Photo: SpierHead proprietor Bill Knutson
SpierHead Winery president Bill Knutson accompanied the
winery’s latest release of three Pinot Noirs with his usual info
rmative note on what is happening in the
“The Kelowna area is
emerging, or perhaps has emerged, as one of the most suitable regions in British Columbia for the
production of Pinot Noir,” he wrote.
By coincidence, I recently learned that Quails’ Gate Estate
Winery has just purchased about 100 acres of vineyard land in East Kelowna, to
be planted during the next five or six years. About 40 acres will be planted
with Pinot Noir.
That is confirmation from a leading Pinot Noir producer that
Bill is correct.
“At SpierHead,” he writes, “our plan is to offer a portfolio
of Pinot Noir bottlings; differentiating on the basis of specific vineyard
origins and clonal content.”
The winery currently grows Dijon clones 115, 667, 777 and 828, as well
as the Pommard clone.
“We recently planted five or six acres of Pinot Noir,” he
wrote. “That includes a half acre each of two California
heritage clones: Mt.
and Swan. When those
plants begin producing, we’ll increase our options to create small, unique
bottlings of Pinot Noir. SpierHead is never going to be a big volume producer,
but I am hopeful that we can establish a niche as a high quality producer of
Pinot Noir known for its site and clone specific bottlings.”
The SpierHead Pinot Noir that keeps the lights on its white
label Okanagan Valley
appellation Pinot Noir. In the
2014 vintage, the winery produced 900 cases, which is about 60% of the winery’s
“This is our fifth vintage of Pinot Noir and we are hoping
to achieve a house style that is new world, but with some Burgundian restraint
and finesse,” Bill writes. “We are not looking to have our Pinot Noir mistaken
for a Californian wine. Rather, we are trying to produce a wine with the body
and aromas that would be closer to an Oregon Pinot Noir in style.”
The trio of 2014 releases includes a vineyard-designated
Pinot Noir: Gentleman Farmer Vineyard Saddle Block. Gentleman Farmer is the
name of the vineyard where SpierHead planted its original four acres of Pinot
Noir in a site contoured like a saddle.
Part of SpierHead’s strategy is to develop a small group of
vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs. A second was made in 2014, but not yet
released, from the Golden Retreat Vineyard in Summerland.
The third wine in this release package is the winery’s
second vintage designated as Pinot Noir Cuvée, a selection of the best barrels
in the cellar.
“We produce the Cuvée in small quantity with the goal of
creating a wine that will be worthy of mention along side the top Pinot Noirs
in B.C.,” Bill writes.
I would say SpierHead has succeeded in that objective.
Here are notes on the three wines.
SpierHead Pinot Noir
2014 ($23 for 900 cases). This is clones 115, 667 and Pommard, barrel-aged
for 10 months in French oak. The wine begins with aromas of cherry and
raspberry. There are bright and vibrant red fruit flavours on the palate, with
a hint of oak. The texture is still firm, a signature of a youthful Pinot Noir
that can be aged for several years. 88.
SpierHead Pinot Noir
2014 GFV Saddle Block ($27 for 211 cases). This is 34% clone 115, 33% clone
777 and 33% clone 828, also aged 10 months in French oak. This dark-hued wine
has good concentration and weight. It begins with aromas of cherries. This is
echoed on the palate, along with plum and mocha. Decanting fleshed out the
texture; this is definitely a wine to cellar for several years. 91.
SpierHead Pinot Noir
Cuvée 2014 ($32 for 274 cases). The winery also bottled 48 Magnums and 12
Double Magnums. This is 46% clone 115, 21% clone 777. 17% clone 828 and eight
percent each of clone 667 and Pommard clone, aged 10 months in French oak. The
wine’s rich colour is immediately inviting, as are the complex aromas of
cherry, strawberry and raspberry that are echoed in the flavours. The wine is
concentrated and the texture is seductive, as it should in a fine Pinot Noir.
There is a lingering finish with notes of spice, red fruit and mocha. The wine
will cellar for seven years; the large format bottle even longer. 92.