DogRidge: A quiet corner of the world

When Dave Wright retired from dentistry, he decided to go somewhere he wouldn’t have to deal with too many people. Together with his wife Jen, he purchased a 40-acre vineyard tucked away by Pedler Creek in McLaren Vale and planned on never having a cellar door. 

On their quest for peace and quiet, Dave and Jen purchased the property in 1992 with no plans for a cellar door. Dave just wanted to grow grapes in a quiet corner of the world and have a go at making some wine (while breeding dogs with Jen, of course).

His little patch of land was perfect for him. It often gets bypassed and Google Maps even sends people who try to get there in the wrong direction.

However, with prime McLaren Vale fruit at his fingertips, he was never going to keep people away for long. His stepson, Fred Howard was already working in the local wine industry and when he joined the business, he was determined to introduce a cellar door and share their easy-drinking wines with more people. 

When they made their first wine as DogRidge in 1996, Dave was focused on the vines and Fred had his hands full making the wine. DogRidge now has a loyal following and while 30 people visiting the cellar door is a big day, local members are known to flock in and stock up on new wines as soon as they are released.

DogRidge makes Wine for everyone

These days, Fred likes to make a little bit of everything. He thrives on making smooth and easy-drinking wines for everyone to enjoy, as well as big-hitters that pack a punch on the palate, such as the Shirtfront Shiraz and Grand Old Brand New blend.

DogRidge’s sparkling Chardonnay is a crowd pleaser, perfect for wedding ceremonies and the after-party. The big Butterfingers Chardonnay is easily their most popular white wine, stocked in a few restaurants in Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia because it pairs so well with food. 

Last year’s Running Free Rosé was a sell-out and the current vintage is proving to be even better. It’s so pale and fresh that it could be mistaken for white wine once poured into a glass. There are also ten different reds on the tasting list, including a lovely, light Sangiovese and a full-bodied GSM which is great for pairing with food. DogRidge also makes a unique MCM (including Merlot, Cabernet, and Malbec) from blended McLaren Vale fruit which its members buy by the dozen.

Never drop the ball

One of the Lagotto dogs from DogRidge
Flowers at DogRidge vineyard

DogRidge is a passion project that keeps growing. The team makes easy-drinking wine that you can easily take over to a friend’s house.

Many people can recall Chardonnay’s fast fall from grace and there was a time when people were throwing wood chips into it to make it as woody as possible. However, when the trend went too far, people got sick of the taste of too much oak in their Chardonnay. 

Much like a reliable cricket player who only gets remembered for the one crucial catch they drop, Chardonnay had to take a bit of time out. But, now it’s on the way back and DogRidge’s bold, buttery, and balanced Chardonnay uses subtle French oak.  

Many other cellar doors in McLaren Vale recommend it to traditional Chardonnay lovers and it keeps people hunting down DogRidge’s cellar door.

Staying ahead of the curve

That’s the perpetual challenge in the wine industry: trying to make wine that you think people will want to drink in a year or two. It’s taken decades to realise it, but the climate in McLaren Vale is very similar to the Southern half of Italy. That means that Italian varietals such as Sangiovese, Montepulciano, Fiano, and Nero d’Avola can be easily grown in McLaren Vale and are gaining popularity. 

The region also has lovely old vines with deep root systems. Winemakers and viticulturists are grafting new varieties with names that most people haven’t heard of onto old vines and can grow them without using too many natural resources. 

People might still think of McLaren Vale Shiraz, but other varietals are gradually building a name of their own. DogRidge also creates delicious dessert wines for those with a sweet tooth, with their White Frontignac (Botrytis) and Fortified Voignier consistently flying out of the cellar door. 

Settling In

Dave and Jen have found a slightly quieter spot up the road and Fred and his wife Sarah don’t want to be anywhere else in the world. Fred works seven days a week because he loves what he does so much. He is still looking for more ways to keep his customers happy. His children, Will and Albert, are also keen to spend time in the vineyard now that they have finished school. 

DogRidge is a passion project that keeps growing. The small, family owned venture now produces wine from 90 acres of premium McLaren Vale vineyards. Share a bottle of DogRidge at a dinner party and you will be the first name on the guest list next time. 

Experience Dogridge Wine

Want to have boutique wine from DogRidge delivered straight to your doorstep? Shop their boutique wine via Wine Valet.