Dry River Wines

Address: Puruatanga Rd, PO Box 72, Martinborough

Region: Wairarapa/Martinborough

Size: Small

2004 CQI: 4.85 out of 5 (13 reviews)0

Exported to US: Yes

Number One on the Top Twenty list for quality rating.

The cult wine of New Zealand.

Dry River was started in 1979 by Dr. Neil McCallum and his wife Dawn, the title coming from his doctorate at Oxford. Most narratives of Dry River and Dr. McCallum will usually use words like innovative, individualistic, passionate, and driven. He first gained fame for the aromatic whites. Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Gewurztraminer. These days, the Pinot Noir and Syrah are equally coveted. His emphasis is on maximizing the flavors in the fruit by keeping yields extremely low and sun exposure high through canopy management and reflective ground cover. To that he adds a winemaking approach that is low-tech minimalist where minimalist means paying attention to every detail.

New Zealand wine lovers were aghast in 2002 when Dry River was sold to two Americans, New York investor Julian Robertson and Reg Oliver, owner of El Molino winery in Napa. The infusion of capital will allow Dry River to do more but nervous eyes are watching whether the standards will be maintained. Dr. McCallum continues as the supervisory Chief Winemaker while others will be brought on for the day-to-day activities.

One by-product of the ownership change is that some Dry River wine is now available in the USA and I have availed myself of that opportunity . 2002 Syrah bottle #1742 (shown above) fulfilled its destiny on May 14, 2005. I am happy to report that it more than lived up to its reputation. It was an exquisite experience. Enormous concentration of blackberry fruit and a solid peppery core and finish.


  • Pinot Noir
  • Syrah
  • Pinot Gris
  • Gewurztraminer
  • Riesling
  • Chardonnay
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Botrytised Sweet Wines

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