4307 Gartrell Road
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
The bar was set for Giant Head’s owners, John Glavina and
Jinny Lee, during a 1998 Burgundy
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
computer science, with a minor in business.
He started his career with IBM, then spent two years with
CGI Group before launching his own info
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
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
“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
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.
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.