Rarely does a new wine label spring up with such an impressive range of wines across the board. Sure, Dog Point is launching only three wines, but what wines they are. The men behind Dog Point are James Healy and Ivan Sutherland, both former long-term employees of New Zealand's biggest success story. Cloudy Bay - Heaiy as a winemaker with 14 years' experience in Marlborough, and Sutherland, who was born in Marlborough, as a viticulturalist. They both know their onions. ' To say they hit the ground running with Dog Point would be an understatement. They own an 80ha vineyard in the Brancott Valley, an off-shoot of Marlborough's main Wairau Valley. They have the beginnings of a winery on-site - well, okay, it's just a stab with a few tanks at this stage, but the expertise is enormous.
Trans-Tasman newcomers make a grand debut. James Healy and Ivan Sutherland's Dog Point vineyard is close to Terra Vin. Though most of their crop has been sold to Cloudy Bay for years, from the 2002 vintage on the pair began making small batches of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and pinot to release under their own label.
The Dog Point wines are made using different techniques from those adopted at Cloudy Bay. The yields are lower, and the fermentations are all spontaneous. In the case of the whites, this means pressing the juice straight into barrel and waiting for up to ten days before fermentation kicks off, then having the confidence to let that fermentation tick over slowly, sometimes for months.
The results are exceptional. In ascending order of preference, the 2002 Dog Point Pinot Noir is dark, forest-fruity, succulent and tangy. The 2002 Chardonnay is restrained, savoury-smelling but impressively concentrated and rich in the mouth. The 2002 Section 94 (100 per cent sauvignon blanc) is quite different from your usual Marlborough savvy. Subtle yet complex, with ethereal hints (rather than huge, in-your-face dollops) of passionfruit, it has a superbly satisfying, concentrated, minerally and grape-pulpy texture in the mouth.