About 25 years ago, sauvignon blanc from New Zealand’s Marlborough region – located at the northern tip of the country’s South Island – began to catch the imagination of the American drinking public as an antidote to California’s big, oaky chardonnays. These Kiwi sauvignons were crisp, herbal, and fragrant, and had food-friendly, piercing acidity and minerality. The first Marlborough winery to score big with the American palate was Cloudy Bay, which opened its doors in 1985.
Partly because it is a young winery from a young winemaking region, Cloudy Bay has recently launched an effort to make better understood – and to publicize – the connection between wines made in the Marlborough area and the foods that can be harvested from nearby sea, rivers, mountains, and farms. Each February, the winery holds a “Forage” event and invites a handful of writers from around the world to take part. This year, I was one of them. The idea was this: We'd spend one day foraging for food and one day in the vineyard with viticulturist Jim White, peeking through the vines to learn about how both red and white grapes are grown at Cloudy Bay. Then we'd enjoy the combination in a harvest dinner.