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Ivan Sutherland
Dog point vineyard

Ivan Sutherland and wife Margaret were among the early private pioneers of the Marlborough wine region. This year he is the deserving recipient of the Viticulturist Award. 

I'd known Ivan Sutherland for quite a few years before discovering he had rowed for New Zealand and was an Olympic medallist. It was no surprise. He has the tall, lanky build of a rower and is clearly a quiet achiever. Sutherland doesn’t boast about his accomplishments, he just quietly gets on with things. 

Sutherland grew up in Marlborough and graduated from Lincoln University in 1972 after studying Valuation and Farm Management. He became a valuer and farm management consultant for seven years until 1979 when he jumped the fence and, together with his wife Margaret, began to plant vineyards on selected sites in the Wairau and Southern Valleys. They were among the early private pioneers of Marlborough vineyards.

As their vineyard holdings grew, the Sutherland family dreamed of starting their own small, quality-focused label. Sutherland joined Cloudy Bay shortly after they opened their doors. He remained with them for 18 years and was a director in Cloudy Bay when he retired to launch the Dog Point Vineyard with James Healy in 2004.

Sutherland served on the Wine Marlborough industry body, since its earliest inception in 1980 – being chair on more than one occasion – and retired in 2014 after 35 years of involvement. The same year he retired as the inaugural Chairperson of the Marlborough Wine Research Board, a post he held for 12 years, to become a Trustee of The Marlborough Research Centre and still enjoys this involvement. He was awarded a lifetime achievement award by Wine Marlborough in 2014.

Sutherland is Chairperson of Appellation Marlborough Wine, an initiative established in 2016 and launched in June 2018 with the primary aim “to protect the integrity, authenticity and brand value of wines produced in Marlborough”. In 2011 he was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen's Birthday Honours, and more recently in 2018 was inducted as a Fellow of New Zealand Winegrowers. 

Total Sutherland family vineyard plantings today are 350 hectares of which 250 hectares are certified organic with a further 20 hectares in conversion. That makes the Sutherland family the largest producer of organic grapes in the country. The major reason for converting was a dislike for conventional viticultural practices; a desire to farm in a more natural way with improvement to soil and plant health along with creating a healthier and safer working environment. “Margaret and I are greenies at heart. While working at Cloudy Bay I helped start a disease monitoring system that proved to me that conventional spray programs are a load of nonsense.”

Sutherland strongly believes that he has a social and environmental responsibility to leave the land and its environs in a vastly improved state, but he doesn’t use this as a selling point for Dog Point Vineyard. He quietly gets on with it. 

I'd known Ivan Sutherland for quite a few years before discovering he had rowed for New Zealand and was an Olympic medallist. It was no surprise. He has the tall, lanky build of a rower and is clearly a quiet achiever. Sutherland doesn’t boast about his accomplishments, he just quietly gets on with things. 

Text by Bob Campbell MW
Photography courtesy of Dog Point Vineyards