I am not one to often disagree over simile, but when Captain Cook, on his 1770 voyage to New Zealand dubbed the inlet at the eastern end of the Wairau Valley, “Cloudy Bay,” he definitely got it wrong. Good thing, too, since Cloudy Bay is both a wonderfully sunny place to grow grapes and home to Cloudy Bay Vineyards.
Cloudy Bay Vineyards was established in 1985 at the northern end of the South Island of New Zealand, in the Wairau Valley of the Marlborough appellation. The Wairau Valley enjoys the longest hours of sunshine in the country and maritime influences provide cool, clear nights. This combination results in ideal conditions for growing cool-climate grape varietals. In addition, the porous soil of the valley floor allows water to drain away, leaving behind minerals and nutrients for the vine roots.
The Marlborough region is blessed with a unique terroir and a cool maritime climate that results in large diurnal swings in temperature (the difference between daytime highs and nighttime lows). These conditions are the foundation for producing the classic expression found in the 2011 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc. Fermentation in stainless steel tanks, prolonged exposure to yeast and minimal intervention by the winemakers combine to yield a wine full of aromatics that include mango, guava and lemon/lime citrus scents. The weighty mouthfeel is slightly atypical for a sauvignon blanc, but the juicy flavors of grapefruit, tropical fruits and nectarine are hallmark traits of the varietal. Abundant acidity and mineral undertones combine on the crisp, refreshing finish and would be a brilliant pairing with fresh oysters. $20
A judicious use of oak is used in the barrel fermentation of the 2007 Cloudy Bay Chardonnay . Most of the wine is allowed to go through malolactic fermentation. This secondary fermentation leads to an appealing mix of ripe citrus, white fig and toasted hazel nuts on the bouquet and creamy flavors of grapefruit, nectarine, green apple and roasted nuts on the well-balanced frame. The light touch of oak highlights notes of baked bread on the medium-bodied finish and would pair well with Pasta Primavera or roasted halibut. $28
In 1989, Cloudy Bay decided to produce their first pinot noir, and the winemaking team has been obsessed with the varietal ever since. It is the only red wine varietal in the Cloudy Bay portfolio and they believe it is the only red grape wine that grows flawlessly in the Marlborough climate. The 2009 Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir is painstakingly crafted from 40 unique plots from 25 different vineyards. Thoughtful blending of the lots leads to a wine with enticing aromas of red berries, boysenberry and baking spices. The delicate palate sports lovely flavors of red cherries, red plums and cinnamon that flow into a well-integrated finish that highlights earthy notes of dark strawberries and mineral undertones. This lighter-styled pinot would pair beautifully with grilled salmon or roasted pork loin. $38
Te Koko is the indigenous name for Cloudy Bay and is characterized by the vineyard as the “wild child” of the portfolio. It is a full-bodied alternative styled sauvignon blanc that undergoes both barrel fermentation and malolactic fermentation, inoculated with wild yeast. It is then bottled aged and released as a fully matured wine. The 2006 Cloudy Bay Te Koko Sauvignon Blanc delivers a rather intricate and intense bouquet combining lemon curd, acacia flowers and ripe peach. In the mouth, complex flavors of orange blossom, tropical fruits, white peach and grapefruit attack in waves and layers. Notes of ginger and spice, underlined by vibrant acidity, dominate the clean, balanced finish. The complexity and depth of this wine would make it an excellent choice to enjoy with poached lobster or steamed mussels. $42