Geoff Kelly Wine Reviews

NZ Winegrower, the industry publication, regards Geoff Kelly as “one of the most perceptive and practical judges of Pinot Noir.” He was invited by NZ Winegrower to select and comment on his Top 10 from the recent Pinot Noir 2010 event held in Wellington.

Bald Hills is proud to have been chosen in the Top 10.

2007  Bald Hills Pinot Noir Single Vineyard (*****)
Big pinot noir, ruby,  above midway in depth,  not as youthful as some 2007s.  Bouquet is intensely floral,  including dusky rose and boronia aromas,  with red grading to black cherry fruit teetering towards plummyness,  and some sur-maturité.  Palate rescues the wine,  being fresh,  the flavours dark … yes,  but not heavy,  with sensitive oaking,  and great length on the skin tannins,  all lingering attractively.  A clue to the volume of bouquet is apparent in the slight suggestion of stalkyness on palate,  but the total depth of varietal fruit is remarkable – a lovely wine.  The benefits of a part-stalk component in the fermentation are well-apparent here. Cellar 3 – 8 years.
Geoff Kelly Wine Reviews

Curtis Marsh : The Wandering Palate. May 2010 (

Must-have Wine of the Week Bald Hills Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2007
Bannockburn, Central Otago, New Zealand

I tasted several vintages of the Bald Hills Single Vineyard Pinot Noir recently at the New Zealand Pinot Noir Celebration 2010, held in February and was totally impressed with the wines in terms of consistency, complexity and unbridled power with none of the wines yet to reach optimum drinking, including the coveted 2005.This wine was awarded the Sustainable Wine Trophy and also Best Red Wine Champion Award at the 2007 International Wine Challenge, arguably the world’s most important and certainly largest wine show. It went on to achieve a hat trick with the International Pinot Noir Trophy at the 2007 Decanter World Wine Awards.

This is remarkable achievement for any winery, let alone a pinot noir from New Zealand!

Bald Hills is located on Cornish Point Road, an old gold miner’s settlement named after the Cornish gold miners who lived there. The vineyard and property is bordered by the Cairnmuir hills and the Kawarau River with panoramic, jaw dropping views towards the Pisa Range and flat-topped terraces above Lowburn (see picture), to which one assumes the name Bald Hills was derived. This is indeed dessert country or at least classified as arid in terms of lack of water and soil in the surrounding hills and ranges – essentially sheep country.

Strategic to successfully ripening the fickle pinot noir grape, the days are radiant and dry here yet nights markedly cold which is the key to achieving excellent natural acidities, coupled with long, dry autumns allowing for the slow ripening of the fruit with vintage well in the month of April.

I shared a bottle of the 2007 Bald Hills Single Vineyard Pinot Noir with friends on the weekend, over a meal, and this is what I have to say…

A striking perfume of violets and dried thyme becomes deeper with rich black cherry, blood plum and blueberry compote; these sweet berry aromas lifted by hints of dark Manuka honey and subtle caramel. As the wine breaths out it reveals an alluring farmyard-chook shed funkiness with brie cheese-lactose nuances – the sort of pongy bits that pinot noir enthusiasts cherish. Indeed, it one of those wines where the melange of fragrances captivates you, continuing to evolve in the glass (preferably a balloon-shaped burgundy glass) to a hedonistic spiciness – like standing over a hot wok inhaling the cooking fumes of Sichuan pepper, star anise, cardamom and hoi sin sauce.

On the palate, there is a saturation of black cherry and black-berry-fruits only more intense with a sweet-sour interplay, like Cantonese dried plums (kaying chi) with an invigorating rush of the sour piquancy of redcurrants and tamarind paste that perfectly modulates the plush and creamy textured mouth-feel. There is overall spicy warmth in the mouth, a sort of pepper-spice glow and vivacious tanginess of bright acidity that infuses the berry flavours and imparts an excellent tension in the wine, framed in soft, earthy tannins.

A gorgeously cuddly and impressively powerful pinot noir that is impeccably balanced – no sense of over-ripeness or over-blown with a perfectly respectable 13.5% alc vol – and seriously over-delivers for the money. Actually, it totally mauled two other pinots’ served alongside – a revered Californian label and respectable burgundy at twice the price. Moreover, it absolutely sang with the spicy dishes at our table – Chinese lacquered duck in red curry and beef rendang.

Sarah Mayo: The Local Nose. 6.6.10 (

At Raffles, Singapore

At Raffles, Singapore


When Blair Hunt, owner of Bald Hills Wine with his wife Estelle, traveled to London in 2007 to attend the Decanter World Wine Awards dinner he was feeling pretty good about their 2005 Bald Hills Pinot Noir.

Only days before he had learned that it won a regional award in New Zealand for being the Best Pinot Noir.  Not a bad result for a young Central Otago winery set up by himself, a PhD chemist from Fiji.  At a minimum it was a confidence booster for his trip to London.

At the Decanter dinner he sat in theVictoria and Albert Museum along with a prestigious crowd of winemakers and vineyard owners from around the world, feeling quite honoured to be at the gathering itself. Little did he suspect that second occasion to feel proud would emerge.  Without warning, the Bald Hills Pinot Noir 2005 claimed Decanter’s International Pinot Noir trophy for wines over £10.  “Wow,” he thought. “We must be doing something kind of special!”

Hold on…the story gets even better.  He remained in London to attend the big wine trade show the following week and have the 2005 Pinot Noir compete again in the International Wine Challenge (IWC) – the largest blind tasting challenge to date in 2007.

Just prior to the prestigious dinner at the Grosvenor Hotel in London’s Park Lane, he discovered that the offical water of the event was Fiji water – from his home.  How curious he thought.  He called his wife Estelle and told her he believed it was an omen – that they would have good luck in that competition too.

His intuition was right.  Hours later at the dinner the IWC announced that the 2005 Bald Hills Pinot Noir was the Champion Red wine for 2007.  Unbelievable!  What a wine hat-trick!

Awards dinner at the Grosvenor, London

Awards dinner at the Grosvenor, London

Then much like four wickets in four balls or a Grand Slam Home Run, the odds were simply with him and his wine.  Before the evening was over Bald Hills was asked to return to the stage to accept the IWC Planet Earth Sustainability award for sustainable viticulture.  Four very prestigious awards in less than two weeks.  They really were doing something very special at Bald Hills.

Blair and his son Ross recently visited Singapore and TLN was invited to a Bald Hills wine dinner to taste through their range of wines, including the famed 2005 Pinot Noir.  Aside from the recommended Pigeon Rocks Pinot Gris, which was a very easy-going aperitif, the first course of roasted scallop with Foie gras and Curry sauce featured the Bald Hills “Last Light” Riesling 2008 as a pairing.

The wine is named “Last Light” because the parcel of Riesling grapes it’s made from is planted where the last light of the day remains.  So, this parcel receives all the heat at the peak temperature before the sun sets in the autumn at 6pm – which lengthens the ripening period for the Riesling grapes well into the autumn.  Blair explained that the Last Light Riesling was trying to express all that the land could produce from it’s vineyard aspect and terroir.

Next course brought the “Friends & Lovers” Rose 2008 along with a Millefeuille of Crab Mousse and Beet Root.  As Blair says, “the label speaks for itself…”  The message is clear:  this wine is easily shared and enjoyed by all.  With a little residual sugar this rose drinks very fresh with ripe cherry, whiffs of white grapefruit and white peaches – light and lively for sure.

The grand finale was the roasted lamb with Pinot Noir.  We were lucky enough to taste the Bald Hills Pinot Noir 2006, and 2007…then the surprise appearance of the famed 2005.

The 2006 Pinot Noir presented a much fruiter nose than the other two along with a generous, medium+ bodied character throughout. The 2007 was an altogether different wine reflecting the much different vintage of that year. Poor fruit-set in the spring started everything off, but in fact led to much more selective grape picking at harvest.  This wine was much more concentrated, with dried vine aromas and a fuller-bodied richness.

Still, the 2005 stood out again.  With the little bit of age this wine has developed earthy, sous bois secondary aromas behind rich crushed red cherry and tobacco leaf.  It still offers loads of fruit concentration, silky tannins and vibrant, deeply textured finish.  It was simply delicious.

From a CNN report by Hilary Whiteman

“Renowned New Zealand winemaker, Grant Taylor started working with [the Hunts] before the first grapes were picked.  He has his own label and is very selective about to whom he lends his expertise.

“…I have worked with many, many grape growers in 28 years of winemaking.  I never try to push my thoughts on them because usually they will cost the grower money, but simply say what I think and let them make the decision’ he says.

“Blair and Estelle have listened, then acted. They have been fine-tuning their viticulture; I have been fine-tuning the wine making, and the vines have been getting older and doing their job better.  But underneath it all is a shared philosophy, which is to do everything in the vineyard and winemaking to make the best wine possible.  There are no shortcuts aimed at saving money.”
– Hilary Whiteman, CNN

Matt Kramer, Wine Spectator April 2010


The great wine revelation of our time is the discovery of Pinot Noir. So exclusive was Burgundy’s achievement that, until the 1980s, nobody really thought that what Burgundy did…was achievable anywhere else. Then, over the past 25 years or so, it all changed.  Like stars in the evening sky, Pinot Noirs that tasted like Pinot Noir appeared, at first slowly, and then in increasing numbers.  What once seemed a unique repository (Burgundy) turned out to be just one of numerous mother lodes.  It was all a matter of prospecting.

The newest gold mine is New Zealand’s Central Otago district at the southern end of the South Island….. And how good are these Pinot Noirs?  Damn good.  I cannot recall a new winegrowing region, let alone one consecrated to a variety as demanding as Pinot Noir, that has vaulted to such a level of accomplishment in so short a time.

Raymond Chan Reviews 2012

Bald Hills 2010 Bannockburn Pinot Noirs
19 March,2012

Blair and Estelle Hunt first planted their 11 ha Bannockburn site on Cornish Point Road with 5.5 ha of Pinot Noir, clones 5, 6, 10/5 and 115 in 1997, with 1 ha each of Riesling and Pinot Gris a year later. The vines, managed by Grant Roulston of Vinewise since 2000 has provided quality fruit for winemaker Grant Taylor making award winning wine from the first Bald Hills vintage in 2002. In 2009, Chris Keys joined Grant with the winemaking for the Hunts, the wine being made at the Gibbston Valley winery. The big news for the Hunts earlier this year was their 2009 Pinot Noir winning the Trophy for Best Pinot Noir at the 2012 Sydney International Wine Competition, a show where the Bald Hills wines have enjoyed considerable success over the years. Here are my reviews of the 2010 Pinot Noirs. These are wines that grow wonderfully in the glass.

Bald Hills ‘3 Acres’ Bannockburn Central Otago Pinot Noir 2010
Pinot Noir from New Zealand – Otago 18-/20

All 10/5 clone from the ‘Bald Hills’ vineyard, fermented to 14.0% alc., the wine aged 11 months in 22% new French oak barrels. Very deep, full, dark ruby-red colour with youthful purple hues. The bouquet is firm, intense and well-concentrated, showing very ripe, dark cherry and berry aromas along with dark plum, dark herbs, hints of liquorice, anise and oak char. Full-bodied and packed with layers of flavour, fruit in the fully-ripened spectrum intermingle with thyme herb, minerals and earth. Some violet florals emerge. The palate is smooth in texture with soft acidity, and the wine finishes with a very long, sustained finish of florals and spices. This is a bold, flavour-packed and velvety Pinot Noir to match with Middle Eastern duck and lamb dishes over the next 4-5+ years. 18.0-/20 Mar 2012 RRP $32.00

Bald Hills ‘Single Vineyard’ Central Otago Pinot Noir 2010
Pinot Noir from New Zealand – Otago 18.5+/20

Deep ruby-red colour with purple hues at the heart, and with a lighter rim, this has a softly full, voluminous nose, the fruit a little restrained and shy initially. This has ripe dark cherry fruit aromas with floral perfumes. Complex waves of savoury dark berries and dark herbs unfold, with well-balanced, supporting oak. Medium-full bodied, the flavours are restrained and expressed with elegance. Dark berries and cherries, intermingling with thyme herb and floral lift, the palate is very fine-featured with velvety tannins and excellent acidity and energy. This has finesse and very good length. This is a classically proportioned and stylish Pinot Noir with fine textures, still to blossom and show its potential. A barrel selection with 64% clone 115 and 36% 10/5, fermented to 14.0% alc., the wine aged 11 months in 50% new French oak. Serve with roasted lamb pork and veal or harder cheeses over the next 6-9 years. 18.5+/20 Mar 2012 RRP $45.00

Sam Kim and Bald Hills Pinot Gris

Pigeon Rocks Pinot Gris 2009 Central Otago 91 4.5 Stars
Grapes were hand-harvested from their estate vineyard in the Bannockburn district. A serious Pinot Gris (rather than easy-drinking fruity style) with an intensely aromatic bouquet displaying passionfruit, peach and pear characters with a hint of musky note. It’s concentrated and juicy on the palate with silky texture and bright acidity. A lovely dry expression (4.7 g/l) of the variety showing richness and weight without the sweetness.

Very impressive. At its best: now to 2014. $25.00 Limited availability. Screw cap. May 2010.

Sam Kim, Wine Orbit