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Meet Zeffer: the dog and the wine.

I am as excited as I am honoured to write to you about the release of our Valli “Zeffer” Bendigo Pinot Noir 2021, the third of our “dog” charity wines. This vintage we are donating proceeds to K9 Medical Detection, an Otago charity that raises and trains dogs for the early detection of cancer.

Zeffer, the Spanador was trained from 10 weeks old by my husband, Callum, to be an NZ LandSAR Avalanche Search Dog; gaining skills that could save human lives. The puppy also arrived with a gift for singing Opera which has provided endless entertainment. He is now 11 years old and enjoying his retirement role as a winery dog after 10 years of NZ LandSAR service.

Now a bit about the wine - this is the first 100% whole cluster fermentation Pinot Noir we have ever bottled and it is a highly structured wine, celebrating the life of a “big” dog. The perfume from the stems included in the fermentation is exquisite and the tannins are voluminous yet fine and give endless opportunities for the wine to evolve in the glass, or in the bottle. A decanter is beneficial for the first few years. This special wine holds promise to live a couple of decades or more - I only wish a Labrador could live as long as this wine will.

The early detection of cancer can help prolong the lives of humans and your purchase of this wine could help K9 Medical Detection do exactly that. This project is extremely dear to me as it allows us to try new and different things in the winery and we also get to give back to the community, which is really special.

A bit of background on the "dog" charity wines...

We have a soft rule in the VALLI winery: “We never say never or always,” which allows flexibility in how we capture the vineyards and the seasons in our wines. The VALLI “dog” wines have added a third tier to that soft rule - “Never say once!”

It started with “Missy”, a single ferment during the 2019 vintage to help me cope with the grief of losing my beloved wine dog. Whilst it was never intended to become a stand-alone wine, the energy of those barrels had a greater purpose and I convinced Grant that we needed to do this one special wine which we bottled with a fantastic artist-designed label by Charles Hannah. We decided to donate a portion of the proceeds to Pound Paws Animal Rescue in Oamaru. The enthusiastic reception of the wine was as magic as the wine itself, with emails and posts from dog (and wine) lovers throughout NZ and the world. One fan actually got a Missy 2019 tattoo...!

In 2020, there was a captivating Waitaki blend that held its hand up to became our second dog wine, “Thiefy”, with proceeds again going to Pound Paws. “Thiefy” is Grant and Nicole’s dog that was rescued through Pound Paws and the wine highlights the joy of rescuing a dog (or is it the other way around?). The “Zeffer” wine is explained above and guess what…there is a 4th “dog wine” currently in barrels that will be released at the end of 2023. So much for a “one-hit wonder.”