2017 was a cooler and could be a challenging year with the raging wildfires and smoke that occurred in early summer. Winemakers noted that in the Okanagan the berry size and cluster size were smaller which produced less juice. And some said that the tannins in the red wines are rounder and softer. I received 5 different Pinot Noir wines and 1 bottle of Chardonnay from Spearhead Winery, located in Kelowna from their 2017 vintage. Would I see softer rounder Pinots with lighter intensity fruit from the cooler growing season (The smoke from forest fires block the sun making for a cooler temperature during the day compared to sunny days with nothing to filter the sunlight.)?
One of the things the Pinot Noir grape is known for is its many variations or clones. Each clone can have a particular character a winemaker may want to emphasize, such as a floral perfume or depth of colour. Spearhead has used Dijon clones 115, 667, 777 and 828, as well as the Pommard clone in the different variations of Pinot Noir wines that they provided to me to taste and review.
What Flavours and Aromas Do These Clones Offer the Wine Drinker?
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 ageing 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 a woodsy perfume of sandalwood, pine and cedar. Plush texture and flavour concentration. Perfumed red berry fruit flavours and sometimes known for having a
meaty, gamey edge.
Pommard 5 – firm tannins, deep colour and dark plummy flavours.
My Tasting Notes
All the wines underwent fermentation with indigenous yeasts, which is always risky, but can provide rewards with additional complexity in aromas and flavours. For the Pinot Noirs, all underwent complete malolactic fermentation to give the wines a rounder, softer mouthfeel. The Chardonnay underwent a partial malolactic fermentation. French oak barrel ageing for all the wines.
Spearhead GFV Saddle Block Pinot Noir 2017 ($33++) – made with Dijon clones 115, 777, 828 and 667. Medium intensity, dull translucent garnet. A light smoky, cinnamon and red fruit nose (some may say cinnamon bun aroma) along with a hint of floral. The wine is dry, round, with medium body and mouthfeel. Ripe raspberry and red fruits with a touch of smoky red fruit, minerality and floral notes on the palate. Light sweet spices as well. Fine tannins. With decanting I also could taste some red cherries toward the finish. On the finish, you get a fine tannic touch, oak, light pepperiness and some bitter leaf. With decanting, I also picked up some vanilla as well. A light mouthfeel throughout along with overall light flavours.
Rating: – Light aromas of cinnamon and red fruits, which proceed to the palate along with ripe raspberries. A hint of floral and minerality. A light Pinot Noir to enjoy.
Spearhead Club Consensus Pinot Noir 2017 ($25++) – made with Dijon clones 667, 777, 888, and Pommard. Medium translucent garnet in the glass. Medium intensity developing aromatics that show sweet red fruit and cinnamon, smokiness and raspberries. The cinnamon aroma hovers above the fruit aromas. Some floral as well. With decanting you can add ripe black cherries and vanilla to the nose. The wine is slightly off-dry, lower acidity and tannins, and medium plus body and flavour intensity. Semi-round mouthfeel. Floral, red fruit and ripe raspberries with some minerality and chocolate. Bramble leaf too. Sweetish flavours. With decanting I also picked up black cherries on the palate. Medium plus length ending peppery, with tart red fruits, oak, bramble leaf and light sweet spices. Fine tannins. More bramble leaf and oak with decanting on the finish. Decanting did not make much difference other than adding black cherries, so open and enjoy.
Rating:  – Sweet red fruit and cinnamon aromatics lead to slightly off-dry floral, ripe raspberry and red fruit flavours along with bramble leaf.
Spearhead Coyote Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017 ($33++) – Artist Annabel and Grant Stanley (ex-Quails’ Gate) bought Coyote Vineyard, located in West Kelowna in January 2005.
The original vineyard was planted in Chardonnay but in 2009 they replanted with Pinot Noir, and have been reselling their grapes to other wineries. It appears that Spearhead was able to purchase some of their grapes for 2017. Dijon clone 115 for this wine. The wine is dull medium garnet in colour; translucent rim to core. The wine has above average intensity aromatics, that are toasty smoky, bramble and red fruit, cinnamon toast, oak, sweet candied cherries and a hint of floral. The aromas for this wine ebb and flow into each other and I’d say are elusive in a good way. With decanting you get floral plus lots of red fruit aromas, some bramble, and no cinnamon toast. The wine is dry with medium body and tannins, but above average acidity, giving it an angular mouthfeel. With air, the mouthfeel becomes thicker and rounder, and the wine tastes slightly off-dry. Flavours of sweet red fruit, sweet red cherries, and floral, with a touch of oak and minerality. With decanting you get much more intense floral and red fruits on the palate. Medium plus length finishing floral and peppery along with candied red cherry flavour and some cinnamon at the very end. The amount of floral and red fruits and the thicker, rounder mouthfeel with air, makes me feel like I’m tasting two different wines. I think decanting is the way to go with this wine.
Rating: – Lots of floral and red fruit aromas and flavours with decanting. Thicker rounder mouthfeel as well.
Spearhead Golden Retreat Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017 ($33++) – 33% Pommard, 33% Dijon 115, and 33% Dijon 667 clones. Deep garnet, around 80% opaque in colour. Light intensity “closed” nose, with tomato, black cherries and red fruit aromas. Decanting still left a light intensity nose, but I did get a hint of oak. The wine is slightly off-dry, round with fuller body and flavour intensity and thicker mouthfeel. Quite mineral, along with flavours of ripe cherries, raspberries, and floral. Some milk chocolate flavour behind the fruit flavours on the mid-palate. Light oak and fine tannins. With decanting you get lots of floral perfume from this wine. Medium plus length finishing pepper, with tart black and red fruits and oak flavour. A little firmer tannins that fade quickly. The tannins last longer with decanting. I think this wine may be at an awkward stage in this evolution in the bottle. Either cellar it for a few years, or decant before drinking.
Rating: – Closed nose with some black cherries, red fruits and oak. Thicker mouthfeel with quite a floral, along with red fruit, raspberry and red cherry flavours with decanting.
Spearhead Pinot Noir Cuvee 2017 ($38++) – Dijon cones 828, 115, 667 and Mt. Eden. Medium plus intensity garnet, that is about 50% translucent. A lighter intensity nose showing ripe raspberries, some smokiness and toastiness, a touch of vanilla, red cherries and sweet spices. With decanting the toastiness and sweet spices were not evident, but it became quite floral (violets) on the nose. The wine is dry, lower in tannins, but medium acidity and body, and above average intensity flavours. Flavours first off are floral, followed by raspberries, and red fruits, and a hint of vanilla. The lighter, fine tannins get a bit stronger toward the finish. Bigger, rounder, and more floral with decanting. Medium length finishing with medium tannins, tart red fruits, oak and some bramble leaf. The tannins finish softer with decanting and I also picked up ripe red cherry flavours.
Rating: A solid Pinot Noir with a light touch overall on the aromas and flavours on the palate. Ripe raspberries and light red cherries smoky toastiness on the nose. Very floral on the palate with lesser amounts of raspberries and red fruits. Fine tannins.
Spearhead Clone 95 Chardonnay 2017 ($30++) – Medium plus intensity bright lemon with a green tinge colour. Medium intensity, lifted complex aromatics of grapefruit, light lees, lemon, honey, bramble leaf, and hints of orange, vanilla and apple. With air, this wine had deeper riper aromas of apple and pears. Very enjoyable aromatics. The wine is dry, round with a rich, thick mouthfeel. Medium acidity that leaves you with a slight prickle in your mouth. Pears and apples mainly with lesser citrus, lime skin and a touch of bramble leaf, oak and vanilla. Buttery mid plate to the finish. With decanting the flavours really showed ripe pears and apples, along with some tropical fruit, while the lime skin aroma disappeared. Medium plus length that finishes with tart citrus skin and pith, some leafiness and pepperiness, and a hint of vanilla at the very end. You can drink this wine now, but it can also be aged 3-5 years for more complexity.
Rating: An exceptional quality Chardonnay. Complex aromatics; grapefruit, apple, vanilla and bramble leaf. Full, thick, rich and round on the palate. Apple, pears and citrus with a touch of oak and vanilla.
Summary Thoughts About These Wines
Overall for all the Pinot Noirs, there was some level of raspberry and red fruit flavours. If the growing season was very hot, Pinot Noir grapes, in general, can begin to get a plummy flavour, which these did not. I also picked up a floral component, in some cases a very pronounced amount. None of the clone descriptions I listed above show floral as being special to one clone, so I think that overall the Pinot Noir grape in our Okanagan terroir may have a tendency to show floral aromas and flavours.
I have not said anything about the Chardonnay, but this too is from a specific clone (Did you know Chardonnay is a variant of Pinot Noir?) Chardonnay Clone 95 characteristics are higher sugar, fine tight acidity, intense citrus flavour, minerality; elegance and palate structure wherever it is grown. From my notes citrus is there, but is not the major flavour component; Rather ripe apples and pears. Again this may be something unique about the terroir for the Okanagan.
Where Can I Buy These Wines?