Lawson's Dry Hills is a winery that consistently fashions high-quality wines and has one heck of a story, not to mention more than the usual cast of colorful characters. Founded in 1992 by Ross and Barbara Lawson, a charming and witty couple with a great sense of timing and the uncanny knack of knowing what consumers like, Lawson's Dry Hills 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 Lawsons have distinguished themselves in the past 16 years as serious producers of tasty, fruit-driven wines of renown. And with Barbara and Ross around, you can be sure there is nary a dull moment at Lawson's Dry Hills, and we haven't even mentioned the winery's most esteemed character – Tomi.
Tomi: A Man's Best Friend and Every Winemaker's Dream
Tomi is Ross Lawson's golden retriever and, by all accounts, she possesses the premier palate at Lawson's Dry Hills estate. Instead of playing in the yard or retrieving prey like most golden retrievers, Tomi has a promising career. 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 (a measure of sugar, most notably in grapes). Intuitively, Tomi knows when the grapes have attained 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 in New Zealand.
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 in Marlborough and beyond 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 saccharine slop, Tomi can say all that needs to be said about a vintage with just one appreciative slurp. Now that is our kind of dog! In the future, we may, perhaps, see a whole new breed of dog? And how much do you want to bet there will be a long line in Marlborough for one of Tomi's pups?