Sunday, March 3, 2019

SpearHead releases stunning 2017 wines


 Photo: SpearHead winemaker Grant Stanley

I tasted the new SpearHead Winery releases with Brent Gushowaty, a passionate devotee of Pinot Noir with an unparalleled knowledge of British Columbia Pinot Noir.

He pinpointed a significant, and positive, change in the style in the wines now that Grant Stanley is the winemaker and general manager. The flavours are more intense, the texture is more generous and the alcohols across the board are 14%. These are bold, ripe wines, delicious and satisfying in the glass.

Located in bucolic East Kelowna, SpearHead specializes in Pinot Noir even though it debuted in 2010 with well-received Bordeaux reds made with grapes purchased from a Black Sage Road vineyard. These were discontinued in 2013 after the estate vineyard began producing fruit.

“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 says.  “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.”

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.

The current releases have begun to achieve that primarily with single vineyard wines, drawing on vineyards in Summerland and West Kelowna as well as the estate vineyard.

Here are notes on the wines.

SpearHead 2017 Chardonnay Clone 95 ($30 for 550 cases). The winery has also produced 50 magnums. This barrel-fermented wine, made from a low-yielding French clone, begins with aromas of citrus, apple and vanilla. The wine is rich and creamy on the palate with flavours of citrus, apple and stone fruit. The alcohol is 14.5%, no doubt accounting for some of the power of this wine. 91.

SpearHead 2017 Pinot Noir Club Consensus ($25 for 100 cases). This wine has become something of a tradition at SpearHead: members of the wine club are asked to make the blend, selecting from barrels in the cellar. In some vintages, the wine has won gold medals in competition – a credit both to the underlying wines and the skill of the blenders. The wine begins with aromas of cherry and plum that are echoed on the palate. The tannins are silky. 91.

SpearHead 2017 Pinot Noir GFV Saddle Block ($33 for 300 cases). The wine is made with clones 115, 777 and 828 from the estate vineyard. The fruit is fermented with indigenous yeasts and is aged 13 months in French oak (25% new). In the glass, the wine shows good richness of colour. That sets you up for a wine with intense aromas of spice and cherries and rich, savoury flavours of cherry, blackberry, vanilla and spicy oak. 93.

SpearHead 2017 Pinot Noir Coyote Vineyard ($33 for 200 cases). These grapes are from Grant Stanley’s Coyote Vineyard in West Kelowna. It is entirely clone 115. The grapes were fermented with indigenous yeasts and aged 13 months in French oak barrels (25% new). The wine begins with aromas of red berries and oak. Silky in texture, the wine has flavours of strawberry, raspberry and cherry. 93.

SpearHead 2017 Pinot Noir Golden Retreat Vineyard ($33 for 300 cases). This is a well-managed Summerland vineyard from which SpearHead contacts fruit. The clones are 115 and 667, fermented with indigenous yeasts and aged 13 months in French oak barrels (25% new). This is a full-bodied wine that will age well. It begins with dramatic aromas of cherry, dark fruits, earthy spice, even hints of red licorice. On the palate, the luscious fruits include plum and strawberry. 92.

SpearHead 2017 Pinot Noir Cuvée ($38 for 350 cases). The wine also bottled 50 magnums. The grapes, all from the Gentleman Farmer Vineyard, are clones 828, 115, 667 and Mt. Eden. The wine, fermented with indigenous yeasts, is aged 13 months in French oak (40% new). The aromas mingle toasty notes with plum and cherry. On the palate, the fruit is concentrated, with almost meaty flavours of plum and cherry. The polished texture will support aging – as the winery says, “careful imprisonment for 10-20 years.” 95.

No comments: