James Healy and Ivan Sutherland are the heart and soul of the Dog Point Vineyard. Both helped make Cloudy Bay a household name more than a decade ago when Cloudy Bay was a Marlborough benchmark. They served as winemaker and vineyard manager respectively. They began Dog Point Vineyard to make their own style of wine and establish Dog Point as the non plus ultra of Marlborough And what wines they make! In less than a half dozen vintages, James, Ivan, and their wives Margaret and Wendy have created benchmark Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in addition to the finest New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc we have ever tasted.
Dog Point uses well-established old vines from which yields have been strictly limited. This practice results in an optimal flavor profile in each of the estate’s wines. In addition, only natural yeasts are employed, adding to the complexity of the wines. The results of Dog Point’s meticulous practices are clearly evident in the rich, flavorful, and highly textured products they send to our table.
Dog Point derives its name from the stark hills overlooking Marlborough’s Wairau Valley, where in times past packs of wild dogs would roam and attack the flocks of sheep that grazed on the hills. Dog Point is also home to one of New Zealand’s national treasures, the indigenous “ti kouka” or cabbage tree, whose image graces all of Dog Point’s labels.
Marlborough: New Zealand’s Mythical Land of Vines
Marlborough is situated on the northern tip of New Zealand’s mystical South Island, where it enjoys a unique dry maritime climate. High mountains isolate this enchanted land from the cold alpine interior of the rest of the South Island, while the spectacular Marlborough Sound to the north provides a conduit to the sea as well as the planet’s most majestic view of New Zealand’s North Island as it soars skyward across the swells of Wellington Straits – a sight that ranks as one of the world’s most stunning vistas. Moreover, Marlborough is about as close to viticultural paradise as one can find, especially for Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and increasingly Pinot Noir.
Marlborough’s long, sunny, but not excessively hot growing season provides nearly ideal conditions for grape growing. The average summer daytime temperature hovers between 24° C and 28° C (72° - 80° F) depending upon one’s altitude and proximity to the sea. The air is crystal clear and the light luminous; with nary an overcast day let alone much rain during the long growing season. Cool nights keep acid levels high in the grapes, even as sugar levels rise abruptly. Such conditions lend themselves to an extended growing season and provide slow, even, ripening and extended hang time for the grapes. The result is ripe healthy fruit, with fresh vibrant flavors and the ability to develop subtle complexity over time.
In addition to its superb summer climate, Marlborough also boasts excellent soil for grapes. Most of Marlborough consists of silt and free draining alluvial loams over gravelly sub-soils. In addition, river stones lie scattered throughout Marlborough, remnants of the many rivers that once coursed through the land. These river stones store heat from the warm sunny days and radiate that heat back into the vineyards at night, thereby providing a unique microclimate and terroir, much like that of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Moreover, most Marlborough growers are committed to sustainable agricultural practices in order to preserve the region’s noble terroir. And the French thought they had a monopoly on terroir; we think not!