Observer on Sunday: Dog Point wines delight

At the Dog Point wine dinner.

(Published in The Observer on Sunday, 6 May, 2012)

Lovers of fine wines – and food–had the opportunity to try a selection of wines from New Zealand’s Dog Point Vineyard, at a recently held Blackbeard’s wine dinner at Grand Old House.

Matt Sutherland, of Dog Point Vineyard, travelled to Cayman for the event and went table-to-table to share his knowledge of wines and explain more about the vineyard and the wines that they produce.

Dog Point wines first hit the shelves at Blackbeard’s at the end of last year and have so far proved a promising success.

The vineyard, which currently produces some 30,000 cases of wine a year, was started in 2000 after Ivan and Margaret Sutherland and James and Wendy Healy decided to combine their considerable wine-growing experience.

Nestled in Marlborough’s Wairau Valley, the major grape growing region of New Zealand, the vineyard enjoys ideal weather conditions–abundant sunshine, low rainfall and cool autumn nights. The result is light, fresh and vibrant wines. The grapes are sourced from selected, well-established vineyard plantings dating back to the late 1970s.

The evening kicked off with a selection of mouth-watering canapés, paired with Dog Point’s Sauvignon Blanc, which is fermented in steel vats, ensuring a flavour which is light, fresh and vibrant.

Canapes were followed by a sit-down five-course dinner. First up was a grouper ceviche with passion fruit-lime dip and red watercress, followed by a cream of parsnip soup with parsley oil and crème fraiche. Both were paired with Dog Point’s Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc 2008.

Next was Dog Point’s Chardonnay 2008, served with almond and herb crusted caramelized jumbo scallops, sautéed baby spinach and melted tomatoes. The Chardonnay is aged in one to two-year-old oak barrels for 18 months, ensuring ample flavour and structure.

A New Zealand inspired main course followed, featuring wild board tenderloin, New Zealand lamb chops, fig compote, red wine foam pumpkin Mousseline and a rosemary reduction.

The course was paired with Dog Point’s Pinot Noir 2008. The Pinot Noir grapes are aged 18 months in oak barrels, producing a typical Pinot Noir with strong earthy, forest floor notes, fresh red berries and a hint of spice, which pairs perfectly with red meats such as lamb.

For dessert, guests enjoyed a mix of sweet and savoury – Gruyere cheese stuffed Anju pear, spiced cashew, port wine syrup, Queso Manchego and Montboissie. The final dish was paired with another Dog Point Pinot Noir, this time a 2007 vintage, offering a more full bodied and earthy flavour.

The meal was prepared by Grand Old House Executive Chef Andy Trilk, who said he aimed to create a menu which was inspired by typical New Zealand cuisine and ingredients, such as parsnip, pumpkin, wild boar and lamb.

Grapes handled with care 

Jodie Petts, Blackbeard’s wine sales manager, said that what makes Dog Point’s wines unique is the way the vines are treated, how the grapes are grown and how the wines are made.

“When the grapes are growing on the vines, the viticulturalist will cut back smaller grape bunches. He does this so that all the energy in the plant goes to the fruit only, giving it a more concentrated and denser feel. The vineyard hand pick all the grapes, and choose only the finest grapes for their wine.

“When the wine maker makes the wines, he presses just the juice with no bitter skin contact. They then go into a fermentation tank, where they go into a natural ferment, with no added artificial yeast. This process takes a lot longer, some two to three months, but the wine made is more textured, more structured with vibrant citrus and lemon grass notes. The final wine is more concentrated and elegant.”

Jodie added: “All of the wines have great fruit, acid balance. They are all very elegant and they are neither over oaked or over sweet. They all have a nice harmony.”

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