releases from Sperling Vineyards and from Clos du Soleil were both made by Ann
Sperling. They are a demonstration of her versatility as a winemaker.
It is in
her blood, of course. Through her mother, she is a member of the Casorso
family. Her forbears first planted grapes in Kelowna in 1925 on what is now the longest continuously farmed vineyard in B.C. by the same family.
Ann grew up around grapes
because her father, Bert Sperling, took over Pioneer Ranch – the Casorso
vineyard – in the 1960s. Naturally, Ann began working in the wine industry
after university, eventually carving out a distinguished career nationally and
however, she had not made wine commercially from Pioneer Ranch grapes. In
that year, Ann’s family and her siblings decided to launch Sperling Vineyards.
At the same
time, the owners of the Clos du Soleil winery in the Similkameen engaged Ann as
their consulting winemaker. There was a bit of serendipity involved here. Spencer
Massie, one of the principals at Clos du Soleil, attended high school in Kelowna with Ann.
difference between these two wineries is the sort of thing that fires a
winemaker’s enthusiasm. Clos du Soleil is based on a relatively young vineyard
planted entirely with Bordeaux
varieties. Spencer and his partners are committed to wines reflecting their
appreciation of all things Bordeaux.
Vineyard benefits from mature vines, including 45-year-old Maréchal Foch and
35-year-old Riesling. As well, the newest releases are from Burgundy
varieties. When the Sperling/Casorso family decided to launch a winery in 2008,
they planted 8.5 acres of Pinot Noir and 1.5 acres of Chardonnay with an eye to
making sparkling wine.
never be a routine vintage for Ann, given the differences between these two wineries.
Meanwhile, she ensures that she stays even sharper by consulting with Ontario wineries and, with husband Peter
Gamble, managing a small premium winery in Argentina.
notes on recent releases.
Sperling Brut 2009
($40). This elegant sparkling wine is primary made with Pinot Blanc, a variety
with a good Okanagan track record for making bubble (see Steller’s Jay Brut).
This wine spent 36 months on lees, developing an appealing aroma of toast and
yeast. The apple notes of the variety come through on the palate. The wine has
a crisp finish. The 2010 sparkling wine, to be released next year, is based on
Pinot Noir. 90.
2012 ($30 for 100 cases). This wine was aged in big oak puncheons. Ann
would have preferred used white wine barrels. When none were available, she
opted for new puncheons because the wine would pick up less oak from the larger
vessels. The strategy worked brilliantly. This has the brightness and freshness
of Chablis, with apple and melon flavours and with a fine backbone of minerals.
Sperling Pinot Noir
2012 ($26). The second Pinot Noir from Sperling, this wine has an appealing
ruby hue, with aromas and flavours of cherry and strawberry on a concentrated
palate. There is spicy fruit on the finish. The wine is showing well now but
has so much potential to develop in the bottle that it should be cellared a few
Sperling Old Vines
Foch 2011 ($26). Many acres of
Maréchal Foch, a French hybrid, were pulled out in the Okanagan in 1988.
Happily, the Sperling family made no such rash move, with the result that their
winery now can offer a really big red every year. This is a delicious wine with
flavours of plum and black cherry and an almost gamey delicatessen aroma. The
texture is juicy, thanks to the soft tannins of the variety. 91.
Clos du Soleil
Capella 2012 ($24.90). This is Sauvignon Blanc with eight per cent
Sémillon. The wine has lime and grapefruit both on the aroma and on the palate.
It is zesty and refreshing with crisp but lingering finish. 90.
Clos du Soleil
Signature 2011 ($39.90). The winery made 10 barrels of this wine in the
2011 vintage, a significant volume for a small winery. This is 64% Merlot, 23%
Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Cabernet Franc, 6% Malbec and 5% Petit Verdot. It has
good weight on the palate, with aromas of black currant and with flavours of
black currant, chocolate and liquorice. There are spicy blackberry notes on the
finish. This is definitely a candidate for cellaring for five to 10 years. 91.