Browse all our archived news below, sorted by year.
Dear Friends of Bell Hill,
We hope this finds you well. For ourselves, we are behind our normal timing and we thank you for your friendly emails along the way seeking our next release and wondering if you have missed out! The new season, spring growth, a few frosts, export market work, other jobs and the fact that there are not more than 24 hours in the day has prevented us from getting to this before now. I have been promising myself (and others) to write this letter for some time - it is the last piece of the puzzle in our mail-out to you. The way it works is…I get started and Marcel contributes and censures along the way. I needed a bit of a shake up and a few ultimatums – we got it over the last two weeks – an awfully long, rolling 7.8 earthquake quite unlike the others that have come before over the last six years followed by a very close to home 5.8 in the Scargill Valley.
Amazingly, surprisingly, and thankfully, even though we are close to the epicentres, we suffered no damage or loss. We checked the barrel cellar at 5am which is stacked three barrels high on wood chocks to find everything secure. There are other implications in terms of Marlborough wineries plus freight and road access for all in the South Island. Mostly, we think about the plight of those in Kaikoura, Waiau and Scargill/Greta Valley, very testing times and we empathise with their situation and emotions right now.
For our activities over the past year since we last wrote to you, how quickly time goes by. We’re currently very active in the vineyard with shoot-thinning, weeding (due to recent and regular rainfall giving the neighbouring farmers respite from our 3-year drought but more work for us with organic farming), and spraying (in France, they use the word “treatment” – I like that much better, sounds soft and pleasant, like a spa perhaps…). We’ve also just bottled our very small 2015 vintage (you may recall we had a devastating hail storm and cool spring temperatures that severely reduced our yields). The wine looks good however so we have to celebrate the small wins. Meanwhile, the 2014 wines are quietly having their time in bottle and the 2013’s have our attention for pending release.
We had some limited time visiting export markets, always good to do and helps with keeping connected to those interested in Bell Hill. This year, it was a flying visit to Melbourne in early October to introduce the 2013 wines with a line-up of the 2011 and 2006 wines at Banjo Harris’ Liberty Bar, also a trip to California and New York in July which was based around visiting our restaurant accounts and fine-tuning the distribution model going forward. Going back a little, last November Marcel attended the Robert Parker Matter of Taste Event in San Francisco on our behalf, which is good exposure and nice to be involved in. We’ve taken on our own distribution in the US, UK and EU which has some complexities and has taken a couple of years to settle into but we think we’re on the home straight now and it is good to have more control of who we are working with and where our wine ends up with restaurants and private customers still being the core of what we do.
Our team is doing well right now, we’ve said goodbye to a few people and welcomed some new members and we have more details about them on our website. Our journalistic reviews have been positive and we were amongst the 47 wines selected for the inaugural Air NZ Fine Wines of New Zealand Awards – with the Bell Hill 2012 Pinot Noir. Not that you will find this wine on any business class flight – the small print details that, due to small volumes or unsuitability to high altitude, some wines are not available. We have some passable reviews for the current release and previous releases and the short list is enclosed with this letter.
Looking at the 2016 season behind us, we had a great growing season and finally reached our full potential cropping level. This was a long time coming and pushed a few boundaries in terms of winery space (we had fermenters in our lunch room – yes, all health and safety measured were abided to) and now we are making plans for some winery space improvements before next harvest. Moving on to the 2013 release…volumes are much improved over the 2012 vintage for the Bell Hill Pinot Noir but the Chardonnay and Old Weka Pass Road Pinot Noir is still on allocation in order to share the wine around.
Thank you for reading our news. We wish you well for the coming year and thank you for being part of Bell Hill.
Sherwyn and Marcel.
Dear Friends of Bell Hill,
It’s been a while…I last wrote in March but I see that dropped off the website when we went live with our new website – we hope you like it. Not too much has changed as we were very happy with how the site looked and fit with what we are about at Bell Hill. Therefore, we asked our original designer Guy Pask, now of Double Lux design, to undertake the rebuild for us. The changes are more in the slightly updated format, the device compatibility and behind the scenes structure and workings – more than that, I can’t tell you. And…still no on-line sales. Over the last couple of days I counted our paper stocks in preparation for our next release – there will be something in the mail box at the end of your driveway this spring.
It’s been busy…what can I tell you and where do I start…a great, hot growing season with a good crop. I hate to admit that we don’t mind the drought, our vines are well established and don’t require water. The close planting forces the roots to go deep and the lime based soils hold water well so we don’t see the drought stress symptoms others have had to endure this past season plus the rain in January gave some reprieve. Finally in 2016, the full production came in from the entire vineyard – this includes our most recent plantings from 2009. We actually got there in 2014 but had some losses due to rain and, in 2015, we lost half our crop after a devastating hail storm in the early part of the season. So, 2016 was our year with around 14 tonnes of fruit and a great season behind it. We wait for the wines to do time in barrel and by February we will have a good picture of how things look and whether there may be some single block wines amongst them.
We are now getting ready to label the 2013 wines and we have the 2015 wines in tank due for bottling sometime in spring. The exciting news here is that all the 2015 Pinot Noir made it into the Bell Hill blend, less exciting is the fact of the small volume of wine that year but c’est la vie…
Regarding the team, I’ve just updated “Our People” on the website and we’ve moved onto a recruitment drive as we have two team members that will be leaving us in September. We’ve also created a new role of Winegrower/Winemaker – largely focused in the vineyard but with the volume of fruit we worked with this year we realized we need more help during harvest and day to day care of wine throughout the year. We hope to announce the new team member this month.
Marcel and I have just returned from a two week visit to the US, touching base with colleagues, distribution partners, wine community friends and restaurant customers in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York, enjoying a weekend with friends at Big Sur in CA and a weekend of NYC tourism along the way. Pleased to leave the NYC heat and yellow cabs behind however! Our guys finished the last pruning cuts when I returned which was great so now we are a little ahead of ourselves - this doesn’t usually last long with the next growing season around the corner! We’re hoping to plant some more truffle trees this spring and are making plans for the land next door as well as winery expansion and changes for next vintage.
Keep well everyone and we’ll be in touch again soon,
Best wishes, Sherwyn.