Lawson's Dry Hills
Visiting Marlborough, New Zealand's largest wine region


Lawson’s Dry Hills is one of the unsung heroes of Marlborough. I visited on a slightly overcast January day, which gave the Wither Hills, which forms the backdrop to the home vineyards, a rather brooding, moody look. I was welcomed by owner Barbara Lawson and winemaker Marcus Wright.

Barbara Lawson

Lawson’s are a classic mid-sized Marlborough winery, and have 40 hectares of their own vineyards, which satisfies about half their grape requirements. The remainder comes from growers with long-term contracts. Different varieties come from vineyards across the region, including the Wairau Valley, Waihopai, southern Valleys and Awatere.

Barbara and her late husband Ross established Lawson’s as a winery in 1992; they’d been growing grapes on their Alabama Road property, where the winery now is (just out of the Blenheim town towards the west, and not far from the big winemaking facilities at Riverland) since 1980 – ancient history by Marlborough standards.

Marcus Wright, winemaker at Lawson's Dry Hills

The tasting here showed that this really is one of Marlborough’s star performers. In particular, Lawson’s are doing great things with the ‘aromatics’ – Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer. The home block is Gewurz, and this was part of the inaugural 15 ton crush back in 1992. I was impressed by the Pioneer Pinot Noir, one of the region’s best. And it was great to try the 2006 Sauvignon which shows that it’s not just a wine to drink young when it is made in the right style.


Lawson's Dry Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2012 Marlborough, New Zealand
Lovely fresh mineral dimension to the focused fruit, which is quite delicate and balanced. Some appealing passion fruit notes. Restrained, fine, elegant style with subtle greenness. 91/100

Lawson's Dry Hills Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2012 Marlborough, New Zealand
Concentrated and restrained with taut, focused green herbal notes and nice texture. Quite different in style from their regular Sauvignon, showing lovely focus, concentration and depth. 92/100

Lawson's Dry Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2010 Marlborough, New Zealand
Finely aromatic, showing some richness and hints of toast, as well as some green pepper notes. The palate shows lovely precision, some texture and ripe fruit. Lovely weight. 91/100

Lawson's Dry Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2006 Marlborough, New Zealand
Some green pepper notes on the slightly herby nose, which shows nice focused fruit. The palate is lively and full with fresh green pear, apple and citrus notes. It's a lovely wine that has aged really well. 92/100

Lawson's Dry Hills Riesling 2012 Marlborough, New Zealand
From the Waihopai. Very fine, fresh and citrus nose with taut, pure personality. The palate is crisp, tight and dry with precise citrus, grapefruit and lime notes. Mineral and mouthwatering with great balance. 92/100

Lawson's Dry Hills Riesling 2011 Marlborough, New Zealand
Creamy, citrus, mineral nose is quite assertive. The palate is crisp and taut with some breadth and fullness but also precision. Textured with citrussy fruit. Dry but quite fruity. 89/100

Lawson's Dry Hills Pinot Gris 2012 Marlborough, New Zealand
14% alcohol and 8 g/litre residual sugar. Perfumed with ripe grapey notes and a hint of bacon. The palate has lovely texture and complexity with freshness and focus. Dry but with just a hint of richness and sweetness. Good balance here. 91/100

Lawson's Dry Hills Gewürztraminer 2010 Marlborough, New Zealand
Beautifully aromatic with lychee and rose petal. Fresh and dry but with richness of texture and pear, grape and lychee fruit on the palate. Lovely balance. 92/100

Lawson's Dry Hills Gewürztraminer 2011 Marlborough, New Zealand
Sweet and grapey with a slightly honeyed nose. Rounded, sweet and textured with note of grape and lychee. 90/100

Lawson's Dry Hills The Pioneer Pinot Gris 2010 Marlborough, New Zealand
Beautifully aromatic nose with notes of bacon, toast and grape. Lovely precision on the palate: this is fresh, focused and concentrated with nice dense pear, peach and grape notes. Lovely depth here, as well as real intensity and freshness. Textured. 94/100  

Lawson's Dry Hills The Pioneer Gewürztraminer 2012 Marlborough, New Zealand
Taut, focused nose of lychee, white peach and table grapes. Delicate, precise and full flavoured at the same time, showing nice precision. Textured but fresh; needs time to integrate. 92/100

Lawson's Dry Hills The Pioneer Gewürztraminer 2010 Marlborough, New Zealand
Fine, aromatic nose with rose petal and Turkish delight, as well as ripe pear. The palate is rounded, textured and pretty with lovely sweetness. Rich yet retains delicacy. 93/100

Lawson's Dry Hills Chardonnay 2009 Marlborough, New Zealand
Intense, vigorous nose with citrus, toast, peach and pear. Fresh palate is taut with notes of toast and fig, toast and citrus. Lively. 90/100

Lawsons Pinot Noir 2009 Marlborough, New Zealand
Sweet and supple, with cherries and herbs. Rounded with appealing fruit and good texture. 91/100

Lawsons Pinot Noir 2010 Marlborough, New Zealand
Aromatic, fresh and sweet nose with cherries and some spice. Smooth, rounded texture with sweet, supple, focused cherry fruit. 92/100

Lawsons Pinot Noir 2011 Marlborough, New Zealand
Fresh, bright, focused cherry fruit here. Lively and taut with attractive fruit. 91/100

Lawsons Pinot Noir 2012 Marlborough, New Zealand (barrel sample)
Fruity, supple and lively with nice grippy structure and great balance. 92-94/100

Lawsons The Pioneer Pinot Noir 2010 Marlborough, New Zealand
4 barrels made, which works out at 120 cases. Clone 5, 2.5 weeks post-ferment maceration, 16 months in oak. Fine, spicy and expressive with lovely cherry and plum fruit. Floral. The palate is textured and fresh with lovely open cherry fruit. Stylish and balanced with a silky texture. 95/100

Lawson's Dry Hills Late Harvest Riesling 2010 Marlborough, New Zealand
Around 140 g/litre residual sugar. Intense, limey and powerful. Vivid, concentrated but balanced with the viscous sweetness balanced by keen acidity. Pure, vital and precise with lovely citrus fruits. 93/100

Lawson's Dry Hills
Villa Maria
Staete Landt
Spy Valley
Cloudy Bay
Te Whare Ra
Dog Point

See also:

Gibbston Valley
Chard Farm
Wooing Tree
Folding Hill
Mount Difficulty
Lowburn Ferry
Grasshopper Rock
Doctors Flat
Two Paddocks
Surveyor Thomson

Wines tasted 01/13  
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