Thursday, August 27, 2015

Class of 2015: Giant Head Estate Winery







 Photo: John Glavina


Giant Head Estate Winery
4307 Gartrell Road
Summerland BC
.
VOH 1Z4
 1 (250) 460-0749
Tasting room: 10 am - 5 pm daily May through October
Or by appointment


Setting a high bar is always a good idea when opening a new winery.

The bar was set for Giant Head’s owners, John Glavina and Jinny Lee, during a 1998 Burgundy vacation when they enjoyed several bottles of Gevrey-Chambertin from the premier cru appellation of Le Clos Saint-Jacques.

The wine made a huge impression. As they were leaving Burgundy for the south of France, John turned to his wife and said: “I have a strong feeling we are going to have a vineyard one day.”

Their Summerland winery opened this summer with a Gewürztraminer and two sparkling wines. In barrel are two solid reds, a Merlot and a Pinot Noir.

It is up to someone more expert in Burgundies that I am to decide how close that Pinot Noir is to Gevrey-Chambertin. Let me just say the wine is delicious and, when released, will be nowhere near as expensive as a premier cru Burgundy.

John was born in Montreal in 1960. His father, an immigrant from Malta, was a computer technician with Honeywell. His job involved transfers around Canada. The family ended up in Vancouver where John in 1985 earned a Simon Fraser University degree in computer science, with a minor in business.

He started his career with IBM, then spent two years with CGI Group before launching his own information technology consultancy. During the ten years that he ran that, he spent five years in Portland, Oregon. The affection he and Jinny developed for Pinot Noir flourished with tours of Willamette Valley wineries. “About that time, I got quite interested in wine,” he says.

“Jinny likes to farm,” John says of his wife, an electrical engineer whom he met at SFU. “We put an offer on a farm in 1995 before I went down to Portland, an organic farm near Pemberton. The deal fell through. It was always in the back of mind to find something for Jinny to farm.”

Finally in 2002, the couple and their two children moved to the Okanagan and bought an apple orchard near Summerland. The trees soon were removed to make way for four acres of high-density plantings. The couple built their own greenhouse to propagate the cuttings obtained from various select Okanagan vineyards.

They grow Pinot Noir, Merlot, Gewürztraminer and – for blending with the latter – about 100 vines of Riesling. Both took viticulture courses but John leaves much of the viticulture in her hands.

They began selling grapes when their vineyard came into production. However, during the winery’s long dress rehearsal, John began making Pinot Noir and Merlot for personal consumption in 2008. “It is hard to live in a vineyard and not make wine,” he says. Wines from five vintages now rest in his private cellar. Winery regulations do not permit him to sell those wines.

“Last year we decided to go for it,” he says. “The 2014 is the first vintage we will be selling.”

Here are notes on the current releases.

Giant Head Blanc de Noir 2014 ($32). This is a dry sparkling wine from Pinot Noir grapes. It has a pale hue and active bubbles. The flavours are of green apples and citrus. The finish is crisp and refreshing. 90.

Giant Head Merlot Rosé 2014 ($26). This frizzanté wine evokes memories of summer picnics. Dark in hue, it is packed with flavours of cherry and raspberry. The generous texture gives it nice weight on the palate. The finish is dry. 89.

Giant Head Gewürztraminer 2014 ($24). The 15% Riesling in this blend assure that the wine has bright acidity to complement the aromas and flavours of guava, pear and lychee. The finish is dry. 88.

 






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