Saturday, October 8, 2011

Wines of Cloudy Bay, Marlborough New Zealand

Marlborough, New Zealand's South Island seems to have a handle on Sauvignon Blanc. I recently had a chance to sample a few along with a Chardonnay, Riesling and a Pinot Noir. Cloudy Bay’s thoroughly engaging winemaker Sarah Burton was our guide at an outdoor dinner featuring their wares at The Elizabeth Street Gallery, an outdoor antique garden in New York City’s Nolita, with beautifully matching cuisine by Silkstone.

Sarah is one of three winemakers at Cloudy Bay (teamed with Tim Heath and Nick Lane) in Blenheim, Marlborough, New Zealand. “No traffic lights, no people and 1 coffee shop.” She’s been at Cloudy bay for 2 years and it’s just celebrated it’s 25th year anniversary. They’ve come a long way and their focus is on Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. “Marlborough is a family region, where animals are important, people are close knit.” Their wines are about science and art but especially about people.

2011 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc
This one is close to her heart, she and her team spent hours of fine tuning, they take it seriously, and they’re proud of it. I especially loved this one. Sarah says, “It reminds me of Christmas, with a vibrancy, fresh fruit, texture, herbs, capsicum, grapefruit, a palate that’s smooth, creamy, with a crisp finish. We slipped in a 2% controlled barrel fermentation which adds fleshiness, aged it 4 months in old barrels with some barrels from as far back as 1986 so they’re neutral, with no oak influences and more aeration than influence from the barrel. The point is to get flavors from the grape directly into the bottle. It’s all about climate... it’s the cool nights that give fresh vibrancy and acidity that make it special.”

Te Koko Sauvignon Blanc 2006
From the same vineyards as above, left to ripen a bit longer, they press the grapes but play around with the solids and the juice to give more texture and weight later on, then it’s 100% barrel fermented with 10% new oak and 90% really old (neutral) French oak. Complex, showing individual personality, and as this wine opens, the changes are apparent and amazing. Savory, with orange blossom characters, some citrus notes, but more nuttiness, creaminess from the barrel fermentation. The fermentation takes place using only wild yeast, followed by a partial malolactic fermentation, left in barrel for 18 months, then another 18 months in bottle. 2 words: Minerality & Texture!

Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir 2009
The next big varietal coming out of Marlborough is Pinot Noir. Early on in NZ these grapes traditionally were planted on the plains and now planted on slopes which improved quality of fruits. Pinot Noir is gently handled, hand picked, then fermented for 2 weeks with natural yeasts, the use of “whole bunch” makes spicy green characters from the stems. 2 more weeks on skins impart more color and tannins, press off to 40% new oak barrel and 60% 2-3 year old oak, all French, and aged for 8-10 months, Complex, fruity, raspberry, strawberry, funk, spicy, chocolate, expressive, smooth, soft, supple tannins with minerality. I also get hints of white pepper, aromas of red licorice, a good long finish, and a clean earthiness.

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