by Fred McMillin
for March 7, 1997
Winery of the Week
Cloudy Bay Is A-OK
This is the story of New Zealand's hottest winery, Cloudy Bay.
In the Beginning, Maoris and Missionaries 1642—Captain Abel Janszoon Tasman is the first to sight "a large, high-lying land" that today we call New Zealand. He sent out a small boat to greet the two approaching double canoes, "paddled at considerable speed" by fierce-looking Maoris, each wearing a large, white feather in his hair. The canoes promptly rammed the boat, killed the occupants, and fled. So did Capt. Tasman. No explorer returned for nearly two centuries. 1814—A very brave missionary, Samuel Marsden, brings his faith and vines... to be tended by some of those 400,000 Maoris? Against all odds he succeeded. In fact, in 1835 a British ship visited the settlement and an observer noted that the grapes were flourishing and being attended by Maoris attached to the mission. We now leap forward 150 years.
The Bay's Chardonnay While the Sauvignon Blanc has almost single-handedly brought international respect for New Zealand wine, the Cloudy Bay Chardonnay is not far behind. The "Slow Food Guide" found it powerful, complex, and rich with a firm backbone of acidity. It has so much interest I served it as an aperitif with water crackers and light, white cheeses. It sells in the $20 range, and unlike the Sauvignon Blanc, there's still some around.
Just the Facts
Postscript: Remember the observer who saw the Maoris tending vines in 1835? He sailed in on the H.M.S. Beagle; his name was Charles Darwin.
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