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The lineup of wines at Spy Valley Wines in Marlborough, New Zealand

A New Zealand Legacy: Spy Valley with Amanda Johnson

montana rae new zealand podcast sauvignon blanc sustainable white wine winemaking Apr 12, 2022

Is there anyone out there who doesn’t want to visit New Zealand?! As our celebration of Sustainability in Wine continues, I invite you to join me for a virtual visit to the stunning land of Kiwis, a place synonymous with Sauvignon Blanc and beautiful scenery. New Zealand leads the wine industry when it comes to sustainability. Land and ecosystems are beloved in this society and their commitments are beautifully expressed through the wines they produce.

Back in 2019, I had the chance to visit New Zealand and spend some time in person with Amanda Johnson, owner of Spy Valley Wines in sunny Marlborough, and her wonderful team. Today, I’m thrilled to introduce you to Amanda as she joins me for this week's episode of The Wine Ship Podcast!

To get to the winery, I took a plane from the city of Auckland at the north tip of the North Island southbound to the city of Blenheim. It was dark by the time I arrived at the estate and I remember being struck by the intensity of the stars in the night sky. There’s something magical about arriving in a new place in the dark and waking up to a whole new world you’ve never seen before. When I woke, I stepped out of the guest house I was staying in and I found myself surrounded by rows of vines, a shockingly blue sky, and the state-of-the-art winery a couple of hundred yards away. This is a special place. Luckily, they created this amazing virtual tour so you can see what I saw!

Amanda’s family planted the 180 hectares of vines back in the 1990s in the Waihopai Valley. This is an area some didn’t believe was suitable for viticulture due to the dry, infertile conditions. Defying the odds, the family’s story began as growers and blossomed into a brand of their own which is now sold in 35 countries around the world and is still very much a family business.

When the family decided to create a brand of their own, it was Amanda who knew they had to name it after the Waihopai Station spy base that shares the valley with the winery and vines. During our podcast interview episode, Amanda shares some wonderful anecdotes about the spy base and how the proximity has woven its way into the Spy Valley story.

The Vines

Sauvignon Blanc reigns supreme in this part of the world but other aromatic white varieties like Riesling, Pinot Gris, and a bit of Pinot Noir are also grown with good success. Today, Spy Valley exports a total of seven different grape varieties to 35 markets around the globe.


A holistic approach to farming and winemaking is at the heart of Spy Valley. With children and grandchildren already adopting key roles at the winery, it’s easy to understand why this approach is so important to the family. As they put it, “When you work land as exceptional as this, you protect it. Here at Spy Valley, we know that our environment is one of the many secrets to our success. It has sustained generations, and it is our job to nurture it for many more.” 

All of the wines they produce are certified by the New Zealand Sustainable Winegrowing scheme and have been since 1999. A leader of the movement, Spy Valley was among the first of Marlborough’s wineries to be certified and since then they have continued to “monitor, measure, reduce, and repeat.”

Beyond the NZSW certification, they also have programs supporting local forests, wetlands, and wildlife through several esteemed organizations. I encourage you to check out the sustainability segment of their website. Their commitment is truly something to aspire to and there’s so much to learn.

The Wines

As you may expect, Spy Valley’s Sauvignon Blanc is the wine you’re most likely to encounter. It's a lovely example of the classic aromatic, fruity style we love out of Marlborough. They also produce Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir as part of their Envoy collection of single-vineyard wines. For overdelivering entry-level options, you’ll find Satellite Sauv Blanc and the newly released lower ABV porch pounder aptly named, “Easy Tiger.”


While you won't find a lineup as extensive as this one in your local wine shop, I was able to track down a nice little selection on! Click here to shop online!

I hope you find yourself as inspired as I have at learning about the lovely wines being made in this very special part of the world!

Cheers to you, Cru! - Montana and The Wine Ship Cru

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