Monday, January 22, 2018

SpierHead releases 2016 Pinot Noirs

Photo: SpierHead's Bill Knutson

SpierHead Winery in East Kelowna continues to raise its focus on Pinot Noir.

“Every year we try to increase our Pinot Noir production by a small margin,” writes owner Bill Knutson, in a note with the release of three 2016s.

“In each of the last few years, we have expanded our estate Pinot Noir planting,” he continues. “We now grow seven clones of Pinot Noir: four Dijon clones; Pommard, a clone which is widely planted in Oregon; and two California heritage clones, Mt. Eden and Swan. At this point, we’ve planted only 1,000 plants each of the California heritage clones as we recognize this is experimental and we want to take it slow.”

The first harvest of the Mt. Eden clone was in 2017. The Swan and the Pommard will produce their first crops in 2018.

The winery has been producing Pinot Noir since the 2010 vintage. The volumes have been limited. For example, the 1,197 cases of the 2016 White Label Pinot Noir comprise 60% of the production.  That is not a lot of wine to serve the growing number of consumers who recognize SpierHead is a rising start among Pinot Noir producers.

The White Label draws grapes from both the estate vineyard and from a Summerland vineyard called Golden Retreat. That vineyard has three Dijon clones as well as the Pommard clone.

The Saddle Block Pinot Noir, which has a red label, is made with grapes from a specific block in the estate vineyard. That entire vineyard is called the Gentleman Farmer Vineyard, an inside joke on the fact that Bill is also a busy Vancouver lawyer.

The Cuvée Pinot Noir, which has a black label, is built to age. It is the biggest of these three Pinot Noirs. Part of each vintage is bottled in large format bottles – magnums and double magnums – in which the wines age more gracefully.

Here are notes on the wines. Prices do not include tax.

SpierHead 2016 Pinot Noir White Label ($25 for 1,197 cases). There are two clones in this wine – Dijon 115 and Dijon 777. The wine was aged 10 months in French oak. It is an appealing, if delicate and pretty, wine with a velvety texture, aromas of cherry and flavours of spice and cherry. 90.

SpierHead 2016 Pinot Noir GFV Saddle Block ($30 for 302 cases). There are three Dijon clones in this wine: 70% 115 and 15% each of 828 and 667. This wine was also aged 10 months in French oak. In addition to cherry notes on the aroma, this wine also shows the forest floor complexity that seems to set this special block aside. The texture is firm, suggesting a potential to age a few more years. There are notes of cherry, raspberry and spice on the palate. 91.

SpierHead 2016 Pinot Noir Cuvée ($38 for 392 cases, 72 Magnums and 18 Double Magnums). This has three Dijon clones: 35% 115 and 25% each of 667 and 828. There is also 15% Pommard clone in the blend adding weight to what is already a bold wine. It has been aged 10 months in French oak, but a higher percentage was new, and those flavours come through on the palate. The fruit flavours are intense, even a bit jammy, with notes of ripe cherry and dark red berries. 92.

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