Browse all our archived news below, sorted by year.
Hoping this message finds you all well. Just to let you know I have updated the current release information onto the website for our 2011 vintage. It is late I know as the wine has been released since August/September but at least the information is there for you. Look under Current Releases and you will find the 2011 information there and the 2010 under it. We are currently making decisions about our website as the site is quite old making wholesale updates timely and costly. The look will be much the same but apparently the bones aren't working so well!
The vineyard is looking great with everything up to date - with the vines and the soil and weed work. The weather has been challenging and wind has been an issue so I'm hoping for settled weather after today's gale NW forecasts. A dry season ahead forecast and with our dry farming we are hoping for the wind to abate.
Some positive reviews coming for our wines soon so we will update on that when we receive them as well as some great invitations to participate in international tasting events such as Matthew Jukes' Master Class in Sydney last week and Robert Parker's Icon Wines of the World in London and San Francisco next year.
Our 2010 Bell Hill Pinot Noir was included in the Accents of Aotearoa Masterclass tutored by Matthew Jukes (UK) in Sydney, Australia.
An early start to frost protection this season with not much time to recover in between! Driven by an unusually large amount of polar ice in Antarctica apparently, something we should all be pleased about I guess but it doesn't feel so positive when you are up from 1am (on a good night). So far so good, some damage when our wind machine failed to start on Saturday am, a problem solved with a few extra text alarms that come through our weather station to let us know if the machine doesn't auto start. We also use water but only toward the end of the night before dawn when it is at its coldest and/or we no longer have an inversion layer to draw warm air down from.
We've had some great reviews lately, including the one below, so I've updated the reviews section and have shared that with the Bell Hill team. It brings a bit of success back to the vineyard which is pretty much just a grass roots, hard working area.
On the team, some changes again, our Vineyard Manager and one of our Machinery Operators have left this week so Marcel and I have been working through frosts over the last three weeks and I've been focusing on the vineyard tasks - mainly vineyard floor related and trying to get up to date on that as well as starting on double shoot removal today - it always feels good to be working with the green parts of the vine again.
Those of you who have ordered wine will see it soon and communication will come to you through our office. Thanks for your patience in this, the vineyard has been our focus. We have been oversubscribed and look forward to a little more wine to share around from the 2013 vintage.
Best regards, Sherwyn.
Bell Hill 2011 Pinot Noir, North Canterbury Yes, it is one of the country’s most expensive pinot noir labels, but it also earned the highest score I have ever awarded to a pinot noir. It hasn’t been released quite yet. I suggest you add your name to this tiny winery’s mailing list and move fast when the wine goes on sale. It is seriously good.
Bob Campbell, Spotting the Perfect Pinot, Air NZ KiaOra, October 2014
Dear Friends of Bell Hill,
August again…met with warm weather and signs of early spring as we write this, anticipating another cold front or more as normally happens but we’ll happily take the warm days as they come. We hope this letter finds you well and in good spirits.
At the vineyard, we have pruning behind us now and things are busy with finishing off the pulling out and tying down, completing trellis maintenance, starting on the machinery work for the vineyard floor and preparing for frost protection and the season to come. It looks like the end of winter lull has been fully allocated to task! We also have a new team – starting with Jared Connolly, our Vineyard Manager, who joined us in February 2014 and resumes Sherwyn’s role at the vineyard on a daily basis. We also have Julien Aubrey and Kapil Watts who joined us at the beginning of the pruning season as permanent vineyard team members and we are happy to be looking at the start of the next growing season with all three and our engagement of casual staff when required.
Looking back over the last year we think about what we have been doing, where we have been, and what has changed since our last release letter…In September we attended the annual trade tasting of our UK importer, Armit Wines, in London. It was great to meet the team and cement the relationship which is fairly new for us. They helped us organise a vertical tasting with a select group of MW’s (please see our reviews on the website), sommeliers and trade members over lunch at the Pollen Street Social Restaurant. We poured every Bell Hill Chardonnay and Pinot Noir we have made – this goes back to 2003 for the Pinot Noir and 2004 for the Chardonnay. The wines looked very good with the Chardonnays having youthful green hues and showing their backbone/minerality with time to open up. The vintages of 2005 and 2007, being very small yields and cooler years showed a slightly higher propensity to mature earlier. We had not done a line-up of this extent in the past and it was a great experience to be able to take a step back and see the wines in another context yet recognise that thread and sense of place that can be seen in the wines, despite our significant NZ vintage and seasonal variations. This was a quiet confidence booster as sometimes I feel the daily activities of farming and dealing with the weather can make you relate too closely to the specifics without giving the wines the space to speak the language of the site.
From London we went on to Burgundy and were able to see the beginning of the 2013 vintage. Not great conditions to say the least but as we experienced with our own recent harvest the dedication to and determination of people, sorting, sorting and more sorting will get results. Looking at Burgundy after an absence of three years brought home a few things, or perhaps we were seeing it with more open eyes – it has always been a place of inspiration and energy for us. This time it looked and felt a little beaten and tired, many of the soils looked thoroughly depleted and the vines seem at the end of their energy. It made us think of the commitment we need to keeping our soils alive and healthy and to doing what we can to achieve the balance of farming and leaving no footprints, or perhaps even improving what we started with. It is with this is mind that we look forward to our BioGro organic certification from March 2015 and although we have been farming this way since 2007, it feels good to have the auditing systems in place to embrace the reality.
We were pleased to see Canterbury is back on the map with Jancis Robinson’s and Hugh Johnson’s latest edition (Oct 2013) of The World Atlas of Wine and that our label is one of the two North Canterbury outposts featured on the page. The fact that New Zealand’s total content has increased so much from the last edition is equally gratifying for all of the industry.
Before Christmas we visited our Australian importer/distributor and met with key trade that have been supporting us for a while. Vintage 2014 as mentioned already was challenging with rain at the wrong time, but with a big team of helpers we persevered and sorted until we had the cleanest fruit in the fermentation vats! The wine looks very promising in barrel and will get the time it needs to evolve.
The end of harvest was overshadowed by the loss of our loved friend Tom Schmooze, the vineyard cat. For over eleven years he saw Bell Hill grow and was there every day of his life. He used to follow visiting groups around the vineyard and was part of the place and proud of it. He was the best company you could ask for to welcome you home to the vineyard and we miss him deeply, he was a great friend and very special to us.
For the 2011 release we wanted to give our mail order customers the first option to buy, especially as the allocation was so small to you last year. Please note, this will be a first in, first served basis as we have export markets that have been asking for a long time for their allocations so please let us know what you want and we will do our best to accommodate it. Please do not send money with your order – the wine is yet to be labelled and wrapped (yes, sorry for those of you that did not received their wine wrapped last year), so our first job is to allocate and then we will be in touch with you regarding your order and an invoice.
For our overseas private customers, we are now working with our importers to get wine to you as we do not have the support in the office to continue as we have in the past. We hope this will be acceptable to you and thank you for your unreserved interested and support over the years.
We wish you well for the coming year and thank you for your continued interest in Bell Hill.
Sherwyn and Marcel.
Bell Hill Canterbury Pinot Noir 2010 Review
From The New Zealand Herald, Viva food & drink, 23 April 2014 - The Top 50 Wines of 2014
Pick of the Crop - Thrilling the senses and reflecting true individuality, the top 10 wines represent the very best of their kind:
From the limestone-rich soils of Waikari in North Canterbury, comes this phenomenally fine and well-structured pinot noir. Built on a frame of firm but velvety tannins, with a focused line of acid and concentrated core of ripe black cherry fruit, this is clothed in an exquisite array of flavours from forest floor, leather and smoke to roasted spices, iodine and mineral.
From Wine Editor Jo Burzynska's guide to the 2014 not-to-be-missed wines on the market, April 2014
2010 Vintage Release