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Bell Wine Cellars - California Central Valley


Atlanta International Wine Challenge - Gold Medal.

Anthony Bell has been making wine in the Napa Valley for over two decades. Although not yet a household name among wine enthusiasts, he is well known in the wine industry for his incredible Cabernet Sauvignons. From the late 1970s through the early 1990s before breaking out on his own, Anthony Bell was responsible for BV’s (Beaulieu Vineyards) now legendary Private Reserves.

Under his own Bell Wine Cellars label, Cabernet is still King, however, “This Syrah is my other favorite vineyard-designate wine,” Anthony confesses. In 1997 he produced his first Syrah (and still does) from Ian and Elena Renner’s Canterbury Vineyard in the Sierra Foothills. “I believe this is a fabulous location for our Syrah,” says Anthony. “In my opinion, the quality of each successive vintage has surpassed the previous one.”

Anthony hails from South Africa where he grew up living on a vineyard and winery that his dad managed. “Even as a young boy I distinctly remember I wanted to do the same sort of thing my dad was doing,” Anthony says. To broaden his life experience, after high school he traveled and worked at wineries in both Spain and France, then spent a year’s duty in the South African Navy. In the early 1970s he entered Stellenbosch University in South Africa to follow through on his study of enology and winemaking.

After graduating, Anthony came to the United States to earn his Masters degree in winemaking at the University of California Davis in northern California. His wine career began with a short stint at LaMont Winery in Bakersfield where he was hired in 1978 as quality control manager. The following year, with the help of one of his college professors, he found himself at Beaulieu Vineyards, hired on as their assistant winemaker. This move proved to be key for Anthony, for it was at Beaulieu that his wine career began to flourish.

At Beaulieu Vineyards, Anthony held a variety of positions on his way up the corporate vine. Over the years his escalating responsibilities included, Operations Manager, Director of Operations & Winemaking, Vice President of Production, and General Manager. As V.P. of Operations, he was in charge of winemaking, production and viticulture operations at Heublein’s Inglenook-Napa Valley, as well as, The Gustave Neibaum Collection, Christian Brothers and Rutherford Estate Cellars. And for Beaulieu Vineyards, Anthony was responsible for the many great Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernets for which the winery is widely known. His vast accomplishments are well documented and respected in the wine industry.

In 1991, Winemaker, Anthony Bell and Winegrower, John Baritelle, founded Bell Wine Cellars. John Baritelle is a long time friend of Anthony’s and for decades has supplied grapes for Beaulieu Vineyards. It is his vineyard that has provided all the elements and laid the foundation for the Bell Cabernets.

In July, 2002 the two partners were acquired by Alex Spanos, owner of the San Diego Chargers, and his son-in-law, Ron Berberian, a former California wine and food distributor. Spanos is a California Central Valley developer who bought the Chargers in 1984. He is admittedly a newcomer to the world of fine wine but has been indoctrinated over the past several years by Berberian. The main impetus behind the deal was Berberian whose family began a food distribution business in Fresno in 1925. After Prohibition the company began distributing alcohol too, until selling the entire concern in 1987 to Young Brothers.

As part of the agreement, the new owners bought out grower John Baritelle but Anthony Bell will remain as Winemaker. Meanwhile, Spanos and Berberian plan to invest at least $10 million to expand the winery facility to increase production from 6,000 cases currently, to approximately 15,000 cases. They also plan to plant a new vineyard just above Pritchard Hill, near Colgin and David Arthur wineries.

With this positive change of course, look for Bell Wine Cellars to increase their profile in the wine industry. “we hope to give Anthony all the financial backing he needs to turn Bell Wine Cellars into a world-class operation,” said Berberian.



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