of what his crew had achieved.
One staff member who was particularly special, he said, was production manager Liz Chapman, the couple's first employee, who has now been with the company for 23 years.
''She's contributed a huge amount to the Saint Clair brand,'' he said.
The couple's children Tony, Sarina and Julie all work for the company. Mr Ibbotson said family involvement was important.
''It's great to have the involvement of our children, but it's also equally great that they have done their own professional education and work in other areas before they became involved in the company.''
The judges' said the winery had a clear vision and demonstrated and practised excellence.
''The company has been able to grow in size whilst remaining focused on maintaining and improving the quality of their wines, which are recognised with top wine awards and served in some of the finest establishments around the world,'' the judges said.