Browse all our archived news below, sorted by year.
Dear Friends of Bell Hill,
The time of year has come that we are thinking of our next vintage release - a little later than usual but the wine has improved even further as a result. It is our pleasure to finally offer you the release of the 2005 vintage. It has taken a bit more time with this release, we thought we could do it before Christmas but with planting 1300 new vines on the steep Shelf slope and the normal work in the vineyard’s established blocks, time was limited and channelled towards making 2008 vintage a success. We finished pressing off the last Pinot Noir on the 23rd of May and are happy with the outcome of the vintage, we had a great, warm summer and although rain in February relieved the drought and slowed down the end of the season, we feel the 2008’s should have good fruit power but will be primarily elegant and in line with the 2007 vintage. Volumes were very good in that they were normal, no interference from poor flowering unlike the 2005 for which we would like to apologise in advance for the very small amount of wine we can allocate to you. One bottle of each wine is miserable to say the least and, believe us, we are just as disappointed! We can look forward to the 2006 release however where volumes are as they should be for our small plantings.
We hope you are all well and would like to take the opportunity to say thank you for supporting us in the past with our previous vintages and also to say welcome to our journey to those of you who have decided to join us as customers this year. It has been a year which has seen some good reviews and media exposure and has generated a lot of interest in our wines, but unfortunately it is to be coupled with a release of one of the lowest volumes of wine from Bell Hill. As mentioned, this was due to poor flowering weather which resulted in low fruit-set during December 2004.
Let’s talk about the wines…this year we have three wines on offer – all are from the 2005 vintage and include the Bell Hill Pinot Noir, the Bell Hill Chardonnay and the Bell Hill Old Weka Pass Road Pinot Noir. We had three and a half barrels of Pinot Noir and less than one barrel of Chardonnay - so have lost a little sleep over allocations and are likely to lose a little more. Please refer to the enclosed vintage and winemaking notes for further detail but we can say that the Pinot Noirs wanted to spend more time in wood than in the past (18 months) and the Chardonnays from 2002 (not released but the first Chardonnay we made) and 2004 have shown us that they do improve with time as the Pinot Noirs do. Please do not be in a hurry to drink these wines, they were bottled in March 2007 and can have some more time in the bottle. The Pinot Noirs have a strong savoury profile to them which is very complex and the Chardonnay displays that core of minerality and acidity that we look for as markers of our site and soil.
What else has been happening at Bell Hill – who has been visiting, what have we been doing, and what are we thinking about doing…
We said goodbye to Kurt Simcic in June (who has gone on to Cloudy Bay as vineyard manager for the Barracks Pinot Noir Vineyard) and Oliver Polson in October (who has returned to the Waikato and cave guiding, although he did the 2008 harvest at Indevin in Marlborough) and now have new people with us. Carlene Linden, our part-time office administrator joined us in May 2007. Shane Livingstone and Andrew Stanley both joined us in the vineyard in October 2007. Their biographies are on our website and while it is sad to say goodbye to those who contribute along the way, it is also rewarding to have good people accompany us on our journey into the future.
We selected a distributor for the Auckland market starting with the 2004 vintage, this is Daniel Kemp from Kemp Rare Wines in Newmarket. This is for on-premise accounts only as we are only available by mail-order or in restaurants within New Zealand and Daniel has done a great job in getting us into some key Auckland restaurants and educating his customers about what we do.
All our distributors from our export markets have visited over the last year, including those from Australia, the US, Japan and the UK. It is great to have them visit and see what we do as well as taste the new vintages before we send them to their markets and since we have been making our wine on-site since the 2005 harvest, we can also show them each individual block while it is in barrique.
Claude and Lydia Bourguignon from Burgundy consulted to us beginning with a site visit in January 2007, following up with soil analysis and a report and visit to their lab in Burgundy in June. Marcel had also been to see them in April while he was in Europe researching our options for a crawler tractor. The Bourguignons have been very positive and encouraging in their interpretation of our soils and site and have given us energy to continue with our quest for obtaining the best plant material for the calcareous soils we have.
Prior to their visit we were again disappointed with the outcome of the grafting of vines on the specific plant material we need to continue the planting of the rest of the vineyard blocks at Bell Hill. However, we did manage to plant around 1300 vines in a continuation of the Shelf Block toward the east, this is Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on two rootstocks and the young vines are doing well. We have accepted that a little bit at a time is definitely better than nothing and we hope to have about 4000 vines to plant this year which would mean that, all going well, we could be fully planted within the next two to three years. We will be able to finish the Shelf this spring and begin planting in the Roadblock and Slope – these are the soils that have significant amounts of clay as well as limestone and glauconite and will result in adding another dimension to the wines of Bell Hill. We will continue with the high density planting at Bell Hill and the aquisition of a Chappot crawler tractor from Switzerland which arrived towards the end of January (still in time for the last trim and a few canopy sprays), will make the management of the blocks easier, particularly with under-vine cultivation for weed control.
Bob Campbell, MW visited us last year in August, it is always good to see him at Bell Hill as he has been a supporter from the very beginning. Other wine writing visitors have included Jamie Goode from the UK, Neal Martin, also from the UK who has joined Robert Parker’s fold as the writer for New Zealand; Leslie Sbrocco, Jordan Mackay and Linda Murphy from the US; Yoshiji Sato, Megumi Nishida and Motoko Ishii from Japan; Max Allen and Ken Gargett from Australia; and NZ’s own Joelle Thomson, Michael Cooper and Jo Burzynska. As we do not enter our wines into wine competitions or wine publication tastings, it is great to have such people visit Bell Hill and see what it is that drives us and the wines.
I guess that is all for now, again thank you for your interest in our wines and we do sincerely apologise for the limited allocation, this will improve with the 2006 release.
As in the past, we ask those of you who are not purchasing the current vintage but wish to stay on the mailing list to advise us accordingly as it keeps our mailing list up to date. You can just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
With kind regards and wishing you all the best for the rest of 2008.
Sherwyn Veldhuizen and Marcel Giesen