Spring had sprung in the South Island of New Zealand, and in the Marlborough wine region, farmers were selling their fruit crops roadside. Pink blossoms and yellow gorse stood out from the never-ending green fields. Being early in the morning, there was still a slight nip in the air, but the cloudless sky allowed the sun to shine brightly. It would warm up shortly; it’s the hot and sunny days followed by cool nights that make Marlborough perfect for grape growing.
I had two nights in Blenheim, and with over 100 wineries in the area, there was no way I could see them all. The Marlborough region is located in the northeast part of the South Island. It produces pinot noir and chardonnay, but it is most famous for its sauvignon blanc. New Zealand’s Marlborough region is home to some of the finest producers of sauvignon blanc in the world, and depending on who you ask, Cloudy Bay is often mentioned as one of the very best. Located less than two miles from my cottage, Cloudy Bay’s Cellar Door made it to the top of my to-do list.
Through my husband’s work in Singapore, I met a Kiwi by the name of Byrne. He’d recently retired and moved back to Nelson, located just down the road from Blenheim. He, along with his wife, Celi, met my husband and me at Cloudy Bay’s Cellar Door for an afternoon of wine and delicious eats.
Driving out to the winery, I immediately recognized the scenery, but I couldn’t place how. After all, it was my first time visiting New Zealand. It wasn’t until I saw the Cloudy Bay logo that everything made sense. The Richmond Range, the mountains that surround the region, is used in the design on the wine labels.
The early afternoon light poured through the Cellar Door’s floor-to-ceiling windows. Although the contemporary decor inside was eye-catching, it was the giant lawn just outside of the over-sized, sliding-glass doors that was the real star. Coming from drought-stricken Texas, it was the most lush and brilliant green I’d seen in a long time. It was like the fairways at Augusta National.
The courtyard was inviting with its picnic tables, umbrellas, and ultra-chic bean bag-style chairs. Ivy climbed the building walls and beautiful blooms filled the surrounding flowerbeds. Giant trees with an unusual peeling bark provided a bit of shade from the strong New Zealand afternoon sun. We claimed one of the tables looking out over Cloudy Bay’s grape fields and anticipated the arrival of our waitress.
Eager to try their specialty, it wasn’t hard for any of us to decide what we wanted to drink. A round of the 2011 sauvignon blanc was ordered for the table. The menu described it as “fine yet succulent, with zesty citrus flavours and fresh acidity” with “aromas of ripe stonefruit and juicy citrus with underlying notes of blackcurrant leaf and tomato plant spice.” On such a sunny day, I couldn’t imagine anything more refreshing.
I was foolish not to try the complimentary Taste of Cloudy Bay, which includes the winemaker’s selection of two wines. Drunk on the atmosphere, I just wanted to relax with friends, sip on some delicious wine, and eat some tasty nibbles. With a quick look at the small, yet varied lunch menu, we ordered the cheese & charcuterie plate and pizza for the table to share.
A beautifully displayed tray of cheese, smoked meats, olives, home-made bread, and locally-produced honey arrived along with the feta cheese and walnut pesto pizza. The delicious and fresh ingredients were the perfect accompaniment to our 2011 sauvignon blanc. Another round was ordered and the conversation continued.
I regret not taking the time to experience a private tasting in the barrel hall and a tour of the pinot noir cuverie. Cloudy Bay’s Cellar Door was so laid-back and peaceful that I simply wanted to drink in the atmosphere and the sauvignon blanc, of course. Byrne and Celi needed to head back to Nelson, and my husband and I were ready for the next winery. Our time was short in the Marlborough region, and we had many more wonderful glasses of wine to taste.