Archived News

Browse all our archived news below, sorted by year.



Strategy Advertising and Design and Bell Hill

We have been very happy to have worked with Strategy Design and Advertising in the development of our logo, label, packaging, branding and website. The relationship has been invaluable and we look forward to a long future in design and branding together.

We would like to acknowledge their success with our account in the inclusion of the Bell Hill work in The New York Type Director’s Club and Book 2006 and also as the Winner of the Best Small Business Identity Award and Highly Commended in the Packaging Award at The New Zealand Best Design Awards in Auckland August 2006.


Hello again friends of Bell Hill!

Needless to say the last eight months have been busy, but it did begin with an improvement to the season from the last newsletter written in December 2006 where we experienced fairly cool and difficult flowering weather. Yields were definitely looking down by January once flowering was well and truly finished but we had plenty of Pinot Noir events to keeps ourselves otherwise occupied in thought.

Beginning with the annual Southern Pinot Noir Workshop at Hanmer Springs, a four day technical barrel tasting event for winegrowers, where we had Claude and Lydia Bourguignon from Burgundy as guest speakers. They are world consultants in the area of agronomy, terroir, soil analysis and winegrowing, and were also guests at the following Pinot Noir 2007 event in Wellington. We were fortunate that the Bourguignon’s could find the time to do some consulting here in NZ and we engaged them to visit us at Bell Hill and consult with us on our property and in particular, our soil type. As you may have guessed, the soil type being very unique for NZ viticulture, in-depth local knowledge (as well as planting material) has been severely lacking for us and although we have built up a resource of knowledge now ten years from when we first started, it has been very motivating to have outside expertise where limestone is the norm not an anomaly. We have met again with Claude and Lydia in Burgundy and have gone over the potential of the blocks not yet planted including going over the analysis of the soil samples sent to France and looking at such specifics as internal surface are of the clays in the soil profile and the active lime content and how that relates to our rootstock choices and the means of successfully grafting them. All of this still being very challenging from an actual “getting the plants in the ground” point of view but certainly it has confirmed what we have always believed, that the best land is yet to be planted and now that we have done our clone and rootstocks trials, we know where we would like to head in the future.

Going back to January, after the Pinot Noir Workshop we had a day’s reprieve and then the visits from the journalists began, many of whom were attending the Pinot Noir 2007 event. These visits were on both sides of the event and we received Leslie Sbrocco and Jordan MacKay from the US, Ken Gargett from Australia, Megumi Nishida and Yoshido Sato from Japan, and Jan Rook from the Netherlands. We also had our Australian distributors, David Matters and David Titsha from Whole Bunch Wines in Sydney for a few days and a visit from Chuck Hayward of The Jug Shop in San Francisco who has been instrumental in paving the way for Australian and New Zealand wine in general and Pinot Noir in particular in the Californian market. The Wellington event as in the past has become stronger each time and that was apparent in the overall quality of the guest speakers and also the wines presented by the producers. There were very good tastings and many thought provoking talks and presentations – well worth the effort of attending for us winegrowers and the wine passionate, keep it in mind for next time.

Moving on to February where summer really started to arrive after hints of it in January, we left for the annual producer Pinot Noir Forum in Tasmania where we had been invited as the guest speakers over the three day event. It was really nice to visit Tasmania although we did not see all of it and also to meet the winemakers there and cement a few fledgling friendships. There is equal passion for Pinot Noir there and I am sure we will see the presence of Tasmanian Pinot Noir strengthen in the years to come. Marcel subsequently went on a machinery research trip to Europe with two new Tasmanian winemaking friends where the three had a great time and managed to achieve some results also. This current trip was also for the purpose of machinery and making some final decisions on a small crawler tractor for the vineyard with the appropriate implements for improving management in the vineyard, our 1963 Holder from Germany will only cope for so long!




So, back to the vineyard in February where we could see a 40% decrease in crop, we continued to work in the vineyard with green harvesting to ensure the most even fruit possible. We had some really good weather in February through to April and that has resulted in very elegant and focused fruit flavours. The Shelf as usual was the first to be picked and was followed by the 10/5 in the Quarry block, this clone is now consistently ripening at the same time as the Dijon clones from the same slopes. We took care not to over-extract and reduced the time on skins for some of the parcels and allowed some of the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to ferment naturally without cultured yeast additions. We used slightly less new oak than over the past two vintages at 100% and now have 70% for the 2007 vintage. The 2006 Pinot Noirs came out of barrel in May and the 2007 wines are now underground in the barrel cellar waiting for malo-lactic fermentation at the end of summer.

Over Queen’s Birthday weekend in early June we went to Sydney to do some sales work and spend time with our distributor including a vertical tasting of 2002, 2004, 2005 Bell Hill Chardonnay and the 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 (tank samples) Bell Hill Pinot Noir and 2004 Old Weka Pass Road Pinot Noir which is the current vintage. This was a small tasting for key sommeliers and was a great opportunity to meet those responsible for recommending our wine to their dining guests and take them through the wines individually. We had the sommeliers from Tetsuya’s, Rockpool, China Doll and Aria come along. Following that was a sit-down tasting over dinner at Est Restaurant in the Establishment Hotel with their sommelier. We are really happy to say that our wines are in these great restaurants.

Kurt Simcic, our vineyard manager for the last three years, decided to move on in early June and is now working up in Marlborough managing a block for Cloudy Bay. We wish him all the best for his future. We still have Oli Polson, who has been with us since November last year and, in the office, Carlene Linden joined us about three weeks before our Europe trip in the capacity of administrator, a part-time position which has been a huge help to me and allows me to focus on managing the vineyard again on a day to day basis.

Our trip to Europe started in the UK where we had a day visiting the trade in London and a day at our distributor’s head quarters in Suffolk. We had success with listings at The Providores restaurant owned by Peter Gordon and Jeremy Leeming and also The Stafford in London.
Next, it was on to the Macon in France where we caught up with Allen Meadows over dinner one night and up to the Cote D’Or of Burgundy the following day. We spent about 10 days in Burgundy, tasting at various domains, seeing our cooper, our friends and visiting the Bourguignons. To Switzerland after that to see the Chappot manufacturer of crawler tractors who we placed an order with. We also spent two full days relaxing in the alpine spa town of Leukerbad, hot pools and very cold wet weather which meant you didn’t feel like you had to do anything. After, in complete contrast, driving to Germany in 25 degrees C. Had four days there, a lovely quiet weekend with friends and then two days with friends from NZ visiting a few wineries, including Doennhoff where the son, Cornelius and his partner Nina worked with us in 2006.

We left Europe and stopped in California on the way home to do a bit of sales work and catch up with our close friends, Mike and Claudia from Pyramid Valley Vineyards. We caught up with Tony Cha from Michael Mina Restaurant in San Francisco (he visited us in March and both him and Rajat Parr are very supportive of what we do) and wine writer Jordan MacKay over lunch at Colibri Mexican Restaurant, also with Mike and Claudia and managed to show them our wines collectively. That night we had dinner at Michael Mina and were very well looked after by Tony, it is an experience to dine there. The next day we had an appointment at the French Laundry and if we can find the wine, we are hopeful of being there in the future. Caught up with Chuck and Paige from The Jug Shop afterward for lunch and then spent the night at Mike’s parents place on the coast before a really nice lunch there the next day with friends and flying home in the evening.

That is it…now back home at the vineyard, pruning and making plans for the future…We have had some reviews and press lately which you can see in our “reviews” section. Thanks for your interest and support.