Monday, May 13, 2019

SpearHead's White Pinot Noir is back

Photo: Winemaker Grant Stanley

Located in bucolic East Kelowna, SpearHead Winery specializes in Pinot Noir even though it debuted in 2010 with well-received Bordeaux reds called Vanguard and Pursuit. Made with grapes purchased from a Black Sage Road vineyard, they established the SpearHead brand while the winery awaited fruit from the estate vineyard, planted in 2008. They were discontinued after the 2013 vintage.

“We don’t grow Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon and I don’t think it would make sense to plant those varietals in our area,” proprietor Bill Knutson said.  “I think a wiser course is to focus on Pinot Noir and do a good job with it. The Kelowna area is emerging as a pretty strong region for Pinot Noir.”

The vines  are planted in a former apple orchard on Spiers Road, which inspired the winery’s original name, SpierHead. It was changed in 2018 to avoid a trademark dispute with Spier Wine Farm in South Africa, founded in 1692.

SpearHead’s six-hectare (15-acre) Gentleman Farmer Vineyard  grows multiple clones of Pinot Noir, along with small blocks of Riesling and Chardonnay. “I hope we can develop a niche with a significant variety of Pinot Noir clones for different bottlings,” Bill says. In 2017, to carry out that strategy, he recruited Grant Stanley as SpearHead’s general manager and winemaker.

Born in Vancouver in 1967 and trained in New Zealand, Grant previously spent 10 years at Quails’ Gate Estate Winery and four at 50th Parallel Estate Wineries. Both specialize in Pinot Noir. Grant, who has his own Pinot Noir vineyard in West Kelowna, once said: “I think about Pinot Noir 80% of the time.”

Here are notes on the current releases.

SpearHead Pinot Gris 2018 ($20 for 1,500 cases). This wine, 10% of which was fermented in two-year-old French oak barrels, begins with aromas of peach and pear. Those notes are echoed on the fruity palate, mingled with spice and grapefruit. The finish is crisply dry. The wine is as fresh as a day in spring. 91.

SpearHead White Pinot Noir 2018 ($25 for 500 cases). This is the second vintage of this rare wine and it is probably back by popular demand. The wine begins with aromas of white peach, guava, citrus and even a hint of beeswax. On the palate, the rich texture displays flavours of pear and guava. The finish is dry with a hint of minerality. This is very food friendly. 91.

SpearHead Riesling 2018 ($21 for 500 cases). This wine is approachable now but is structured to be aged, so that several years in the cellar develop the aromas and flavours. The age worthiness results from balance 12 grams of residual sugar with 9.6 grams of acid. The wine begins with aromas of lime and lemon. The lime carries through in the flavours along with a spine of minerality. The residual sugar supports sweet fruit flavours and texture. The finish goes on and on. 92.

SpearHead Botrytis Affected Late Harvest Riesling 2018 ($25 for 220 cases of 375 ml). It is a rare treat when a winery manages to produce a botrytis-affected dessert wine; the Okanagan usually is too dry for botrytis to flourish. This wine begins with aromas of citrus mingled with marmalade and honey. On the palate, the wine is rich with honeyed tropical fruit and sweet tobacco. The wine has 164 grams of residual sugar which is balanced with enough acidity that the finish is refreshing. Cellar this wine for a few years to allow its complexity to flower. 93.

SpearHead Pinot Noir Rosé 2018 ($22 for 500 cases). This wine, in my view, is the perfect colour for a rosé – a delicate, but not pallid, pink that looks appealing in the glass. Aromas of strawberry, cherry and rhubarb explode from the glass and carry through to the palate. There is just enough acidity to keep the wine refreshing. It is dry on the finish. 90.


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