Browse all our archived news below, sorted by year.
Dear Friends of Bell Hill,
Another year has passed– now it’s all in the run-up, count-down, and race towards Christmas. The next few months are often the most “interesting” from a juggling point of view but also very exciting with the prospects of a new growing season ahead, our 2015 vintage wines are safely in barrel, the 2014 vintage wines are waiting for bottling and the vineyard tasks of soil cultivation, frost protection and spring growth lie ahead…
It’s hard to know where the year has gone... Starting with last spring, Sherwyn stepped back in to the daily vineyard management, working with Julien to overcome the weeds and get the season started with Marcel’s essential help. The team effort and good timing found ourselves ahead of our tasks of shoot thinning and spraying, we felt good. Then, along came a devastating hail storm (the first at that time of year for us in our 18 years at Bell Hill) on November 4 causing major damage to the young, tender shoots and inflorescences and resulting in the loss of half our crop. This was hard to estimate at the time and we felt our only choice was to continue as normal and see what the outcome would be. It was very disappointing and we hope not to go through that again. However, we harvested 4.7T of fruit, more than it could have been and enough to keep moving forward.
More positively, the heat came into play in the two weeks before Christmas and stayed with us throughout the season and the good (grape growing) conditions prevailed through our harvesting. We are fortunate that the biggest drought in Canterbury (and other parts of NZ) in 50 years set us up for really nice fruit balance and flavour development.
A new team member, Briar, joined us in March with a full time combined role in the office and vineyard – with this we re-located our office from Christchurch to the vineyard. We still have Julien with us in the vineyard and are looking for another one to two key individuals to join us.
The year has been littered with travel for sales, special tastings and some export market changes. We began with a trip to the UK in February to participate in the Robert Parker Icon Wines of the World tasting at the Saatchi Galley in London, coming home to fine-tuning in the vineyard, and an early harvest beginning on the 1st of April and ending on the 12th. We’ve had some good journalistic successes with our 2011 Chardonnay in the March 2015 Decanter magazine and all our 2011 wines with Robert Parker and Wine Spectator scores, our latest reviews are enclosed. These are also on our website which we are in the midst of rebuilding, we hope you like the subtle changes.
In mid-June we left for a sales and export strategy trip. We started in San Francisco, going up to the Napa Valley, then across to New York for five days making restaurant calls to the Musket Room, Eleven Madison Park, Public and The Modern at MOMA - all very positive. Next, over to London for a day for a new On-Premise representation meeting, three days in Spain exploring Sherry country around Jerez with friends (our first time there and really most memorable), then on to Burgundy for eight days – a mixture of tastings, meetings, hosting friends and colleagues, and heat! This was the hottest we’ve ever seen Burgundy so we wait to see the wines. We hope, for their sake, not much crop has been lost. After Burgundy we flew to Los Angeles and had five days there including a trip up to Lompoc to see colleagues in the industry. We returned in mid-July with three weeks on the ground before leaving for Asia in early August. Firstly, to Japan for sales work with our importer – Wine Diamonds, including Tokyo and Osaka and incorporating wine seminars during the day and Bell Hill wine dinners in the evening. A great cultural experience being our first visit there and wonderful, respectful people who are truly supportive of our wines and appreciate the detail of what we do. Next, to Vietnam for a holiday break and definite change of culture. And lastly, to Singapore for three days of restaurant calls, special Burgundy dinners and a Bell Hill wine dinner.
On the news of our other markets, due to some changes, we are now undertaking our own distribution in the US and EU. The final leg of overseas travel will take Marcel back to San Francisco to represent us at the second Robert Parker tasting of Icon Wines from NZ and the US in mid-November.
Moving on to the 2012 release…small volumes unfortunately, due to the nature of the season, explained further in our vintage notes. This means sharing the wine around so we hope you understand our need to allocate on a first in, first served basis. Please let us know what you’d like and we will do our best to accommodate you. Despite the small volume, this vintage has given us balanced wines of exceptional quality that show their structure and accessible fruit. After some consideration, we have had a price increase for the Bell Hill Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, our first for several years.
On a futuristic note, as of the end of August 2015 we now own more land adjacent to our northern boundary. This has been in negotiation since before Christmas last year and gives us options to move forward with. We are excited about this and will move the land into our organic certification program from our new audit due over the next couple of months. The land, now part of the Bell Hill title, is called the North Arm and has two fingers of undulating land coming from the Roadblock and Slope, one very chalky (the North West Arm), the other with heavier calcareous clays (the North East Arm). Further planting could be in the future and for the time being, we may have cows join us.
Thank you for reading our news. We wish you well for the coming year and thank you for your continued interest in Bell Hill.
Sherwyn and Marcel.
Hoping this note finds you well. Our updates at Bell Hill since we last wrote include an early and very good harvest period where the weather conditions were ideal for picking and the fruit came in at optimal ripeness with good acidity which we were pleased to see given the very warm conditions of the summer and autumn. The forecasted southerlies did not come to much and we enjoyed the calm and space Mother Nature allowed us this year. Not so ideal was a small crop due to spring and flowering conditions but now the wines are pressed off and ready to go to barrel they show us a glimpse of the elegance and balance to come.
We had a great picking crew and managed to get nets off each day after harvest allowing the vineyard to breathe deeply again, showing us its still vibrant canopy and enjoying its freedom from nets. The incessant chatter and excitement of the birds as they fly about and feast on the odd bit of second set gave us great pleasure, no longer our enemies in the pursuit of protecting our crop.
We can also share the news that we are now fully organically certified with BioGro as of March 2015 with most of our vineyard blocks, the orchard and truffle block and May 2015 for two remaining vineyard blocks. This is a great milestone for us and although we have been farming organically since 2007 and using Biodynamic practices as well, having that certification makes it official so that we feel we can actually talk about it. With the biodynamics, we managed to get a 500 preparation and a CPP onto the property post harvest and have also been spreading and making compost in the last couple of weeks and starting with EM brewing.
Now we work on blending the 2014 Pinot Noir and taking it out of barrel next week as well as putting the 2015 Pinot Noir into barrel. Then we can say the vintage wine work is behind us.
This week we start with a pruning workshops and training in preparation for pruning at the beginning of June.
Next on the agenda is a sales trip to the US and EU in mid June and Asia at the beginning of August, website rebuilding and the release of the 2012 vintage...
Best wishes to you all,
Sherwyn and Marcel.
Nearing the end of the growing season now with the cool nights having set in, we are still working with the vines and are enjoying the transition from fruit to potential wine. The crop will be smaller due to our cool spring temperatures but we look forward to what this incredibly hot summer will bring us in flavour.
We were in London at the end of February to participate with our 2011 wines in the Robert Parker "Icon Wines of the World" Tasting at the Saatchi Gallery. This gave us great exposure to a very enthusiastic audience and allowed us to get a sense of the UK market since our last visit in 2013.
Coming home to NZ saw us finalise some restructure changes we had been in the process of. We have now relocated the office in Christchurch out to the vineyard and in saying goodbye (and thank you) to Sue, our part time Office Manager, we have welcomed Briar Hardy-Hesson onto the team in a new full time role which combines our administrative, sales/marketing, and finance functions with hands-on vineyard and winery work. This is very exciting for us and resolves my age-old conflicts of time and location between vineyard and office as well as, and equally important, the ability to bring the whole team at Bell Hill together, to celebrate the successes, share the goals and skate around the obstacles!
Best regards to you all and we'll be in touch again soon,
Sherwyn and Marcel.
Happy New Year to you all, we hope you had a safe and happy festive period and hoping some time off was had also. Marcel and I got away down south to Stewart Island and left Julien to the vineyard with some help from casual staff. The cooler spring gave us a slower start to growth and that was well and truly made up for with the heat over the holiday period and since then! So, a lot of work to come back to but the vineyard is responding well. Our team is coming together again with the addition of another full time staff member, Jean Yves, who started on the 5th of January so all well on track now.
I've just updated our reviews so please have a look if you have time.
Best wishes to you all and all the best for a great 2015!
Regards from Sherwyn and Marcel.