Saturday, July 16, 2016

SpierHead is expanding

Photo: SpierHead's original winery

Along with the samples of SpierHead’s trio of 2015 white wines come the news of modest expansion at this East Kelowna winery.

Winery president Bill Knutson announced that two acres of old apple orchard were removed this spring, making room both for a new building and for more vines.

As well, the winery is planting two more acres elsewhere on the property, taking the area under vine in the so-called Gentleman Farmer Vineyard to about 15 acres.  Bill does not say what varieties are being planted but it would be one of the three already growing there. The major variety is Pinot Noir. There is also Riesling and Chardonnay.

Of course, SpierHead also has grapes from other sources. It has a long-term contract with the Golden Retreat Vineyard in Summerland.

For the last couple of years we have been buying some Pinot Noir from a Summerland vineyard owned by a very conscientious grower named David Kozuki,” Bill told me last year. “His vineyard is called Golden Retreat.” The 2015 Pinot Gris also is from Golden Retreat grapes. 

The estate vineyard is called Gentleman Farmer to reflect the urban background of two of the founding partners.  Bill is a Vancouver lawyer while Bruce Hirtle is a semi-retired investment dealer with Okanagan roots.

The 24-acre property, a former apple orchard, has been redeveloped gradually as vineyard since 2008. The winery opened in 2010 with a portfolio that included Bordeaux blends from grapes grown on Black Sage Road. The last vintage of Bordeaux reds was made in 2013. SpierHead’s future rests with Pinot Noir and other cool climate varieties.

“We don’t grow Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon and I don’t think it would make sense to plant those varietals in our area,” Bill told me last year.  “Also, for a while I’ve been concerned that we were trying to do a bit too much for a small winery.  I think a wiser course is to focus on Pinot Noir and do a good job with it.  As you know, the Kelowna area is emerging as a pretty strong region for Pinot Noir, so I’m hoping that we can play a role in strengthening that perception.”

I don’t think there is any doubt of that, based on the most recent SpierHead Pinot Noirs that I have tasted.

Meanwhile, here are notes on the three 2015 whites.

SpierHead Chardonnay 2015 ($22 for 278 cases). Here is an elegant Chardonnay that is both complex and refreshing. It begins with citrus and apple aromas. On the juicy palate, there are flavours of peach and apple, with a hint of minerality. One-third of this wine was aged in barrel, two-thirds in stainless steel. The winery increased the use of new oak with the intention (quite successfully) of building a bigger, more Burgundian wine. 92.

SpierHead Pinot Gris 2015 ($19 for 1,100 cases). This pale straw-coloured wine begins with aromas of citrus. The nose is still developing. You will not be disappointed of you let your bottles rest another month or so. On the palate, the peach and pear flavours of luscious. Good acidity makes for a refreshing finish. 90.

SpierHead Riesling 2015 ($20 for 234 cases). The wine begins with aromas of citrus and a hint of the petrol that will develop with age. In fact, this a good candidate for cellaring two or three years to allow the concentrated flavours of lime and grapefruit to express themselves fully. The finish is crisp and dry. 90-92.

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