picture of deer



When the Sutherlands purchased the Southdown property in 1999 it was run as a 190 hectare deer farm. The Sutherlands reared and fattened fawns from the breeding hinds and harvested velvet from a herd of 400 stags. Due to the hot summers and low rainfall experienced in and around the Martinborough area during the first few years of farming, there was a need to hard feed the deer through the drought periods. After feeding out grain to the deer one day, Andy made the comment to Elaine “I’d rather farm something that wants to grow in these dry conditions” and from there discussions about converting the flat area of the farm into a vineyard grew.

In 2002, Dr Derek Milne, a soil scientist, wrote a report highlighting the Southdown site as being suitable for grape production. Further, Dr David Jordan provided a report in 2003 outlining the advantages of the sites’ low frost risk with its temperatures some 2°c warmer than the blocks on the Martinborough terraces.

So what to plant? After much discussion and advice from others in the industry, the decision was made to plant only Sauvignon Blanc vines. At that time there weren’t enough Sauvignon Blanc grapes for sale and demand was exceeding supply. The Sutherland’s wanted their vineyard to have economy of scale especially when most operations for growing Sauvignon Blanc could be done by machine at a time when there was a current shortage of labour.

tractor driving in posts for new vineyard


Andy quickly became excited at the prospect of developing farm land into a vineyard and went about purchasing the earthmoving equipment to do the job. In 2004 he started contouring the sloping paddocks ready for the first planting of 11 hectares. With a vineyard development plan in place and Nick Hoskins on board as consultant viticulturist, things were under way. Development continued and a further 17 hectares were planted in 2005.

Irrigation of the vines came from an underground bore but this soon proved it could not cope once all the planted area was up and running. Construction began on a 60,000 m³ water reservoir and was completed in 2005. To reduce the carbon footprint it was decided that the reservoir would be gravity fed using the higher flows of winter water from a neighbouring stream.

Additional farm land was purchased from a neighbour in 2008 of which a further 18 hectares was developed and planted.


After consistently providing quality grapes to some of Martinborough’s top wineries since 2007, and with the Sutherlands’ desire to always give something new a try, they decided it was time to ‘dip their toes into the water’ and make their own wine. It was agreed that there was no better logo for their brand than that of a roaring stag!

over looking Southdown Vineyard

southdown estate logo