Editor’s Note: It is with great sadness that we note the recent passing of Ross Lawson, one of Marlborough’s pioneering viticulturists and a colorful character in the very best sense. Ross, to you we raise our glasses. Thanks for all the fond memories and outstanding wines, not to mention enough great stories to accompany each and every bottle of your aromatic, full-flavored wines!
Lawson’s Dry Hills is one of Marlborough’s pioneering wineries. Moreover, it is a true family winery that consistently fashions the highest quality wines. Lawson’s was founded in 1992 by Ross and Barbara Lawson, a charming, witty couple with tremendous energy and a great sense of timing, not to mention a knack for knowing what consumers like in wine. Lawson’s Dry Hills winery was one of the first small boutique wineries in Marlborough to receive international acclaim for estate bottled wines.
Committed solely to the production of premium Marlborough wines, the Lawson’s have from the beginning of their fledgling winery distinguished themselves as serious producers of full-flavored, fruit driven wines of renown. And with Barbara and Ross around, you could be sure there was nary a dull moment at Lawson’s Dry Hills, and we haven’t yet mentioned Tomi – the winery’s most esteemed character.
Ross Lawson left behind a legacy larger than most, but none more colorful or renowned than Tomi. Tomi is the Lawson’s golden retriever and by all accounts a remarkable dog. Tomi possesses the premier palate at Lawson’s Dry Hills, as the international press has so duly recorded in scores of interviews. Instead of playing in the yard or retrieving prey like most golden retrievers, Tomi has enjoyed an unprecedented career in oenology. She decides when to harvest at Lawson’s and what grapes to pick, and when. With one sniff of her supercharged olfactory she can determine the brix (brix is a measure of sugar, most notably in grapes). Intuitively, Tomi knows when the grapes attain physiological ripeness or at the very least a minimum of 22 brix – essential information to any winemaker even remotely interested in the production of fine wine. Many famous and not so famous wineries pay huge sums of money for technical equipment and consulting oenologists to tell them precisely what Tomi already knows, and does best.
Essentially, Tomi just loves grapes, but only when they are perfectly ripe. At first, Ross Lawson could hardly believe he had a grape dog on his hands, but after extensive testing and verification with expensive equipment, Tomi’s uncanny and unfailing talent have been borne out, and she is now legendary throughout New Zealand and beyond.
And lest you think we are concocting a ruse or somehow embellishing a story, we can assure you to the contrary. In fact, we are not the first to report Tomi’s oenological prowess. This canny canine enjoys celebrity status because of her unfailing ability to find and, if permitted, consume copious quantities of only the most perfect grapes. Moreover, her fame is spreading. The editor of the magazine Wine New Zealand has actually dedicated part of the periodical’s vintage report to Tomi. Without simile or metaphor or some other saccharin slop, Tomi can say all that needs to be said about a vintage with just one appreciative slurp. Now Tomi is our kind of dog!
Not surprisingly, Tomi’s pups are highly sought after. Perhaps, a whole new breed of dog may be in the offing? However, for the time being we are happy to report that Tomi is alive and well and continuing to assist Barbara Lawson at the winery.