Photo: SpierHead winery
Last August, a brief but devastating hail storm wreaked
havoc with SpierHead Winery’s Gentleman Farmer Vineyard in East
While the vineyard is recovering, the setback came just as
wines from previous vintages were showing the terrific promise of the terroir.
I have a note below on the impressive 2012 Chardonnay.
SpierHead proprietor Bill Knutson told me recently that the damage to the vines does not seem likely to impact on the 2014 crop.
"I was in Kelowna on the weekend and it
doesn't look as if the hail has caused any set back to this year's crop," he wrote in a May 12 email. " Everything appears to be on schedule. We're just about to plant an additional five acres of Pinot Noir. We've decided to go all in with Pinot Noir which is interesting with Mission
Hill setting up its new Pinot Noir winery not too far away. We presently grow three Dijon clones and with the planting this year we'll be introducing a fourth. I
have a couple more unique clones coming but the lead time for those plants is
more than one year so we'll be planting an additional few acres next year."
The winery reacted quickly last fall
to supplement its vineyard with purchased grapes. The winery has now released its first two wines from
2013. Even if they are not from Gentleman Farmer, they are first class wines.
The sardonic name for SpierHead’s Gentleman Farmer vineyard tells you something
about the ownership. The three couples who launched the winery (it opened in
2010 with wines from the 2008 vintage) are all gentlemen farmers. Bill Knutson,
who is the managing partner with Marina, his wife, is a Vancouver lawyer. Bruce Hirtle, whose role is
less visible, has been a Vancouver
investment dealer. Brian Sprout, who sold his interest in the winery last year,
is well-known Kelowna
Originally, the partners were looking for vineyard property
in the South Okanagan until they realized that wineries in that area have a
long, quiet winter while those near Kelowna
are close to a year-round wine buying population.
Early in 2007, they acquired a 20-acre property on Spiers Road, an
easy drive from downtown Kelowna.
It was then primary an apple orchard. While some of the apple trees remain, the
property has slowly been transforming into the Gentleman Farmer vineyard.
The major varieties planted here are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay
and Riesling. The first vintage of Pinot Noir was 2010. Because it was from
young vines, the winery hesitated to charge what the wine was worth; consumers
got a terrific bargain at $17.90. The 2012 Gentleman Farmer Pinot Noir sells
for $30 and a second 2012 Pinot Noir is $22. While they are on the winery
website, I do not know whether they have been released.
It is evident that winery has an excellent site for the
varieties being grown there. The Rieslings also show considerable promise.
Here are notes on the recent releases.
2012 Gentleman Farmer Vineyard ($23 for 225 cases). This begins with
appealing aromas of citrus. The wine is lively on the palate with flavours of
orange and apricot. The use of oak is very subtle; less than a third of the
wine was aged in oak. Consequently, the wine is refreshingly fruit forward but
with enough going on to give it elegance and complexity. 90.
SpierHead Pinot Gris
2013 ($19.90 for 500 cases). The fruit for this wine, SpierHead’s second
Pinot Gris, comes from the Golden Retreat Vineyard in Summerland, which is
owned and farmed by David Kozuki. This is a wine that appeals to those of us
who like the variety aged in stainless steel, with the focus on the fruit
aromas and flavours. This wine begins with citrus aromas. It is packed with
fruit flavours that include green apples, melon, lime and even lemon. It has a
tangy, refreshing finish. 91.
SpierHead Pinot Noir
($19.90 for 730 cases). This is the winery’s second rosé. The
volume shows that SpierHead was encouraged by having won a double gold at the
All-Canadian Wine Awards for the 2012 vintage. The grapes for this wine are
from the Lands End Vineyard in Southeast Kelowna
Winemaker Bill Pierson let the juice soak two days on the skins, allowing the
wine to develop a deep rose hue. It has aromas and flavours of strawberry and
cranberry. This is a crisply dry wine meant for food. 90.