November: A Year Abroad

We all have some preconceived notions of which wines a country is “supposed” to make. Some think of sipping Sauvignon Blanc while visiting picturesque countryside in New Zealand, others dream of bouncing around Napa tasting rooms, swirling velvety Cabernets.  

What if we were to tell you many of the greatest vinous gifts many regions have to offer are often a complete surprise? Every country has its own unique terroirs, and have an abundance of microclimates that are suited to a variety of different grapes. Even Germany, the land of Riesling, is a veritable cornucopia of other varietals (like Elbling!).  To say any country is only fit for only one thing, keeps you from a world of possibilities. This month’s selections will show you some of our favorite varieties, grown in unexpected places, spending time away from their heritage soils, and becoming something new and delicious in it’s own right!


Dog Point Vineyard is one of New Zealand’s most influential and respected producers, as well as being the largest organic grower on the island. Founded by Ivan and Margaret Sutherland, and James and Wendy Healy, it was in large part the realization of a dream to return to a more terroir driven and hands-on approach to winemaking. Ivan and James had worked together at Cloudy Bay, perhaps New Zealand’s most famous producer, playing an integral role before founding Dog Point in 2004. Today, both couples are still involved, but succession plans are beginning to hand the every day goings on to the next generation of the Sutherland family. 

     Focusing on Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir, some of their plantings date back to the 1970’s and produce an incredible complexity in the wines. They use native yeasts for all but one bottling, and focus on biodiversity in the vineyards. You’ll find bees, chickens, tons of native flora, and pastures spread throughout the property upon visiting. Wandering you may even find some friendly dogs approaching you, perhaps descendants of the wandering packs and property-defending animals from which the winery draws its name.


    Brancott/ Omaka Valleys, Marlborough, New Zealand

    Producing over 2/3 of all NZ wine production, between over 500 producers this is one of the most important regions in the country. The 1970's saw the beginnings of the now booming wine industry, after a shift from dairy/wool/meat.

    Dog Point is located at the meeting of the Brancott and Omaka Valleys, one of the most sought after growing regions in the south.


    Dog Point is the largest certified organic winery in New Zealand. They take great pride in hand harvesting their grapes in an area where over 90% of harvests are done by machine.

    Cover crops of buckwheat & phaceila are planted in the spring to encourage beneficial insects as natural control to other damaging insect species.

    Sheep and steer are brought onto the property to act as natural weed control, and fertilizer.

    They have varied soil types in the vineyards ranging from silty clay-loam to glacial till, and the average vine age ranges from 23-40 yrs.


    Four wines are produced. Three are barrel aged and done with native yeast (chardonnay, pinot noir, and sauvignon blanc), and the fourth is an inoculated entry level sauvignon blanc.

    In their production Dog Point strives for minimal intervention, and seek the best expression of the local terroir. The barrel aging is approximately 18 months in French oak with all neutral barrels for the sauv, 10% new oak for the chard, and 30% new oak for the pinot.

1 of 3


What do you do after you have already conquered the Valet Parking market, and become one of America’s top lawyers?  Start a winery of course. Tom Stolpman founded Stolpman Vineyards after discovering the amazing growing characteristics of Ballard Canyon, nestled in the hills of California’s Central Coast, and was essential in getting the AVA certified.

While he started by growing Rhone varietals, and producing some of CA’s finest syrah & roussanne, the winery has expanded to so much more today. While  still committed to minimal intervention, native yeast fermentation, and sustainable farming, the reigns have been passed to Peter & Jessica Stolpman,  wine makers Kyle Knapp & Matt Nocas, and Vignerons Ruben & Maria Solerzano.  They have planted varietals like gamay & sangiovese for their SO FRESH series, and experiment with what varieties truly thrive within Ballard Canyon.

They value experimentation as much as classic production. The high school quarterback and prom king who is also president of the A.V. Club, and for this they are one of our favorite producers.


    Ballard Canyon, Santa Barbara, CA

    One of the finest growing areas in Santa Barbara. It benefits from cool winds blowing in from the Pacific Ocean, funneled in through the gap between the Santa Rita Hills and Purisima Hills. This along with a large diurnal shift (avg 40 F) evokes comparisons to the Rhone Valley, and allows for ripeness without compromising acidity.

    Tom Stolpman was essential in helping to get its A.V.A certification in 2013.


    Stolpman focuses on farming sustainably, and only harvests by hand. They treat their harvest team with the respect they deserve, and in turn the team treats the vines with the utmost care. All vines are meticulously pruned, and trained. At harvest multiple passes are done along all the rows to insure harvest at the desired ripeness.

    The soils are a chalky limestone top layer, with a clay base. Each vineyard site has been tested to see where each varietal best thrives, as they continue to expand their selection.


    All fermentations are done with native yeasts, with minimal to no additional sulfur or other additives placed in the wines.

    Many wines are fermented without crushing (whole cluster.) For red wines where a light crush is needed it is done under foot (pigeage.)

    Wine aging ranges from a few months to a few years, and new oak is used only in their Rousanne, as it is used to season their barrels. Any other wine that sees wood is finished in neutral barrels.

1 of 3

Bodega Chacra

Bodega Chacra is the winery equivalent of Damon Albarn & David Byrne getting together for a series of South American dance albums. Started by Piero Incisa della Rocchetta and Jean Marc-Roulot, who you may know from those “little known wines” Sassicaia and Roulot respectively. The goal was to find the greatest expression of terroir in the Mainque within the Rio Negro Valley of Patagonia. 

Using biodynamic & organic practices, they strive to create true wines of place. Using the vegetable and mineral biodynamic preparations, and keeping up the biodiversity of the vineyard, they are able to create healthy sustainable sites. Even their name Chacra evokes thoughts of natural energy and balance, while also referring to special plots of land in patagonia destined to be under vine.


    Rio Negro Valley , Patagonia, Argentina

    The most southerly wine growing region in South America. It sits at a relatively low elevation of 250 m, and experiences are wide diurnal shift (hot days and cool nights,) which allow for a long growing season.

    The British dug irrigation channels on both sides of the river in the early 1800's, allowing for a green agriculture belt along it.

    While an up and coming growing region for grapes, it also produces the majority of apples and pears and apples in Argentina.


    Biodynamic practices are observed in their vineyards. The vineyards are enriched through all of the biodynamic preparations from the burying of manure in a cows horn for fertilizer, to preparing Equsitem flowers to avoid fungus.

    The vineyards have a variety of soils. Heavy red clay is found in the Mainque area, with barda soils in others along with bank. They all contain old vines which allow for high phenolic concentration, and a low fruit yield.

    Harvest is done by hand, starting and finishing in the early hours to take advantage of the morning cold. Only the best grapes are brought into the cellar, those not meeting the desired standard are left on the ground to feed the birds.


    Minimal intervention is used in the cellar. Initial maceration & initial fermentation is done in large shallow tanks. Fermentation is continued in cement tanks at low temperatures.

    No to minimal sulfur is used and no additional additives are placed in the wine. The wines are don't go through any filters, to preserve the natural aromas.

    Aging is all done in french oak, with the 55, 22, and Sin Azufre using neutral barrels.

1 of 3