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.
The season of the 2006 vintage came with record-breaking events after spring as had the last few seasons. December proved to be the warmest in 71 years and the third warmest since records began in the 1860's with the national average temperature at 17.5 degrees, 1.9 degrees above average. Canterbury was the driest area in the country but like many other parts of NZ, it was down on sunshine hours for that month. We had very rapid flowering resulting in good fruit set and an even rate of ripening in the formed bunches. The crop was thinned down to around 2 tonnes per acre and we see this vintage as the strongest at Bell Hill to date.
Harvest commenced on the 8th of April with the Pinot Noir (24.6 Brix, 3.61pH, 5.25g/L TA) and Chardonnay (23.8 Brix, 3.1pH, 10.05g/L TA) from the Shelf. We then had a period of warm Northwest weather over Easter pushing the other blocks on at a very even pace. The Limeworks Pinot Noir (25.1 Brix, 3.60pH, 6.38g/L TA) and Quarry Rootlings Pinot Noir (25.4 Brix, 3.65pH, 7.35g/L TA) were picked on the 19th of April and the Quarry 10/5 Pinot Noir (26.2 Brix, 3.45pH, 8.21g/L TA) on the 20th of April. The lower part (around 25%) of the Quarry 10/5 Pinot Noir (25.5 Brix, 3.49pH, 8.14g/L TA) came in on the 24th of April. This has been our ripest year in terms of sugar levels which is not necessarily what we aim for but what has been gratifying is the turning point of the 10/5 clone for us. Characteristically this clone has required an extra week for ripening but it came in with the Dijon clones both due to the heat we had over Easter and some very rigorous crop thinning in order to balance this naturally heavier cropping clone and bring it more into line with our other clones. This certainly paid off from a quality point of view and has helped us achieve the long-term goal of making our Bell Hill wines the major offering from the vintage.
The Pinot Noir was de-stemmed, with no crushing and one week each for cold maceration and fermentation, with up to 28 days total on the skins with warm post ferment maceration. The Quarry Rootlings and lower part of the Quarry 10/5 had a little less time on skins with 27 and 21 days respectively. The wines were matured underground in our cellar, undergoing natural malolactic fermentation very late (into February and March) due to the very cool spring and summer and constant temperature underground. Finally they finished at the end of March and have spent a total of 18 months in barrel. All of the 10 barrels of Pinot Noir were new 3 year air-dried oak.
The Chardonnay was crushed before basket pressing to create juice pathways and fermented with yeast and some retained solids in predominantly older wood, undergoing natural malolactic fermentation in the following late summer.