All of our wines are estate grown at Bell Hill and go back to our first four vintages of Old Weka Pass Road Pinot Noir from 1999 to 2002 before our inaugural Bell Hill Pinot Noir 2003 vintage and Bell Hill Chardonnay 2004 vintage.
A mild winter saw an early start to budburst particularly on the Shelf and with the Chardonnay. New Zealand had its sixth-warmest winter months since records started in the mid-1860s. Hanmer Forest (25.1 deg Aug 30) and Amberley (25.4 deg Aug 31) had the winter’s highest temperatures (we are between these two locations). Rainfall was about 25% of normal. However a late September snowfall put us back on frost alert and we had frequent frost warnings. November was unusually warm with 33 degree C days but unfortunately December did not deliver the same – it was very cool with extended wet periods during flowering which not only saw a diminished yield but also some variation in the rate of ripening. The later part of the season improved but we could see that yields were down by more than 50%.
Harvesting commenced on the 11th of April with the Shelf Pinot Noir (25.1 Brix, 3.55pH, 5.5g/L TA). The Limeworks Pinot Noir was next on the 12th and we also picked the 777 clone from the Quarry Rootlings as this had very good set and was within the same ripeness parameters as the Limeworks block (22.5 Brix, 3.44pH, 6.6g/L TA). We picked the rest of the Quarry (10/5 and the other Rootling Dijon clones) block on the 28th (22.1 Brix, 3.35pH, 9.14g/L TA). The Chardonnay from the Shelf was picked on the 18th of April (25.5 Brix, 3.17pH, 8.8g/L TA) and the Limeworks Chardonnay was last to come in on the 30th (24.8 Brix, 3.11pH, 12.5g/L TA).
Processing of the Pinot Noir follows our standard practices of de-stemming without crushing, one week cold maceration, one week fermentation and up to 28 days on skins in total with a warm post-ferment maceration. The Shelf had 28 days, the Limeworks had 21 days and the Quarry had 15 days. The Quarry block in particular had very poor fruit-set and was hand de-stemmed. We had three and a half barrels of Pinot Noir in total, all but the half barrel was new oak. Malolactic fermentation was natural and the wine spent 18 months in barrel before racking in November and bottling in March 2007. This is the first vintage that the 10/5 clone has made its way into the Bell Hill blend and also the first time we have made more Bell Hill wine than our second label, the Old Weka Pass Road. A turning point for us and the vineyard.