As part of WineTrust’s Meet the Producer series, it’s all about the people behind the brand.
Every wine has a story, a unique story, and we believe these stories have value. Not only does WineTrust source from some of the world’s most revered regions, the finest vineyards of quality soil and climate but also the highly talented individuals who craft the finished product.
The wine you serve and drink is someone’s brainchild, expertly crafted – not only reflecting the grapes and terroir but the maker’s personality, skills and ambition.
Quality is not just a question of taste and place, but individuality and authenticity. We want to capture the physical and human aspects of our wines – because that’s what makes them special!
Without further a do, explore Lawson’s Dry Hills and their fantastic array of vineyards, people and wines.
Setting the Scene: Marlborough, New Zealand
When one puts New Zealand and wine together, Marlborough often comes to mind.
And for good reason – this small region tucked into the North East corner of South Island accounts for 77% of New Zealand’s wine production, its wines some of the most sought after in the world.
Marlborough’s geography is both spectacular and extremely favourable to the production of wine. Southern and Western mountain ranges give way to wide alluvial plains at the mouth of the Wairau River (the Awatere further south), extending along the coast and rising into narrow valleys with northerly aspects. Further inland, vineyards extend along the river valley and the Waihopai tributary.
This makes Marlborough comparatively sheltered to other wine producing regions, the mountains creating a barrier from the rain-bearing oceanic winds. Sitting in this rain shadow, Marlborough’s vineyards boast some of the highest sunshine hours in New Zealand. This is reflected in the Maori name for the Wairau valley: the ‘Kei puta te Wairau’, ‘the place with the hole in the cloud’.
A relatively cool climate, with high sunshine and low rainfall totals, combined with free-draining fertile soils provide ample opportunity to produce high quality wines from a multitude of varieties and styles.
Marlborough’s auspicious landscape and climate yields much potential, but of course nature is not the only driving force behind the region’s wine making…
The Lawson’s Dry Hills Team
One of WineTrust’s flagship producers, Lawson’s Dry Hills is a deservedly decorated winery creating some of the best wine to come out of Marlborough.
Launched in 1992, Lawson’s had built its foundations 12 years earlier when husband and wife, Ross and Barbara Lawson, began growing grapes on their Alabama Road property.
This was already no ordinary enterprise, with vineyards situated on low lying, flood prone land, planting what was back then a barely known variety – Gewürztraminer. Their first vintage, of just 15 tonnes, was managed by Ross from the old red tin shed on the property!
Pioneers both on and off the vineyard, Ross became the first chairperson of the new formed and romantically titled New Zealand Screwcap Initiative. This was inaugural in introducing the screwcap to the wine production world, as an alternative to variable and taint-prone corks.
Forming a coalition of 30 wineries, screwcaps were successfully introduced and the matter was given some closure! Beginning in 2002, Lawson’s were the first winery to utilise the new bottling method.
Since, Lawson’s holdings have expanded, encompassing vineyards in and around Blenheim and over in the Awatere valley. Such a range of microclimates and terroirs lends the very best selection of grapes to create wines of the desired quality and style.
Marcus Wright has been at the helm of winemaking since 2001; having worked in the Americas and France, in fact he found his passion for wine as a research scientist. Mark Ludemann is the estate’s viticulturist with experience in the region having managed Seresin’s Organic Raupo Creek Estate, prior to joining Lawson’s in 2006.
Ross sadly passed away in 2009; nevertheless, Barbara has continued to build Lawson’s from strength to strength. Now semi-retired, Barbara trusted team also include: Sion Barnsley, ex banker and now general manager; marketing manager Derek Lilley; and assistant winemaker Rebecca Wiffen, with plentiful Old and New World experience.
Not only does Lawson’s work passionately to promote their own wines, but also the wider New Zealand wine industry. Founded in 2005, The Family of Twelve is an exclusive alliance of twelve prestigious and top quality producers, of which Lawson’s are members. An export focused marketing alliance, they serve as flagbearers for quality New Zealand products and are key advocates for the country’s winemakers.
An impressive enterprise, Lawson’s achievements are also reflected in their fantastic medal haul over the past few years, including many Gold medals and Trophies at the International Wine Challenge and Decanter World Wine Awards. Lawson’s is very much dedicated to sustainable vineyard practices, duly recognised by the International Wine Challenge’s Trophy for sustainability in 2013.
Lawson’s demonstrate quality is so many ways, but crucially it highly values its production team and puts them at the heart of the enterprise. So when you order your next bottle, or maybe try them for the first time, you can savour all that hard work behind the scenes – which ultimately makes these wines so good!
WineTrust’s Lawson’s Dry Hills Selection
Here at WineTrust we bring you four examples from Lawson’s Dry Hills; more than from any other single producer, such is our belief in their quality. From two staple New Zealand varieties, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, we hope enjoy them as much as we do!
An absolute benchmark Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Bright perfume of ripe passion and kiwi fruits leap out of the glass. Dry, crisp and totally refreshing – there are all the classical lime zest, tropical and gooseberry fruit notes on the palate, with lovely touches of English green asparagus to round off this racy wine
100% Sauvignon Blanc made from a blend of six different parcels from the sub districts of Wairau, Waihopai and Awatere.
Mainly stainless steel fermentation, with about 7% of the wine also barrel fermented in second fill French barriques, which adds another textural dimension to the finished wine. This is further enhanced with extended lees aging prior to bottling.
a crowd pleasing aperitif, but it is also great with chicken, grilled garlic prawns, or pasta with an asparagus, butter and black pepper sauce. A real surprise as well with good goats cheese. Drink now and over the next 18 months.
£10.95, 13.5% abv
Marlborough Pinot Noirs are just getting better all the time and are the most delicate of all New Zealand Pinots. A lovely cherry red colour and notes of crushed strawberry on the nose. Bright and juicy raspberry fruits dominate in the mouth, with a hint of cinnamon stick and soft vanilla oak. Really quite delicate, lighter in body and very refreshing
This New World red is created using the traditional Old World Burgundian techniques; using small batches, destemmed fruit is placed into open-top fermenters and undergoes hand plunging, the resultant wine partly matured in French oak barriques (25% new) for 10 months.
The key to this wine’s quality is that only the best batches were blended to create the final product.
Perfect with duck, lamb and mild game dishes. Drink now and over the next 2 years.
£13.95, 13.5% abv
This wine displays an amazing array of lifted tropical aromas – passion fruit, lime and papaya together with a background note of fresh chervil. The palate has minerality and lovely concentration, intensity and fruit weight.
After harvest the grapes were gently pressed with only the free run juice being used for this wine.
Fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks with two specially selected yeast strains, after which the wine was allowed to rest on the yeast lees for two months prior to filtration and bottling.
Try with white fish and shellfish, strong cheeses and white meats. Drink now and over the next 18 months.
£15.00, 13% abv
The first ever release of the Pinot Noir Reserve, Lawson’s hard work has more than paid off with this stunning New World Pinot Noir. Carefully selected from their very best vineyards and barrels, the constant focus on quality is reflected in a wine of great depth and complexity – bright berry fruits and dark cherry flavours coupled with sweet oak aromas, vanilla hints and silky tannins. Superb.
This New World red is created using the traditional Old World Burgundian techniques; using small batches, destemmed fruit is placed into open-top fermenters and undergoes hand plunging, the resultant wine partly matured in French oak barriques (25% new). The key to this wine’s quality is that only the best batches were blended to create the final product, kept separate during the nine months maturation process.
Works a treat with a leg of New Zealand (or local!) lamb. Alternatively, try with game, duck, or a wild mushroom risotto. Drink now and over the next 5 years.
£16.00, 13.5% abv