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Young rising star back home in New Zealand

Tamra Washington at just 31 years old has received many accolades, worked in Europe and the US to further her ambition, and recently returned home to New Zealand to be winemaker at Yealands Estate

Tamra Washington Yealands Estate, New Zealand

Winemaker Tamra Washington at just 31 years old has received many accolades and recently returned home to work in New Zealand after traveling across Europe and America to further her ambition – to make world class sustainable wines.

Tamra has been winemaker for the multi-million dollar Yealands Estate for two years now, since 2008, and takes pride in the estate's committment to sustainability. "Yealands employs innovative eco friendly methods wherever possible", she says, "ultimately proving that caring for the environment can go hand in hand with profitable business."

Growing up in 1980s and 90s Marlborough, Tamra was always destined to work in the wine industry.  She saw the wine industry's flourishing start, and spent her school holidays working in vineyards and winery restaurants. In 1999, Tamra graduated with a Bachelor of Viticulture and Oenology from Lincoln University, in Canterbury NZ. 

As the best performing student, she started her working career at Seresin Estate, Marlborough, working in the laboratory for the vintage and post vintage period. Over the next few years, Tamra worked throughout New Zealand, Australia and US.  In 2002, while working in Margaret River, Australia, Tamra made contact with Brian Fletcher, the chief winemaker for Casa Vinicola Calatrasi based in Sancipirello, Sicily. Tamra accepted the job as winemaker for vintage 2002 and enjoyed the experience so much that she accepted a contract position when Brian left the company, as head winemaker for the group based in Sicily.

"I also had other wineries to oversee," she says, "in Puglia - and Tunisia of all places!" Tamra based herself in Sicily with Calatrasi for almost four years and traveled regularly between the three sites, and also within major European countries as her role included more and more work pushing the Italian brands within the marketplace.

Many accolades were bestowed on the company under Tamra's direction, one of the most memorable being Best White Wine of the Show for Price and Quality at the International Wine and Spirit competition in London. After Sicily, Tamra re-acquainted herself with new world wine varieties and techniques (and her own culture!) when she completed vintages for both Evans and Tate in Australia and Kim Crawford in NZ in 2006.

However, Italy was still very much in her veins, and she accepted a role as flying winemaker with Waverley TBS for 2006/07– a  major UK wine importer/ distributor - to oversee the major production of Soave, Pinot Grigio and Valpolicella, from the northern Veneto region of Italy for the Sainsbury Supermaket group.

Eventually Tamra was lured back to Marlborough by the opportunity to work as winemaker for Yealands Estate. It was "the green and sustainable principles of Peter Yealands, combined with the super premium cool climate fruit from the Awatere Valley, and the unique challenge of being involved in the set up of a winery and whole wine brand from scratch" she says, that ensured her total focus to make world class sustainable wines.

Throughout her career Tamra has won a vast range of awards; in Yealands Estate’s first vintage alone, it won more than 100 awards across the vineyard and the range of wines.  Most recently, the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc has won ‘top in category white wine’ at the Expovinis Brazil 2010 and Gold medals at both the Royal Easter Show 2010 and New Zealand International Wine Show. 

Founded in 2008, Yealands Estate is New Zealand’s largest privately-owned vineyard and leading carbon-neutral winery.  Both the winery and vineyard were both built from the ground up utilising the leading advancements in green technology. 

The vineyard was established by maverick entrepreneur Peter Yealands and uses a range of quirky and unconventional ideas in the ongoing quest to improving the sustainability credentials of the vineyard.  His latest initiative has seen a small flock of Australian Babydoll sheep (pictured) grazing between the vines, to reduce the vines – and emissions – around the vineyard. 

More traditional sustainability initiatives include stormwater collection swales that harvest water to irrigate the grapevines. Inside the winery, temperature monitoring probes, state of the art energy management software and advanced heat recovery technology ensure maximum energy efficiency throughout the building.

 Not satisfied with merely saving energy, Yealands Estate (pictured) is generating its own with wind turbines and two 22kw solar panels that assist in providing the winery’s hot water requirements. Even the winery building is positioned so as to minimise the distance trucks travel at harvest to get the grapes to the winery.



1 September 2010