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Dog Point Vineyard
Sutherland who also kept a watchful eye on the books of the Dog Point enterprise. When the sale of Cloudy Bay was announced the two families launched their plan to build their own winery to operate in conjunction with Dog Point Vineyard.
The Sutherlands brought to the partnership access to their 240 hectares of mature vineyards. The Healys brought James’ rich experience of vinifying Cloudy Bay’s Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir over eighteen vintages and Wendy’s understanding of the administration and finances of a wine business. All four individuals were well aware of the need to keep cash flow ahead of expenditure.
Dog Point’s buildings are attractive, well-insulated, functional sheds each built when the enterprise needed and could afford them. Their main distinction is their height. Inside, barrels of Pinot Noir are stacked to the roof. At the entrance of the single-storey administration building, a wall of gabion baskets – the rectangular wire cages that South Island road makers use to keep slips at bay – echoes the Marlborough landscape. Regrettably, few wine buyers have the opportunity to observe this enterprise at work. Dog Point has become one of a handful of New Zealand wine producers with strong international recognition of its brand and sells 89 per cent of its wine offshore. This result has not come without intense commitment from its principals, Ivan Sutherland and James Healy. The wines that emerge from this cool cellar are anything but simple. Like all wine enterprises, its success rests on having close control of the vineyard as well as the winery.
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The Forrests in Marlborough
A presence in two regions – a minority partnership in the Cornerstone vineyard in Hawke’s Bay at the junction of Gimblett Road and State Highway 50 in conjunction with the development of their own Marlborough enterprise – has provided deep insights for John and Brigid Forrest. Both are doctors – Brigid in medicine and John with a PhD in molecular biology – which is why they call one of their Rieslings ‘The Doctors’. Cash flow from Brigid’s medical practice was essential in enabling them to buy land, service their debt, and develop a successful wine enterprise.
The land they initially purchased in Marlborough was 28 acres. Over the 1988 vintage, John worked with, and learned from, the talented winemaker Alan McCorkindale before setting up his own vineyard that winter, planting 8 acres of vines in this first year. Within three years, 16 acres of the Forrests’ Marlborough land was planted and the vines trellised. The previous owner had planted 10 acres of the property in apples and these were one year old when the Forrests bought the land: ‘Brigid made me keep the apples, and lucky we did because we cashed in on the great years of apple income of ’92, ’93 and ’94 before they sort of crashed in ’97, ’98.’ Several other aspiring grape growers in Marlborough, such as John Marris who purchased more land for grapes in the late 1980s, recount similar experiences of benefiting from high apple prices over the three years while they waited for their grapes to bear fruit.
The grape varieties the Forrests planted in their first years included some surprises. John admitted to ‘one real mistake – because I could never afford to buy good Pinot Noir as a student and right through my post-doc life, I had a very low opinion of Pinot Noir!’ (There speaks a Bordeaux lover with experience in California and the Barossa.) From the classical red varieties, he chose instead some Cabernet, some Merlot, some Franc, a bit of Malbec, and from the whites, Sauvignon in a higher proportion (thank goodness), and a bit of Pinot Blanc too – God knows why – which I have now ripped out. And a little bit of Semillon.