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 2012 vintage season was characterised by a cool spring and summer, affecting flowering and volume almost nationwide. We installed our wind machine for frost protection in spring 2011and although we only had three frost events in late September, the effect of the cool conditions prevailed. The reduced sunshine hours, lack of hot, drying NW winds and frequent cooler, coastal/easterly influences were due to the presence of La Nina as was a later beginning of harvest. Conditions improved in autumn and we had a period of Indian summer with warm, sunny days and cool, dry nights. This, coupled with the reduced crop gave us a good finish to the season and created wines of balance and harmony.
Harvest commenced on the 16th of April with the Limeworks 2009 and Roadblock Chardonnay, followed by the Shelf Chardonnay on the 26th and the Limeworks 1999 on the 30th.The Slope was our first Pinot Noir block to harvest on the 16th (also our first small crop from these heavier clay soils), the Shelf 98 Pinot Noir on the 17th, the Roadblock on the 24th (first crop from the 2009 plantings, the West Bank (again first crop) and Quarry Rootlings on the 25th and, finally, the Shelf 2006-2008 and Quarry 10/5 on the 26th of April.
Our winemaking philosophy is simple, all blocks are multi-cloned (with the exception of the Quarry 10/5) and harvested separately, fermented separately and put to barrel separately. The allows us to follow the evolution of the wine for the entire 12 months before our blending decisions and gives early opportunities to evaluate for single block potential. The yeasts are entirely natural, coming from the vineyard, and we make a small starter (pied de cuve) from each parcel. Malolactic fermentation is also natural (100% for the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir). No fining or clarification agents are used and filtration is minimal – a coarse filtering for the Chardonnay and a coarse filtration from the racking valves down for the Pinot Noirs or not at all. For Chardonnay, our first addition of sulphur as a preservative is after twelve months when we take the wine out of barrel and blend into tank, sometimes a small adjustment is made before bottling. The Pinot Noir sees an addition of sulphur to protect the fruit during its cold maceration time and some adjustment for acidity in the fermenters to control pH for long term stability, colour and ageing. The wine is then left alone and sulphured in tank after barrel ageing for twelve months, with a small adjustment if necessary before bottling.