Isabel Estate | Marlborough
Nestled in the heart of the Wairau Valley, Isabel Estate is one of Marlborough's oldest wine estates. It was founded by Michael and Robyn Tiller in 1982, and is named after Michael's mother Isabel, who was responsible for convincing Michael to abandon his career as a pilot so he could pursue his passion for wine.
That said, it was actually his pilot career that was instrumental in the creation of Isabel Estate. He first noticed the land while on his regular flight path into Blenheim airport, because it was the only patch of land that didn't suffer from frost, even on the coldest mornings. Consequently, he and Robyn planted vines there throughout the 1980s, initially selling the grapes to local wineries - including Cloudy Bay - but they eventually launched their own wine label in 1994.
Since 2014, the estate has been under the ownership of Australian drinks company, Pinnacle, who have focused heavily on investment in the vineyards and winery. Ex-Villa Maria winemaker Jeremy McKenzie is now in charge of the wines and is dedicated to ensuring the high quality that is synonymous with this estate is maintained.
The vines - some of the oldest in Marlborough - are a mixture of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Riesling. The vineyards benefit from a cool growing season, and long sunny autumns, which help to develop the grapes' flavours and aromas.
From the outset, Isabel set a new trend among Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc producers – a style now being adopted elsewhere. Twenty percent of the hand harvested fruit is fermented in small, French oak barrels to give a subtle, creamy weave to the palate.