Tuesday, May 20, 2014

SpierHead Winery releases in spring 2014

Photo: SpierHead winery

Last August, a brief but devastating hail storm wreaked havoc with SpierHead Winery’s Gentleman Farmer Vineyard in East Kelowna.

While the vineyard is recovering, the setback came just as wines from previous vintages were showing the terrific promise of the terroir. I have a note below on the impressive 2012 Chardonnay.

SpierHead proprietor Bill Knutson told me recently that the damage to the vines does not seem likely to impact on the 2014 crop.

 "I was in Kelowna on the weekend and it doesn't look as if the hail has caused any set back to this year's crop," he wrote in a May 12 email. "  Everything appears to be on schedule.  We're just about to plant an additional five acres of Pinot Noir.   We've decided to go all in with Pinot Noir which is interesting with Mission Hill setting up its new Pinot Noir winery not too far away.  We presently grow three  Dijon clones and with the planting this year we'll be introducing a fourth.  I have a couple more unique clones coming but the lead time for those plants is more than one year so we'll be planting an additional few acres next year."

 The winery reacted quickly last fall to supplement its vineyard with purchased grapes. The winery has now released its first two wines from 2013. Even if they are not from Gentleman Farmer, they are first class wines.

The sardonic name for SpierHead’s Gentleman Farmer vineyard tells you something about the ownership. The three couples who launched the winery (it opened in 2010 with wines from the 2008 vintage) are all gentlemen farmers. Bill Knutson, who is the managing partner with Marina, his wife, is a Vancouver lawyer. Bruce Hirtle, whose role is less visible, has been a Vancouver investment dealer. Brian Sprout, who sold his interest in the winery last year, is well-known Kelowna photographer.

Originally, the partners were looking for vineyard property in the South Okanagan until they realized that wineries in that area have a long, quiet winter while those near Kelowna are close to a year-round wine buying population.

Early in 2007, they acquired a 20-acre property on Spiers Road, an easy drive from downtown Kelowna. It was then primary an apple orchard. While some of the apple trees remain, the property has slowly been transforming into the Gentleman Farmer vineyard.

The major varieties planted here are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling. The first vintage of Pinot Noir was 2010. Because it was from young vines, the winery hesitated to charge what the wine was worth; consumers got a terrific bargain at $17.90. The 2012 Gentleman Farmer Pinot Noir sells for $30 and a second 2012 Pinot Noir is $22. While they are on the winery website, I do not know whether they have been released.

It is evident that winery has an excellent site for the varieties being grown there. The Rieslings also show considerable promise.

Here are notes on the recent releases.

SpierHead Chardonnay 2012 Gentleman Farmer Vineyard ($23 for 225 cases). This begins with appealing aromas of citrus. The wine is lively on the palate with flavours of orange and apricot. The use of oak is very subtle; less than a third of the wine was aged in oak. Consequently, the wine is refreshingly fruit forward but with enough going on to give it elegance and complexity. 90.

SpierHead Pinot Gris 2013 ($19.90 for 500 cases). The fruit for this wine, SpierHead’s second Pinot Gris, comes from the Golden Retreat Vineyard in Summerland, which is owned and farmed by David Kozuki. This is a wine that appeals to those of us who like the variety aged in stainless steel, with the focus on the fruit aromas and flavours. This wine begins with citrus aromas. It is packed with fruit flavours that include green apples, melon, lime and even lemon. It has a tangy, refreshing finish. 91.

SpierHead Pinot Noir Rosé 2013 ($19.90 for 730 cases). This is the winery’s second rosé. The volume shows that SpierHead was encouraged by having won a double gold at the All-Canadian Wine Awards for the 2012 vintage. The grapes for this wine are from the Lands End Vineyard in Southeast Kelowna. Winemaker Bill Pierson let the juice soak two days on the skins, allowing the wine to develop a deep rose hue. It has aromas and flavours of strawberry and cranberry. This is a crisply dry wine meant for food. 90.


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