Cloudy Bay was established in 1985 by David Hohnen, a modest but smart farmer who was also a huge risk taker. Hohnen—who had learned wine relatively quickly by taking abbreviated coursework at Fresno State in California—had a remarkable instinct for great vineyard sites. He established Cloudy Bay at a time when virtually no one in the wine industry had heard of Marlborough and when New Zealand was best known for lamb. Hohnen attracted another creative risk taker, Kevin Judd, from Hawkes Bay to lead the winery team. The vineyards they planted were about 6 miles from the sea, inland from a bay known as Cloudy Bay because glacial silt made the pristine waters appear cloudy. From the beginning the two envisioned a great wine—not a trendy, one vintage, flash-in-the-pan.
The key was a precise nucleus of harmony. Their sauvignon blanc had to harness sauvignon’s freshness but leave out all the gawky green flavors. Their sauvignon had to have structure—so that it swung like a pendulum across the full range of the palate. It had to be elegant (not raw) and dry. It had to appeal to drinkers who knew quality when they tasted it.
Since establishing its quality reputation, Cloudy Bay has added a few more wines to the family—chardonnay in 1986, pinot noir in 1989, and Te Koko, a barrel aged sauvignon blanc in 1996. The original vintages of Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc were exquisite. Wisely, the winery has never changed its style. Because it is such a distinctive wine that had such a huge impact on the wine world, Cloudy Bay has broad appeal. Whether you’re a traditionalist or avant garde, you have to know it.