It is always a treat to have a chance to meet a winemaker pouring their wine and telling you the story behind it, the vintage, the winery, or themselves. Recently, I had a chance to meet Tim Heath, the wine maker for the New Zealand winery Cloudy Bay, on a sunny fall day. Cloudy Bay winery, located in Marlborough, is an iconic winery in New Zealand, known for their Sauvignon Blanc wines. Their first commercial vintage of Sauvignon Blanc was in 1985. Tim poured 2 vintages of their Sauvignon Blanc for me, and as well some barrel fermented Chardonnay and an aged Pinot Noir. All are under screw cap. But before presenting my tasting notes for these 4 wines, I had a brief interview with Tim, which I hope you will enjoy as well.
Interviewing Tim Heath
MyWinePal: You took over from Kevin Judd, their wine maker for many years. What would you say your style is or do you want to bring out something in these wines different from Kevin?
Tim: Not really. I’ve been there for 9 years. I’ve worked with Kevin at Cloudy Bay. I don’t think Cloudy Bay needs to be played with stylistically. The wine has a well known identity. The last thing we want to do is change it around. It doesn’t mean we will keep the style the same; there will be some evolution in style. We are trying some barrel fermentation.
MyWinePal: I was going to ask about that. Some NZ winemakers want to get away from the typical bracing NZ style of Sauvignon Blanc.
Tim: Yes we are using a barrel ferment; you don’t really see it. It is about 5% of the wine. Those barrel fermented wines are round, rich and have nice texture. They (barrel fermentation) are good tools to use to add some mouth feel and texture that sits along the acid structure and allows you to avoid using too much residual sugar to balance out the wine.
MyWinePal: NZ and BC have similar history, planting vines, both are cool climate. Any advice to BC wineries?
Tim: No I’m sure they know what they are doing. In any wine region it is learning to tell your own story. It’s not to imitate other regions. You can draw inspiration from other regions, but find your own style.
MyWinePal: Have u tried any BC wines?
Tim: Not on this trip, but did try some BC wines before. A Pinot Noir, but I can’t remember the name (I determined later it was either Howling Bluff or Nk’
MyWinePal: What was your influence that got you into wine mkaing? Was there a particular bottle you tasted? Or is it in your blood?
Tim: No, I started in organic chemistry which i found was quite boring. I kept looking at studying wine so I enrolled in enology and luckily I enjoy doing this.
MyWinePal: Is Cloudy Bay your fist winery?
Tim: No, the Claire Valley north of Barossa; a Riesling area. Then, in the Northern Rhone, where I thought cool climate is something I prefer. Then the phone rang and received a job offer from Cloudy Bay.
MyWinePal: Thank you. It has been very interesting talking with you.
My Tasting Notes
Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2013 ($31.50) – Very aromatic, full of herbal and gooseberry aromas. High acidity, dry with gooseberry and citrus followed by leafiness, lemon rind and then by jalapeno peppers. Medium length. A nice wine. Goes well with oysters on the half shell.
- Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2012 ($31.50) – This wine is also very aromatic but this time it’s asparagus and green peas. High acidity with a bit of prickle on the tongue, dry, but a bit rounder mouth feel. Gooseberry and citrus followed by jalapeno peppers again. Mouth watering finish with a medium plus length. Again another wine for oysters and other seafood.
- Cloudy Bay Chardonnay 2010 ($31.50) – This wine is 100% barrel fermented in French oak, but does not overpower the wine. You do get toasty oak and vanilla, along with tropical fruit and a hint of nutmeg on the nose. Medium plus body, dry, with a soft mouth feel. Restrained flavours. You get light acidity, light citrus with some creaminess from the partial malolactic fermentation. A bit of pepperiness on the finish, with long length. This is a very elegant wine; quite balanced between the oak, fruit, and acidity.
- Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir 2006 – Medium translucent garnet in the glass. No bricking at all. Earthy together with cherry aromas, and nutmeg hiding in behind. Medium body, dry with a light mouth feel. Light cherry and tea leaves with a hint of nutmeg and some leafiness on the palate. Soft tannins and a medium minus length. The nutmeg character becomes more prominent as you let this wine breathe in your glass. Another nice quality wine.
All four of the wines were of good quality and I would not hesitate ordering them with a meal and sharing with friends.