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From photog

to vintner

SpierHead’s Brian Sprout decided to focus on a new career and it developed into a winner. By Judie Steeves


lthough he began in the wine industry working on the bottling line for Calona Wines as a kid, seeing it through the lens of a camera probably taught Brian Sprout more about the business—along with his view through the bottom of a glass.

A winemaker should savour his product. Sprout and his partners began by enjoying good wine, but it was his years as a professional photographer working for such clients as Mission Hill Family Estate, Quails’ Gate and CedarCreek Estate Winery that really got him immersed in the industry itself.

And, it was experienced winemaker Tom DiBello, while he was at CedarCreek, who gave the photographer “some friendsly advice” in producing the first batch of wine at what would become SpierHead Winery at the top of Spiers Road in East Kelowna.

With partners and chums from his days at Kelowna Secondary school, Bill Knutson and Bruce Hirtle, Sprout set aside his camera equipment in 2008 and planted his first grapes on the 20-acre property they bought from the Turton family, producing 500 cases the first year, then 1,100 the second.

However, it was the first production of pinot noir, bottled last year, that has brought the young winery the most attention: It was judged the best pinot noir in Canada in last December’s Wine Access Magazine Canadian Wine Awards. Of 94 pinot noirs judged in the competition (which could be the last, as Wine Access is ceasing publication), SpierHead’s came out on top, and only four received gold medals.

In fact, last year was a stellar one for SpierHead, with recognition from the B.C. Wine Awards last fall as the Best New Winery in B.C. as well as a number of medals. Both have brought visitors knocking on the door, as well as contacting the winery to order cases of wine, especially that pinot noir.

By the time of the award, announced in December, they


Pinot noir has been a huge hit for Brian Sprout and SpierHead Winery.

only had 100 cases left of their first pinot noir, the 2010, so they restricted orders to a bottle each so more people could have a taste of it.

The 2011 was also bottled, and 40 per cent of it sold in the fall as well, and Sprout feels it’s even better than the 2010. When SpierHead was named the Best New Winery at last fall’s B.C. Wine Awards at the start of the Fall Okanagan Wine Festival, Sprout says he noticed an immediate increase in visitors to the winery.

Purchases jumped, and people who were visiting for the wine festival sought the winery out, but few locals did, he noted.

Re-orders are now coming in, and people are ordering some of the winery’s other wines as well to try. In addition to the pinot noir, they grow chardonnay and riesling and source some reds from Harry McWatters’ Black Sage Vineyard. Plans are to use some grapes purchased from a neighbour to make a pinot noir rose, and some grapes from Summerland to make a pinot gris. Red vintages are aged for 18 months, all in French oak barrels, including cooperage from Cadus, Taransaud, Fouquet, Sylvain, Vicard, Francois Freres, Remond, Dargaud & Jaegle, Mercier, Demptos and Saury. Of the 20 acres, some are in access road, and some has been built upon with a picturesque and colourful winery

British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Spring 2013 21

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