From Cloudy to Grey: It's clear skies for NZ winemaker Kevin Judd

by Chuck Hayward

From Cloudy to Grey: It's clear skies for NZ winemaker Kevin Judd

Post by Chuck Hayward | January 17th, 2012

JJ Buckley is proud to be the first retailer in America to sell the wines from Kevin Judd, the founding winemaker from Cloudy Bay. Named after a local soil type, Greywacke (pronounced gray-wack-y) represents Kevin's effort to get back to the hands on, intuitive and personal approach to winemaking that had become difficult to pursue as the success of Cloudy Bay grew exponentially. Founded just three years ago, the wines have already received significant international acclaim for being some of the top produced in New Zealand.

Kevin Judd (c) with his dog and cellar assistant
Kevin Judd (c) with his dog Dixie and cellar assistant Fin

In spite of the heaping critical praise and excellent ratings, Kevin was unable to secure an American importer...until now! Connecting with Old Bridge Cellars (known for their high-end Australian portfolio, including such wineries as d'Arenberg and John Duval Wines), Greywacke has become the first New Zealand wine in their portfolio. Thanks to our relationship with Kevin and Old Bridge, JJ Buckley has been selected to introduce his wines to the American market.

Greywacke's portfolio resembles the wines he made at Cloudy Bay and, indeed, Kevin is working with particular blocks from the growers he came to prefer in his former job. The wines are made at Dog Point Vineyard, owned by best mates and Cloudy Bay alums, James Healy and Ivan Sutherland. During the time when he could not find an American importer, word about the quality of Kevin's new venture washed ashore here in America, and a rare opportunity to taste a few sips of his sauvignon blanc a few years ago left me wanting more. Accordingly, I took the opportunity on a recent visit to NZ to catch up with Kevin and taste through his portfolio. It was clear to me that he has raised his game and is now well on the way to establishing one of Marlborough's top wineries.

Line-up of Greywacke tasted at the winery

What was most exciting in my introduction to Kevin's wines was the sense of clarity, precision and focus in the flavors and aromas of the entire range. The Sauvignon Blanc impressed me for its elegance and minerality, while the naturally fermented "Wild" Sauv Blanc was a more refined statement of the barrel fermented style when compared to the “Te Koko” he invented at Cloudy Bay. But it was his Pinot Noir that spoke most clearly to me with its bright, pristine flavors. These are grown-up, sophisticated Marlborough wines that mark a new interpretation of what the appellation is capable of.

Hanging out at the winery with Kevin, James, assorted dogs and cellar assistants, it is clear that he enjoys getting back to the basics of winemaking and working with his mates. Running his own winery and being responsible for the bookkeeping and sales promotion tasks are clearly adding to his workload, but it's not too hard to discern from his quiet demeanor that he is very happy to be here. A bit more time to indulge his passion for photography is in the works, but first, there's that American market to deal with...