Bright newcomer Sperling Vineyards scores big
Permit me to begin by quoting from the newly revised edition of John Schreiner’s definitive British Columbia wine book, The Wineries of British Columbia (Whitecap, 2009; $29.95). (If you don’t have a copy, your library of wine books is incomplete.) “At last, the Casorso family, who planted Kelowna’s first vineyard in 1925, has opened a winery. The winemakers are Ann Sperling and Peter Gamble. Ann’s mother, Velma, is a Casorso.”
Now permit me to quote Uncorked from January 21 of this year, the column dealing with Maréchal Foch: “Ann Sperling”¦[has] been doing this [making wine] for 25 years here (in the Okanagan on the family estate property, which dates back 150 years), there (in Niagara), and everywhere (mostly in Argentina, where she has a current winery project). Close followers of the B.C. wine scene will remember Ann as the winemaker for CedarCreek who created the 1992 Merlot Reserve, which won the first and only Platinum medal in the Okanagan wine festival.”
I found another bottle of that in the cellar, and it’s got Ann’s name on it. I plan to taste it with her when she returns to B.C. later this year. You’ll be among the first to know how it tasted.
Earlier this year, she brought along some samples, which we’ll be looking at today, of her initial release from Sperling Vineyards: five different wines comprising a whopping total of 435 cases, available through the winery and selected VQA stores.
The labelling is elegant and understated—these wines look good on a formal dinner table. They taste even better. As a first outing, they are outstanding.
2008 Old Vines Foch ($26, 100 cases)
This one was detailed here in the aforementioned January column: a rustic dinner wine and a surprisingly elegant version of this hybrid variety. Dark and deep; ideal with smoky barbecues, ribs and roasts, maybe a searing lamb curry. Foch is not everybody’s cup of wine, but there are die-hard fans who adore it. When it comes out this good, there’s lots to like. So far, this is the sole red, although there are considerable Pinot Noir plantings, so it’s likely the Sperling label will soon appear on some of that, as well as a bit of bubble.
2008 Pinot Gris ($19, 120 cases)
A fresh and bright, crisp and clean “wake-up” wine (Ann’s term; our tasting was held pretty early in the morning) with excellent acidity, making it perfect for fresh oysters and other seafood. It heads straight to the top of the towering heap of B.C. Pinot Gris, a number of which can come out of the chute flabby and insipid. Not this one.
2008 Old Vines Riesling ($29, 95 cases)
Thirty bucks isn’t cheap for a B.C. Riesling, but this one is a treat. The vines were planted in 1978, making them some of the oldest vinifera in the province. This is a classic Okanagan Riesling with excellent acidity. Ann points to its “razor-edge structure and minerality” and likes to pair it with classic foods—fish, chicken, and especially vegan main courses. Riesling lovers, line up.
2008 The Market White ($16, 87 cases)
The Sperling entry-level blend is mainly Pinot Gris, plus Gewí¼rztraminer with a smidge of Riesling. It announces itself with an intriguing dry white raisin and coconut aroma with a sweet-at-the-front-of-the-palate edge. Must be the Gewí¼rz shining through. Asian dishes will appreciate it; so will salads and other lighter spring and summer fare. A lovely lunch wine, it seems just made (and named) for Market by Jean-Georges in the Shangri-La hotel. But there were only 87 cases”¦
2008 Riesling Icewine ($36 for 200 millilitres; 33 cases)
A stunning sweet rounds out the tasting. This will play on the Best of the Year lists come December, so if you can get your hands on some now, do it; it’ll be long gone before the summer hits. A beautiful—and definitive—Canadian icewine, it’s intense, fresh, fruity, and—as indeed are all of Ann’s other wines here—imbued with excellent acidity. She suggests serving it with crí¨me brí»lée or aged Cheddar, “or skip dessert and just enjoy the icewine.”
Terrific work from a bright newcomer to the Okanagan winery scene—five classics made by a talented and innovative old hand at the game. Worth a quest, just as soon as you get your tax-refund cheque”¦