Home > Tasting Notes and Wine Reviews > Cloudy Bay: An Intimate Lunch with Ian Morden

Cloudy Bay: An Intimate Lunch with Ian Morden


Vineyard, Image from Cloudy Bay

Vineyard, Image from Cloudy Bay

Captain Cook set sight on Cloudy Bay on Wednesday, the 7th of February 1770.  In his journal he noted, “…the snowy Mountain S.W. being…abreast of a Deep Bay or inlet called Cloudy bay…”.  Some 200 years later in 1985 the Cloudy Bay Vineyards was founded by David Hohnen.  Cloudy Bay quickly became infamous for its Sauvignon Blanc.  It was served aboard the first British Airways round-the-world flight of the Concorde. Unfortunately, after departing Christchurch a tail rudder incident caused those glasses of Sauvignon Blanc to fly about the cabin.  The trajectory of its popularity continued to ascend such that we find Jamie Goode commenting in 2000 that it was so popular in England that wine merchants were finding all sorts of ways to ration the wine.  Less than one decade later Ian Morden became Estate Manager of Cloudy Bay.

Ian Morden

Ian Morden

I was quick to accept an invitation from Maria Denton, the Moet Hennessey Portfolio Manager at Washington Wholesale Liquor Company, to join her and Ian for a lunch at The Blue Duck Tavern.  I had it in mind I was attending a luncheon tasting with others in the business and I was the blogger.  With bag and Nikon slung over my shoulder I announced to the hostess that I was present for the Cloudy Bay Tasting and Lunch.  She was perplexed, there was no big tasting scheduled.  It began to dawn on me, I was having lunch with just Ian and Maria.

The Blue Duck Tavern was an apt choice for lunch.  With a menu full of locally sourced ingredients it reminded Ian of Forage Cloudy Bay.  In this event four groups set off in cardinal directions to gather ingredients for a meal.  At the end of the day all of the items are placed on a giant table so that the chefs may get to work. The food, of course, is complimented by the wines of Cloud Bay.  One effort to prevent cellar palate is the annual Pinot at Cloudy Bay.  In this event one to dozen Pinot Noirs sourced from around the world are served to an array of international guests in discrete tasting sessions.  Ian certainly drinks diversely and more than once per year.  He was quick to ask Maria and I for suggestions on local wineries he should visit and try.

We started our lunch with two glasses of Sauvignon Blanc both of which are sourced from the same vineyards.  The traditional Sauvignon Blanc was very aromatic and textured, what I would hope for from this wine.  But the mouth was surprising for it contained more texture and weight than I had expected.  Ian believes that Sauvignon Blanc should not just be about aroma and flavor but also of texture.  I can appreciate that desire as I like to pay attention to the feel of the wine on my tongue, gums, cheeks, and throat.  The structural component has been achieved in the last several vintages through barrel fermenting a small portion of the wine in old oak.  Barrel fermented Sauvignon Blanc is not new to Cloudy Bay, it has been practiced for many years and is fully expressed in their Te Koko.  Legend has it that the explorer Kupe pursued a giant octopus across the Pacific Ocean ultimately killing it in the Marlborough Sounds.  For food Kupe dredged up oysters with a scoop in Cloud bay.  The Maori called this bay Te Koko-o-Kupe or Kupe’s scoop.  This wine is primarily barrel fermented Sauvignon Blanc using indigenous yeasts.  Some of the lots took up to eight months to complete fermentation.  Whereas the traditional Sauvignon Blanc expresses itself best at a cool temperature, the Te Koko blossomed with air and warmth.  I kept my glass around for one hour and it was lovely, truly complex.

Ian is responsible for the management and strategy of Cloudy Bay.  He is also part of the four-person team responsible for the blending of the wines.  Tim Heath, Senior Winemaker, and his team of Nicholas Blampied- Lane and Sarah Burton are responsible for the wine making.  The strength of this team is evident in the first glass of Sauvignon Blanc.  The 2012 vintage was described by Tim Heath as “nerve-wracking”.  After a great start this vintage went on to experience the coolest temperatures and least amount of sunlight in eighty years.  The fruit took two weeks longer to mature but went on to experience one of the sunniest autumns.  Yields were reduced by 25%.

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2012 Cloud Bay, Sauvignon Blanc –
This wine is 100% Sauvignon Blanc which was primarily fermented in stainless steel with 3% fermented in old French oak barriques using inoculated yeast.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The color was a very light straw with a hint of yellow.  The medium strength nose was aromatic with textured passion fruit.  As it warmed up the aromas became more pungent with notes of grass.  There was a crisp but weighty start to the flavors before the wine fully developed weight and texture midpalate.  There was a long aftertaste which left some citrus notes and fine acidity on the sides of the tongue.

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2009 Cloudy Bay, Te Koko, Marlborough –
This wine is 100% Sauvignon Blanc which was fermented using indigenous yeast in 90% used French oak barrels then underwent malolactic fermentation.  It was then aged on the lees.  Alcohol 14%.  The color was a light golden-yellow straw.  The light nose was more heavy with floral and salami aromas (sounds strange but is good).  There was very fresh fruit in the mouth with watering acidity and lifted berry notes in the middle.  The acidity came out on the sides of the tongue.  The finish brought flavors of white nuts, ripe tannins, and some tang.  This continued to develop in the glass over the course of lunch.

Their Chardonnay followed, which was a first for me.  The Chardonnay is sourced from Mendoza clones which provide many small berries that provide a higher skin to juice ratio.  Cloud Bay has already released the 2011 vintage but you should have no fear.  I thought the 2007 vintage drank quite well displaying balance between bottle age, barrel influences, and acidity.  I imagine it should drink well for another few years.

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2007 Cloudy Bay, Chardonnay, Marlborough –
This wine is 100% Chardonnay which was fermented using indigenous yeasts in mostly barrels with some stainless steel tanks using inoculated yeasts.  It was then aged for 12 months in 25% new French oak barrels.  Alcohol 14.0%.  The color was a vibrant light gold.  The light nose revealed heavier, honied aromas with a touch of lees.  There was gentle dense weight to the flavors which were matched by building acidity.  There were slight barrel toast notes and a sense of maturity as stone flavors came out in the mouthfilling finish.

Barracks Block Vineyard, Image from Cloudy Bay

Barracks Block Vineyard, Image from Cloudy Bay

With our entrees arriving it was time to move on to Pinot Noir.  Cloudy Bay has been bottling Pinot Noir since 1989.  They source fruit for all of their wines from four estate vineyards and also growers.  Some of the growers have been providing fruit for over 20 years.  Over the years they have been exploring vineyard sites throughout Marlborough.  This has led them to the free draining soils of the Wairau Valley plains where the Sauvignon Blanc vineyards are located to the clay based soils of the Southern Valleys.  As a result the estate vineyards expanded in 2004 to include the Barracks Block Vineyard.  This was virgin soils which had never seen a vine so there was natural curiosity to taste the results.  They planted the entire vineyard with Pinot Noir choosing to use Burgundian clones.  The estate vineyards generally lie on alluvial gravels with some clay and they experience a maritime climate.  The fruit is cropped at 6 tons per hectare.  The Te Wahi, Maori for The Place,  is produced from vineyards in Central Otago.  Here the soils contains glacial schist with the climate being continental.  The fruit is cropped around 4.5 tons per hectare.  This was an interesting comparison.  The Marlborough Pinot Noir was brighter and redder than the perfumed Te Wahi which was savory with blacker fruit.

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2009 Cloudy Bay, Pinot Noir, Marlborough –
This wine is 100% Pinot Noir which was destemmed and fermented using indigenous yeasts in stainless steel tanks.  It was lightly pressed then aged for 12 months in 50% new French oak barrels.  Alcohol 14.1%.    The color was a light to medium garnet cherry.  There was bright red fruit in the mouth then dark red fruit flavors with integrated acidity.  There was long powdery texture and ripe flavors in the finish.

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2010 Cloudy Bay, Te Wahi, Central Otago –
This wine is 100% Pinot Noir which was 95% destemmed then fermented in open top stainless steel tanks.  It was lightly pressed then aged for 14 months in 40% new French oak.  Alcohol 13.7%.  The color was a medium dark ruby, more intense than the previous wine.  The black and red fruited nose was very finely textured with aromas of stone and perfume.  There were firmer flavors of hard candy along with black and red fruit.  With air savory herbs developed along with perfume.  This is a young wine with strong potential.  Beautiful.

With our entrees cleared it was time for coffee, sugar cookies, and dessert wine.  If I may sum up their Late Harvest Botrytis Riesling it really tastes like Riesling from New Zealand.  The fruit which is harvested is mostly botrytised.  Whereas the Sauvignon Blanc may be harvested in March the Riesling will be harvested in May or even June.  Some of the fruit is unaffected and used for acidity.

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2008 Cloudy Bay, Late Harvest Botrytis Riesling, Marlborough –
This wine is 100% Riesling of which most was botrytised.  The fruit was pressed overnight then fermented for 10 months in old French oak barrels.  Fermentation was arrested with sulphur.  TA 8.8 g/l, 3.2 pH, RS 128 g/l, Alcohol 11%.  There was a light gold color.  The light to medium nose was aromatic with citrus and grass, combining a sense of New Zealand but clearly Riesling.  There was good acidity in the mouth, textured flavors, and a little fresh, citrus note.  There was gentle botrytis flavor, perhaps tea, and acidity which came with a lifted citrus finish.

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The wine caps feature a logo inspired by the dolphins which swim nearby.  Cloudy Bay even produces a sparkling wine named after Pelorus Jack, a dolphin which famously swam in the Cook Straight one century ago.  He was so beloved that he was protected by law.  Cloudy Bay is an historic winery which embraces local history.  With the newer vintages I think it is evident that Ian has balanced respect and change to subtly create new wines.

Pelorus Jack, Image from the State Library of South Australia, 1912. (Flickr Creative Commons License)

Pelorus Jack, Image from the State Library of South Australia, 1912. (Flickr Creative Commons License)

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  1. March 29, 2013 at 8:02 am

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