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Bell Hill itself, so named for its bell-like shape on its southern side, was first surveyed in 1917 by Charles Trounce, who went on to establish a lime quarry that operated until the late 1930s. However, the history of the area goes back much further than that. Maori first explored Weka Pass around 1,000 years ago, when the area was still forested and rich in birdlife. A large overhanging limestone shelter in the pass was used as a temporary overnight camp and early Maori rock art decorates its walls.
Marcel Giesen and Sherwyn Veldhuizen established Bell Hill Vineyard in 1997 in an ancient, north-facing limestone quarry in the Weka Pass, North Canterbury, which now covers 2 hectares of high-density vineyards. The Weka Pass area was previously unplanted with grapes, but Marcel and Sherwyn were drawn to the pure chalky limestone soils and calcareous clays.
The ‘Roadblock’ and ‘Slope’ vineyard blocks are rich in dense, calcareous clays bringing another influence to their wines. Marcel and Sherwyn have been farming organically and biodynamically since the 2007/ 2008 growing season and see this as paramount to increased soil and vine health, as well as fruit quality and expression. The Bio-Gro Organic Certification was granted on 1 March 2015.
With a delicate touch and focus on excellence, Marcel and Sherwyn are passionate about using Burgundian techniques to craft their stunning range of Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. The following descriptors are appropriate thanks to the influence of lime in the soils: Chardonnay: minerality, stone fruit, white flower and flinty complexity, integrated acidity, tight structure and longevity. Pinot Noir: fruit development and character in the savoury, earthy and dried herb spectrum, rather than primary fruit sweetness; supple, but supportive tannin structures; slow evolution with gaining impact, hence extra ageing in the bottle before release; persistent and structural acidity throughout adding to the length, focus and overall impression of the wine.
All wines are under screwcap closures and decanting recent vintages is to be encouraged, including Chardonnay.
The Old Weka Pass Road Pinot Noir 2016 is a 6-barrel blend from select barrels of the Westbank, Roadblock 2009 and 2008, Slope, our younger parcels of fruit. The handling on skins is the same as for the Bell Hill but the French oak was 66% new. The wine was racked and blended after 12 months in barrel, it had 6 months in tank and was bottled on the 6th of November 2017 with a pH of 3.69, TA of 5.3 g/L, and alcohol of 13%. 1,897 bottles were produced.
Openly fruited with some shyness at first that develops with air, an early release for this wine but you will be rewarded by the delicacy of fruit on the palate giving way to fine-boned tannins with a lovely linear line running through the fruit.