Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Sperling Vineyards extends its line

Winemaker Ann Sperling

Kelowna’s family-owned Sperling Vineyards has at least two things going for it.

One: the vineyard in East Kelowna includes some of the most mature vines in the Okanagan, including a plot of Riesling planted in 1978 and a block of Maréchal Foch planted in 1964.

Two: Ann Sperling, one of the owners and the winemaker, is the most capable winemaker to ever grow up in Kelowna. She has been a winemaker since 1984, with a successful track record in B.C., Ontario and Argentina.

Winegrowing is her blood. Her ancestors on her mother’s side were immigrants from Italy called Casoro. You might guess at their importance from the fact that a Kelowna street is named for them.

Giovanni Casorso came from Italy in 1883 to work at Father Pandosy’s mission before striking out on his own (he was once the Okanagan’s largest tobacco grower). His sons started planting grapes in 1925. Formerly known as Pioneer Ranch, the 18.2-hectare (45-acre) Sperling Vineyards was planted initially in 1931 with grapes and apples by Louis and Pete Casorso. When Pete retired in 1960, Bert Sperling, his son-in-law and Anne’s father, switched to entire property to vines, both wine grapes and table grapes.

Ann began here winemaking career with Andrés (now Andrew Peller Ltd.) in Port Moody in 1984 after studying food sciences at the University of British Columbia. She moved to CedarCreek where she was the winemaker from 1991 to 1995, when she moved to Ontario.

“I have always wanted to make wine with my parents’ vineyard,” she said later. “I got to make wine with some of the grapes when I was at CedarCreek, but not anything extensive.”  She realized that ambition when, with other family members, Sperling Vineyards was opened in 2009.

Taking advantage of the vineyard, she began making an Old Vines Riesling in 2008. The wine vies with Tantalus Old Vines Riesling as one of the Okanagan’s best Riesling wines. The two vineyards have similar aspects in East Kelowna. The vines, clone 21B from the Mosel, were planted on the same day in 1978.

Since Sperling Vineyards had opened, the portfolio has been augmented to include sparkling wines and Pinot Noir table wines. In 2014, Ann began making orange wines or natural wines (Pinot Gris fermented on its skins without sulphur or any other additive). Something of a curiosity, these wines occasionally are served from kegs in select restaurants.

“Why make an orange wine?” she told me last year. “I am learning about winemaking by doing it. But also, there is an interest in things that are done differently.”

She has also begun to make small lots of premium wines, primarily for restaurants. So far, two have been released in bottles with edgy labels meant to suggest the winery is looking ahead. “This label is about the future – a vision, looking ahead, and working somewhat with varieties that are new to the site,” Ann says. “We are looking at styles, not going with what is established but what suits us and our terroir.”

She continues: “What we have for release right now are the Vin Gris Pinot Noir and the Chardonnay. The winemaking is similar: whole cluster pressing with barrel fermentation; wild ferment; full malolactic, all in puncheon barrels. These were about 12 months in barrels.”

Here are notes of currently available wines from Sperling.

Sperling Vineyards Pinot Gris 2013 ($19). Crisp and dry, this terroir-driven wine has aromas of herbs, with flavours of pear and with anise on the finish. 90.

Sperling Vineyards The Market White 2014 ($17). This is a lovely aromatic white with spice and citrus aromas and flavours of lime and ripe cantaloupe. The finish, which is off-dry, lingers. 90.

Sperling Vineyards Sper … itz 2014 ($22 for 750 ml; $12.99 for 375 ml). This is a light (7% alcohol) Muscat wine; the actual grape varieties here are Perle of Csaba and Bacchus. It delivers flavours of tropical fruit including mango, papaya and peach. 90.

Sperling Vineyards Old Vines Riesling 2012 ($32). A few years of maturity have allowed this wine to begin showing classic petrol aromas. It has flavours of honey and lime with a hint of botrytis. With good weight and with a tangy finish, this is a wine that will age well. 92.

Sperling Vineyards Old Vines Riesling 2014 ($32). This wine was fermented with wild yeast. It has aromas and intense flavours of lime and grapefruit with a good mineral backbone. 90.

Sperling Vineyards Chardonnay 2014 ($30). The wine has aromas of citrus with a toasty note from lees aging. On the palate, there are flavours of peach and apple with a subtle oak expression. 91.

Sperling Vineyards Orange Wine 2014 ($NA). Made with Pinot Gris fermented with whole clusters or on its skins, this is an unusual wine. It is bronze in colour, with flavours of apple and pear. The texture is firm and the finish quite dry. 90.

Sperling Vineyards Orange Wine 2015 ($NA). The wine’s hues recall blood orange or pink grapefruit. It begins with floral aromas and spicy grapefruit flavours. The texture manages to be firm and juicy at the same time. 90.

Sperling Vineyards Vin Gris of Pinot Noir 2014 ($30). The wine has a subtle blush from skin contact. It has aromas and flavours of apple and strawberry, with good weight on the palate. 90.

Sperling Vineyards Pinot Noir Rosé 2014 ($19). Dry and crisp, the wine has aromas and flavours of raspberry and strawberry. The texture is full for a rosé and the finish lingers. 90.

Sperling Vineyards Sparkling Brut 2010 ($40). Thirty-six months on the lees have give this wine a creamy mid-palate. It has toasty aromas, flavours of green apple and a crisp finish.  This is 100% Pinot Blanc. 91.

Sperling Vineyards Brut Reserve 2010 ($49.95). This wine is price like Champagne because it tastes like Champagne. It is rich on the palate, with toasty brioche aromas and flavours. This is 75% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay. 92.


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