SpierHead Winery is really getting in deep with Pinot Noir. According to SpierHead Winery, the Kelowna area is emerging as one of the most suitable regions in BC for Pinot Noir. They planted Dijon clones 115, 667, 777 and 828, as well as the Pommard clone in their vineyard. They also recently planted 1/2 acre each of the California heritage clones: Mt. Eden and Swan. Pinot Noir as you can see is prolific with making clones. There are many officially registered in France and California. Each clone offers something to the wine maker. It could be fruit aromas or flavours, colours, or tannins. In Burgundy, several clones together are used to produce a wine, so that you get the strengths and differences of the clones to make something more complex than the individual components. Let’s take a brief look at the Pinot clones that SpierHead Winery are using for their wines.
What Flavours and Aromas Do These Clones Present?
Dijon Clone 115 – strong colour with a purplish hue, superior bouquet, elegant rich aroma, well structured, tannic, long, suitable for keeping. Juicy raspberry essence.
Dijon Clone 667 – strong colour, high-tone and quality aromas, dark cherry, raspberry, strawberry. Rich, spice flavours, fleshy, firm, with sweet tannins.
Dijon Clone 777 – strong and intense colours, strong aromas, round, tannic, and has aging potential.
Dijon Clone 828 – provides colour and complexity to Pinot Noir while also adding acidity, full-flavoured with blackberry, plum, and red fruits. Because of its roundness and completeness, it has been said that this clone can make an excellent stand-alone wine.
Pommard 4 – expressive aromatics of wild strawberry with woodsy perfume of sandalwood, pine and cedar. Plush texture and flavour concentration.
Pommard 5 – firm tannins, deep colour and dark plummy flavours.
Mt. Eden (Clone 37) – peppery spice characteristics to go along with bright fruit aromas and flavours of blackberry and wild berries.
Swan – some think this clone came from the Romanée-Conti vineyards. It was brought to the United States by Joseph Swan and originally planted in the Russian River Valley. It produces intense aromatics; aromas of raspberries, strawberries and cranberries, to violets, together with spiciness.
* Note that when SpierHead received their Pommard vines, the vine’s clonal type was not known, so it could be Pommard 4, 5, or a mix of these 2 vines. Also in the wines below, the Mt. Eden and Swan clones are not used. I look forward to seeing how these affect the blends in the future.
Pinot Noir and Terroir
It has been said by many people that Pinot Noir allows terroir to shine. Assuming the right growing conditions and winemaking, it will tell the story of its vintage and precise place in the world in a profound way. Pinot Noir is not heavily oaked, which lets the fruit be more expressive in the glass. Cooler vs warmer climate will affect the aroma and flavour profile of this grape. Kelowna, in the northern end of the Okanagan, is “cooler” climate. How does Pinot Noir express itself in this terroir? Let’s examine this through these 3 Pinot Noirs from SpierHead Winery.
My Pinot Noir Reviews
For each of these 3 wines, I tasted them 3 times. First was just after opening the bottle. The second was 24 hours later. And the third time was 48 hours after first opening. I really wanted to give these wines a chance to interact with oxygen and see how they may change, as Pinot Noir is known to change aroma and flavours quite quickly. I have experienced this myself several times during sit down tastings.
For all three wines, each clone was separately fermented then aged for 10 months in 100% French oak before blending.
SpierHead Pinot Noir 2014 ($23) – This wine is a blend of Dijon clones 115 and 667, together with Pommard. Medium garnet that is translucent to the core. You get sweet ripe cherries, kirsch and vanilla with a hint of sweet spices on the nose. The wine smells very youthful and is as it was just bottled in November 2015. With decanting, you get a bit more oak aroma. Dry and round, with lighter, fine tannins. Red sour cherries and some sweet candied cherries, red fruit, in particular raspberries, along with hints of leafiness, milk chocolate and minerality. The minerality feels like it floats above the red fruit flavours. With decanting you get strawberries and some flowery perfume. The wine has medium length with mouth-watering acidity followed by sour cherries, oak and blackberry leaf.
Rating: A very nice entry level Pinot Noir. Nice red fruits that are balanced with the acidity and tannins in the wine. Drink any time. Gives you a hint of how good the Cuvee may be.
SpierHead GFV Saddle Block Pinot Noir 2014 ($27) – GFV, is SpierHead’s own Gentleman Farmer Vineyard. The vineyard is named for it’s land contours that form a saddle. 3 Dijon clones are planted there; 115, 777, and 828. These 3 clones are used in this wine, with 34% from Dijon 115, 33% Dijon 777, and 33% Dijon 828. Medium plus garnet in colour; translucent to the core with a slight bricking on the edge. Open first opening you get baby powder, French vanilla pods, light red cherries and cedar/oak aromas. With decanting the wines aromas became more closed/muted. The wine was dry, with light mouthfeel and some roundness. Tannins pick up in intensity at the mid-point toward the finish. Light intensity red cherries, raspberries and strawberries on the palate together with tea leaves. There is also some minerality that you pick up at the start. The fruit flavours progress from strawberries to raspberries, then cherries. With decanting the fruit flavours become a bit stronger and the wine feels more round and heavier in your mouth. You get more cherries and less tea leaves. Also, you now get some violets. Mouthwatering, slightly puckering finish, with salty minerality and sour cherries. With decanting there is some chalkiness on the finish.
Rating: If the nose was not as closed I would have rated this wine at 4.5 stars. As it is, I would not decant the wine in order to enjoy the aromas initially expressed upon opening. It does have interesting complexity of fruit flavours and minerality on the palate. Maybe the wine is still a bit shocked from recently bottling. It would be interesting to try this wine again in 6 months.
SpierHead Cuvee Pinot Noir 2014 ($32) – Dijon clones 115 (46%), 777 (21%), 828 (17%), and 667 (8%) are used in this wine together with (8%) Pommard. The Cuvee is made in limited quantity and is blended each year from selected barrels that stand out to the winemaker. Medium plus garnet in colour, translucent, but deeper coloured than the other 2 wines. Medium plus intensity nose, with aromas of ripe red cherries, cedar and vanilla. Hint of sweet spice. A pretty, elegant nose. The aromas do not change with decanting. The wine is fuller bodied, round, soft and dry. Fine tannins and a hint of minerality. Ripe red cherries, raspberry jam, red currants, vanilla and hints of sweet spices. Medium length with ripe red juicy cherries and vanilla. The tannins dry out the tongue. There is a hint of flowers on the finish. With decanting you get a silky mouthfeel intertwined with minerality. There are also violets from the mid-palate to the finish, and a decrease in sweet spices. A very sexy wine. Definitely can age another 4 years without trouble.
Rating: This is a big wine for Pinot Noir, and benefits from decanting. A pretty, delicate nose with cherries, cedar and vanilla. Fuller bodied with cherries and red fruit flavours. Silky mouthfeel intertwined with minerality.
I have tasted older vintages of these wines. You can read about them at the below links. Try to see if there are any differences or similarities between the wines. Enjoy!