Cloudy Bay's Ivan Sutherland and James Healy are leaving to start their own label.

They will continue full-time at the highly-rated Marlborough, New Zealand winery for the next two vintages, and then set up the new label in earnest. They will both remain on the Cloudy Bay board as consultants.

Both have been key to Cloudy Bay’s success. Viticulturalist Sutherland (pictured) has been there since it started in 1986, while oenologist Healy joined in 1991.

Setting up the new label will be a fairly smooth process – not least because the grapes will be sourced entirely from Sutherland’s existing vineyards in Marlborough’s Brancott Valley. He already supplies some 35% of the fruit that goes into Cloudy Bay’s sought-after Pinots, Sauvignons and Chardonnays, and is keen to stress that he won’t be hurting the winery in any way.

‘My contract has always allowed me to keep back grapes for my own use,’ he told decanter.com. ‘Two to three years ago I established some vineyards that were not contracted, so I am not taking anything from the company.’

The first wine will be released in 2004. Initially production will be ‘very small’ – around 2000 cases of Pinot Noir from 12-17-year-old vines, and 1,200 of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.

Sutherland is excited about the move. Explaining that he and Healy have been discussing it with Cloudy Bay directors for some years, he said, ‘I’m around that magical 50 bracket and I’ve begun to think if I don’t do it now I probably never will.’

He’s relishing the challenge for other reasons. Keen to make clear that he doesn’t want to piggy-back on the success of Cloudy Bay, he is looking forward to developing an individual style of Pinot Noir from ‘slightly different’ clones with lower cropping levels – aiming to make a series of ‘points of difference’ from established producers.

Sutherland won’t divulge the name of the new winery. He expects to be producing one vineyard-designated Pinot at first, moving up to three labels in time. Most of all he wants to be left to make good, affordable wines in peace.

‘I don’t want to make a song and dance about it,’ he said. ‘I just want to quietly get on and make some nice wine.’

  • Cloudy Bay appointed a new winemaker, Eveline Fraser, 12 months ago, director Kevin Judd told decanter.com.

    picture courtesy Cloudy Bay

    Written by Adam Lechmere6 March 2002