Dog Point Vineyard combines the considerable wine-growing experience of Ivan & Margaret Sutherland and James & Wendy Healy. Ivan and James met while working at Cloudy Bay Vineyards and quickly established an enduring friendship along with an appreciation of good wine. Ivan was Cloudy Bay's viticulturist for 18 years and in the latter years a Director, while James was the Company's Oenologist for 12 years. After finding they shared the same aspirations, James and Ivan decided to return to a more ‘hands-on’ winemaking approach. Using fruit from the 80 hectare Dog Point Vineyard established by Ivan and Margaret, the pair launched the Dog Point label in February 2004 using fruit from the 2002 vintage.
Dog Point is one of the earliest private vineyards established in Marlborough’s Wairau Valley, which means it has some of the oldest vines in Marlborough. The vineyard is centrally located at the confluence of the smaller Brancott and Omaka Valleys with some vineyard plantings dating back to the late 1970's. These older, well-established vines situated on free draining silty clay loams are supplemented with fruit from closely planted hillside vines on soils with a clay loam influence.
Marlborough soils were laid down within the last 14,000 years carved and eroded by glaciers in the high country and carried down to the coast by melt-water rivers. The composition of these free draining alluvial soils varies markedly across the Dog Point’s white varietals which are mostly planted on free draining silty clay loams on the flats. Fruit from the hillside blocks add to the interest of the Chardonnay blend. Clay loam on gentle, closely planted hill slopes are ideally suited to Pinot Noir.
The property operates under the New Zealand sustainable winegrowing programme. A flock of around 2,000 sheep are grazed in the winter to keep the grass low and fertilise as they go. After pruning, all the cuttings, along with any grass or cover crops, are mulched and added to the compost heap and spread under the vines to help conserve moisture whilst improving soil structure. A small herd of 25 steers are also grazed on the property. Meticulous viticultural practices include low cropping and hand harvested vines to ensure the fruit is picked in excellent condition and at optimum physiological ripeness.
Abundant sunshine, low rainfall and cool autumn nights create a long growing season. This combination leading to a long growing season enables the slow evolution of a rich array of vibrant fruit flavours. In the lead-up to harvest diurnal fluctuations between night and day temperatures add flavour and intensity to the wines. A desirable northerly aspect allows optimum sunshine to the rows on the flats and slopes for ripening. Running under an organic regime, while Ivan and James like to do all the winery work themselves, everyone lends a hand where and when needed.
The name Dog Point dates back to the earliest European settlement of Marlborough and its sheep farming history. Shepherds' dogs sometimes became lost or wandered off, eventually breeding to form a marauding pack that attacked the flocks, eventually forcing the settlers to cull the dogs and the area was named Dog Point. The iconic New Zealand native plant the Ti Kouka ‘cabbage’ tree on the label is also an established feature of the Dog Point property.