Browse all our archived news below, sorted by year.
Dear Friends of Bell Hill,
It is with a great deal of pleasure (and relief) that we write to you all to inform you of the release of the 2006 vintage from Bell Hill. It has been on our minds for some months but the growing season and, finally, harvest got in the way. However, knowing now that the 2009 vintage has been harvested and is safely in barrel, with good concentration and ripe seeds that should reflect well in the final structure of the wine – we can think again of the 2006.
The time since our last release to you has seen a lot of activity and development at Bell Hill. Most importantly, through Riversun Nurseries, we were delivered 4,000 vines on rootstocks specially imported and grafted for us (and endorsed by Claude and Lydia Bourguignon) which we planted at the end of October and into the beginning of November. This saw the Shelf completely planted and half of the Roadblock planted, both with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. We have recently had further good news that more plants will be coming this spring to help finish the original plan of planting the 6 acres that make up the vineyard part of Bell Hill. This has taken a lot longer than we expected at the outset over twelve years ago but we are confident the new plant material going into some of our most exciting blocks (from a soil perspective) will be very interesting for the future.
We have had two growing seasons without the use of herbicides on the property and for the last season have let go of the crutch of systemic fungicides. We are operating biodynamically with the use of biodynamic preparations and are in the first stages of applying for Demeter certification. This is truly exciting for us and another step toward expressing Bell Hill to its utmost, it is also our attempt to tread the earth lightly and facilitate healthier soil which characteristically translates to healthier vines and improved fruit quality.
Another new prospect for us after the resistance over twelve years is the connection to the grid for power. This will make operating the winery a lot easier at the flick of a switch and we are reasonably certain we will not miss our single and three phase power generators (we will make sure they go to good homes).
With the small amount of wine from the 2005 vintage, getting our wine to the right people in our markets is always important and in New Zealand in particular through our Auckland On-Premise distributor, Kemp Rare Wines, we saw increased listings of Bell Hill at restaurants. Daniel Kemp and his team are great ambassadors of Bell Hill, his passion for wine is infectious and his commitment to quality and service is outstanding. For Japan, the US, the UK and Australia it was more a case of keeping existing customers rather than expanding and now everyone is looking forward to the 2006 release.
There will be no apologies for the small volumes we produce at Bell Hill, we can only do what nature allows us and to maintain the standards that we have set ourselves we can only get there through severe crop reduction and low yields per vine. Nobody will judge us by how many bottles we make, but certainly by what is in the bottle! It is important to us that we get the quality right and comments over the past year about being a “hobby vineyard” and “it’s not about selling wine at Bell Hill” keep reminding us about how important it is to get our message and philosophy across. In our book - small, high quality production does not equal hobby and selling wine is important no matter how many bottles one produces.
As we have previously said, it is a journey, we have made a start and continue to improve and expand. Our aim is to share the fruits of our labour and love of the limestone land with you. Judging by recent critic comments we have something worth sharing, Robert Parker’s contributor Neal Martin’s review can be found in the included reviews. It was very pleasing to get his endorsement and positive comments however we will not always please every critic and one has to keep perspective of it all as it is more important to make wine that interests us, and you.
Bell Hill is a long term and life long project, we started purely to discover the potential of the soil, we continue now to understand our site and to give it time to show us its true potential. It is the hardest thing we have ever done together and sometimes it feels like it will take it all from you but one day it may show us a history of our partnership together. In its long journey from the sea bed to the Canterbury forests of matai and moa, to the burning of land and loss of habitat, to the cultivation of its earth for pasture and crop, to the extraction of its lime heart through quarrying, to continued sheep grazing, and now, to the cultivation of the vine, regeneration of native vegetation and the introduction of biodynamic farming – it may tell us that it wanted to teach us all along. It may also tell us it wants to be left alone.
We are not open to the public and continue to sell our wine with one annual release directly to our mail order customers and to restaurants, and do not have retail sales. By all means if you wish to visit the vineyard please call or email us to arrange a suitable time.
We ask you to respond to our offer at your earliest convenience as we have export markets awaiting their allocations and will be overseas ourselves in July.
We thank you again for your support in the past and hope 2009 is a good year for you all.
Best wishes and kind regards,
Sherwyn and Marcel