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Cloudy Bay: An Intimate Lunch with Ian Morden

March 28, 2013 1 comment
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)

Sauvignon Blanc and Greywacke

September 25, 2012 Leave a comment

I recently drank an interesting pair of wines from Marlborough, New Zealand.  The Auntsfield Estate is old by many standards with the first vineyard and winery completed in 1873.  The original log and rammed earth cellar has been restored providing an historical glimpse at how the wines were originally made.  While the original vineyard consisted of one acre of brown Muscat today there are over 100 hectares of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. The vineyards are located on the lower slopes of southern Wairau Valley.  The fruit for this Estate Sauvignon Blanc is sourced from vines located on old Greywacke rocks and Loess clay soils.

Old Vineyard, Image from Auntsfield

Greywacke is a much younger winery having been established by Kevin Judd in 2009.  Kevin Judd himself is an experienced hand having been the winemaker for the first 25 vintages at Cloudy Bay.  It was during these years that he envisioned having his own label and actually registered the Greywacke name in 1993.  The fruit for his wines are sourced from central Wairau Plains and the Southern Valleys.  The fruit for this Sauvignon blanc is sourced from vines  located on soils of greywacke river stones and older, clay-loams.   The wines themselves are made at Dog Point Winery.

Vineyard Wairau Valley, Image from murraybrock (flickr)

For those curious, such as myself, Greywacke (grey-wacky) is a grey stone found throughout New Zealand.  This type of rock consists of layers of hard, grey sandstone alternating with thinner, darker layers of mudstone.

Both of these wines are quite enjoyable and I recommend both.  If I had to pick a single bottle then I would recommend the Greywacke.  I felt it had a bit more density to its character which combined with more integrated acidity, proved a superb glass of wine all by itself.  These wines area available at MacArthur Beverages.

2011 Greywacke, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough – $19
Imported by Old Bridge Cellars.  This wine is 100% Sauvignon Blanc which was mostly machine harvested.  The majority was fermented in stainless steel tanks with cultured yeast and the remainder in old French oak barriques using indigenous yeasts.  The batches were kept on the lees until blending.  TA 7.2 g/l, pH 3.08, Alcohol 13.6%.  The color is a light straw-green.  The light nose is fresh with textured aromas of grapefruit.  In the mouth the fruit ripens with air providing flavors of white fruit, green apple, and minerals.  There is lively acidity followed by a grassy aftertaste where dry flavors of minerals leave a textured finish.  There is also a hint of sweet spiced tannins.  *** Now-2016.

2010 Auntsfield Estate, Sauvignon Blanc, Southern Valleys, Marlborough – $20
Imported by Vine Street Imports.  This wine is 100% Sauvignon Blanc sourced from estate vineyards.  85% of the fruit was machine harvested then fermented in stainless steel tanks using cultured yeast and 15% was hand harvested then fermented in seasoned oak barrels using indigenous yeasts.  TA 7.24 g/l, 3.25 pH, Alcohol 13.5%.  The medium strength nose is grassy with pink grapefruit, stones, and white fruit.  In the mouth there is tangy, textured fruit, lots of citric acidity which causes the front of the tongue to pucker before the flavors broaden and show some ripeness.  There are minerals notes towards the finish followed by a long aftertaste.  Quite a mouthful.  *** Now-2015.

An Impromtu Tasting of New Zealand Pinot Noirs

December 12, 2011 Leave a comment

I recently suggested that Shane come over to taste some wine this past weekend.  Working for Bacchus Importers during the day he is always excited to taste wine with friends.  He suggested we drink New Zealand Pinot Noir as he still had six bottles from a tasting-dinner he meant to host earlier in the fall.  After some last-minute texting and phone calls Shane brought his friend Natasha and her daughter, our neighbor Mark showed up, and Jane from the Greater Washington Wine School stopped by as well.

We wedged ourselves into our small dinning room to taste the wines and eat some food.  The wines were brown-bagged and simply opened.  The group represented a diverse set, from people in the business to fans of drinks.  In the end there was a group consensus that the favorite wine was the 2006 Voss Estate followed closely by the 2009 Felton Road.  The rest of the wines fell into a middle grouping.  Unfortunately the 2008 Peregrine was an off bottle.

  1. 2006 Voss Estate, Pinot Noir, Martinborough
  2. 2009 Felton Road, Bannockburn, Pinot Noir, Bannockburn, Central Otago
  3. 2008 Escarpment, Pinot Noir, Martinborough
    2009 Mohua, Pinot Noir, Central Otago
  4. 2008 Nautilus, Pinot Noir, Marlborough

Here are notes and Shane’s from the evening.  They are listed in the same order we tasted the wines.  The 2006 Voss is at or near peak drinking.  The 2009 Felton Road will clearly develop with age but it a lovely bottle right now.  I think the 2008 Escarpment and 2008 Nautilus need more time as they fluctuated throughout the evening and need to settle down.

#1 – 2006 Voss Estate, Pinot Noir, Martinborough
This is imported by Meadowbank Estates which is a division of Empson USA.  This wine is 100% Pinot Noir that was aged for 12 months in 15-20% new French oak barriques.  There was a medium strength nose of earthy, brambly fruit, with notes of pencil/cedar.  In the mouth this medium-bodied wine had good texture with earthy flavors of brambly fruit and pencil.  With air there were some blue, inky flavors in the finish along with integrated, supporting acidity.  Clearly the most mature wine of the lot.  This is drinking very well right now. My #1.**** Now.

Shane’s note, “Earthy with subdued dark fruit at the back.  Big on the palate and well-balanced between fruit and earth notes.  Long finish.”

#2 – 2008 Escarpment, Pinot Noir, Martinborough
This is imported by Meadowbank Estates which is a division of Empson USA.  This wine is 100% Pinot Noir that was aged for 11 months in 30% new French oak barriques.  This was young and fruity on the nose.  There is good texture in the mouth and a slightly chewy midpalate.  The fruit tilts towards sour red fruit with a hint of minerality.  I tied this between #3 and #4. **(*) Now-2017.

Shane’s note, “Lighter than #1 and more acidic, but more red fruit.  Won’t live as long, I don’t think so.”

#3 – 2009 Mohua, Pinot Noir, Central Otago
This wine is imported by Vineyard Brands.  This wine is 100% Pinot Noir from hand-harvested fruit that was de-stemmed then aged in a mix of older French oak barrels.  This was very fresh with a lighter and restrained nose.  In the mouth the cherry flavors reminded me of typical New Zealand Pinot Noir.  The fruit was a tad sweet.  I did not care for this so #5. * Now.

Shane’s note, “Big fruit bomb, a bit thin and acidic.  Still acid at the finish.”

#4 – 2008 Nautilus, Pinot Noir, Marlborough
This wine is imported by Negociants USA.  This wine is 100% Pinot Noir from hand-harvested fruit that  was de-stemmed and aged in a mixture of new and older French oak barriques.  There was a fine scent to the nose.  Reminiscent of the #2 but with more, good grip.  The ripe fruit and fine tannins were enjoyable.  There were youthful flavors of orange lemon grass with darker berries in the aftertaste. Drink now for youthfulness but will develop with age. I tied this between #3 and #4. **(*) Now-2017.

Shane’s note, “Acid in the front, cherry.  Finish is nice.”

#5 – 2009 Felton Road, Pinot Noir, Bannockburn, Central Otago
This is imported by Wilson Daniels.  This wine is 100% Pinot Noir with 20% whole-cluster fermentation using indigenous yeast.  The wine was aged for 11 months in French oak barrels.  This wine stood out with its nose of darker red fruit with notes of roasted earth.  In the mouth the fruit was a bit prickly with tip of the tongue acidity.  A lovely, young wine that almost reminded me of a brambly, rustic Cotes du Rhone.  My #2. ***(*) Now-2017+.

Shane’s note, “So pretty and soft, beautiful midpalate and great finish.  May be my favorite.”

#6 – 2008 Peregrine, Pinot Noir, Central Otago
This wine is imported by Vineyard Brands.  This wine is 100% Pinot Noir that was aged for 10 months in 38% new French oak barrels.  This was an off bottle. Not Rated.

A Wide Variety from Saturday and Sunday, 28 July 2008

The Kilikanoon was good but it is a powerful wine to be drunk in small sips. The Charles Smith Boom Boom was well done in the bright red fruit vein. The Mourre du Tendre was some funky stuff that I only drank two glasses of. The Attems Pinot Grigio was a nice surprise. And the two pinots were much appreciated during the humid Sunday evening.

2004 Kilikanoon, The Prodigal, Grenache, Clare Valley – $26
This grenache was aged for 24 months in older American and French oak hogsheads. A medium opaque ruby with some garnet. A light to medium nose of sweet red fruit. Concentrated fruit flavors assault with red fruit up front then dark berries develop in a supporting role. Mild acidity through with a mild finish and minimal tannins. I think this full-bodied wine needs more age before it can unleash all.

2006 Charles Smith, Boom Boom, Syrah – $22
From K Vintners. A good nose of light, bright dusty northwest red fruit. In the mouth, red fruit, raspberries, and acidity abound. Minimal, very fine, young tannins. There is a light, fresh, and slightly juicy finish. Drink now or within a year or so. It drank almost exactly the same the next night.

2001 Mourre du Tendre, Cuvee Tradition, Cotes du Rhone Villages – $22
Upon decanting Jenn found an intense nose of white grapefruit. To me it was more cat pee on clay litter. After 24 hours grapefruit/pee bit disappeared and was replaced by sweet red raspberry candy/liquor. The flavors follow the nose with slightly chewy red berries in this medium bodied wine. This is some funky stuff that won’t appeal to most.

These two ’95s have been lurking in my basement for some reason. I had some hope for the Puygueraud but….

1995 Chateau La Boscq, Vieilles Vignes, Medoc
Some stinky cheese at first then a light claret and cedar nose. There are bright red berries, lean fruit, and a cinnamon flavor that develops with air. This light to medium bodied show its acidity in the finish then is followed by a simple aftertaste. Drink up. It is drinkable but completely boring.

1995 Chateau Puygueraud, Cotes de Francs
A light color of heavily bricked garnet. A light nose of mostly volatile acidity.
Thin fruit, towards acidic and a little sour. A cool, menthol finish with very fine tannins in aftertaste. Gets worse with air. Not worth drinking.

A few good wines from dinner at a friends’ house. No notes, just what Jenn and I remember.

2007 Attems, Pinot Grigio, Collio – $17
I thought this was an excellent Pinot Grigio. Round and somewhat creamy fruit, lively and refreshing.

2002 Fromm, Clayvin Vineyard, Pinot Noir, Marlborough
The first bottle was corked but the second one delivered the goods right away. Good nose of dark blue fruits that is beginning to develop some complexity. This medium bodied wine has blue fruit in the mouth, some oak, and leaves the impression of restraint. While it drank well now I’d cellar it a few more years to see what develops. We preferred this over the Dierberg…not to imply that the Dierberg wasn’t good.

2005 Dierberg, Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley
Aged 16 months in 90% new French oak. Dark red berries on the nose. Dark blue and red fruit flavors that are concentrated with good acidity. I’d cellar this for a few years before drinking. The oak is not overdone.