Cloudy Bay winemakers set New Zealand’s gold standard
The 2014 Dog Point Pinot Noir, drawn off 30-year-old vines planted and harvested by two Cloudy Bay alumns, makes it abundantly clear that New Zealand Pinot Noir can compete with the depth and complexity of Burgundy. James Suckling says this “Has all you want in a great pinot,” awarding the bottle 96 points and putting it in the company of the best releases from Felton Road, Craggy Range, and Cloudy Bay — New Zealand’s most prestigious wineries. Our first allocation, presented in January, disappeared in hours. Another 30 cases will go just as quickly. But don’t take our word for it — just take a glance at that chart of James Suckling’s top-rated Kiwi Pinot’s of the year. You make the call.
Dog Point is brilliantly run by two of the wiliest, savviest, old-school winemakers on the island, viticulturist Ivan Sutherland and enologist James Healy. The two men first met at Cloudy Bay Vineyards, where, over the course of two decades, they were central in crafting New Zealand’s stunning ascent on the global stage, transforming Cloudy Bay into perhaps the best-known New Zealand winery in the world.
In 2003, the duo broke off and formed the Dog Point label, returning to the vines which Sutherland himself had helped plant over 30 years before. Both men were intimately familiar with the vineyards: They knew the free-draining silty loam of the flats would make for superb Sauvignon Blanc, and that the clay loam of Dog Point’s gentle hillsides, carved thousands of years ago by glaciers, were perfect for the cool-climate Pinot grape. They knew about the area’s abundant light (2,200 hours of sunshine a year), the brisk ocean breezes, and maritime climate, which provide an elongated season and resulting massive ripeness and extraordinary phenolic maturity.
Those conditions, coupled with New Zealand’s abrupt diurnal temperature shifts, help explain the lavish wild-berry concentration and velvety tannins of the 2014 Dog Point Pinot Noir. A rigorous emphasis on low-cropping gave them an edge on the opulent harvest of 2014, which started out with a perfect dry-spell that aided them in crafting one of the more extraordinary Pinot Noirs to come out of New Zealand in some time.