Photo: Winemaker Ann Sperling
The fans of
Sperling Vineyards will notice a difference when they see the 2015 wines: eye-catching
labels have replaced the previous classically elegant, if sedate, labels.
inside the bottles is as good as ever. The 2015 wines represent the eighth
vintage since Ann Sperling and her family launched this Kelowna winery with
grapes from a vineyard planted in the 1920s. The strategy behind the label
change is simply making sure that the wines are not lost in the crowd, as a
plethora of BC labels now occupies store shelves.
blocks of colour on the label are inspires by features on a log barn, still in
use, on the family’s property. (The barn was also on the original labels, but
less stylized.) There is a suggestion of clasped hands in the subtle Bauhaus-inspired
design. As well, the family’s motto now is on the labels: “Love and labour
forebears, the Casorso family, were pioneering Okanagan grape growers and
Casorso family came to the valley when Italian immigrant Giovanni Casorso
arrived in 1883 to work for the Oblate Mission’s farm. Soon he had his own
homestead near the mission. When tobacco was grown in the Okanagan, he was one
of the largest tobacco growers.
first got into the wine business when Rosa, Giovanni’s wife, and Pete, one of
their sons, invested in the consortium that in 1931 launched what became Calona
Wines. When the Capozzi family gradually bought control of the winery in the
1950s, Pete (his full name was Napoleon Peter) refused for years to sell his
shares. “His pastime for many years was to go to their board meetings and raise
hell,” Ann says.
history credits Charles Casorso with planting the first Kelowna vineyard near
Rutland. His brothers Pete and Louis ordered vines and planted grapes on
Pioneer Ranch, as the family property was known. It appears, however, the major
crops grown here were apples until Pete retired in 1960, turning the farm over
to his daughter Velma and her husband, Bert Sperling, Ann’s parents.
converted the entire property to grapes. Initially he grew hybrid and labrusca
varieties before switching to Riesling, along with four hectares of
Sovereign Coronation table grapes. Over the years he sold wine grapes to
Calona, then to Growers in Victoria, and, in recent years, to Mission Hill.
to open a winery was made in family conference about the future of the
vineyard. The family recognized it had the talent in house. Ann has been making
wine across Canada and in Argentina since 1987. “It has always been in the back of my mind
that I wanted to make wine here because I am so familiar with every foot and
every slope and every grape on the property,” she says.
was able to see the brilliant launch of the family winery before his death in
2012, at the age of 84.
believes that the terroir of the Pioneer Ranch enables her to make wines that
are distinctive. “Our
wines definitely put on weight in bottle,” she said during a tasting of the
youthful 2015s. “It is partly the coolness of the site; minerality tends to
dominate. I would not call the wines fruit driven. I would call them much more
mineral driven. We get some herbal qualities and floral notes, but fruitiness
is not really a descriptor that dominates our vineyard.”
continues: “My winemaking is turning more towards the grapes. Terroir is
important, even in a wine we are going to be selling for $17 a bottle. I still
want it to be our vineyard and our place. Why would I put American oak chips in
when I have these lovely stems that can give it structure? Conventional
winemaking did not teach me that. All of the years of focussing in on the site
led me to it. I am really happy with the results I am getting in the vineyards
that I work with.”
notes on the wines:
Sperling Brut Rosé 2013 ($42). This sparkling pink wine made
with Pinot Noir was on the lees for 18 months. It has been balanced to finish
dry, Ann’s preferred style. “I can’t finish a sparkling with any sort of
sweetness or softness,” she says. “It is just not in me to do it that way. I
love the acidity and I love the brightness to be all the way through on the
palate for a sparkling wine like this.” The wine begins with hints of bready
lees on the nose and it delivers delicate wild strawberry flavours with a
creamy texture but a crisp finish. 90.
Sperling Pinot Gris 2015 ($19). This wine has a fresh aroma
with notes of herbs and citrus. On the palate, there are flavours of white
peaches and apples. The lively acidity gives the wine a refreshing, dry finish.
Sperling Pinot Noir Rosé 2015 ($19). Perhaps the light strawberry
hue is suggestive, but the wine had aromas and flavours of strawberries. It is
balanced to finish dry, with the tiniest degree of residual sugar to lift
aromas and flavours. “These wines can live in the bottle for three or four
years and still be really enjoyable,” Ann says, “but I love the freshness of
rosé. I want people to enjoy it when it
is in the first season.” 91.
Sperling Market White 2015 ($17). This is a blend of Pinot
Blanc and Bacchus with a touch of Pinot Gris and Riesling. The fruity aromas
are still developing in bottle. The flavours of peach, apple and spice promise
refreshing summertime drinking. 90 – 91.
Sperling Market Red 2015 ($18). This is a new addition to the
Sperling portfolio, an easy-drinking summertime barbecue red in a style slightly
reminiscent of Beaujolais Nouveau. It is a blend of Maréchal Foch with Pinot
Noir. The wine is soft and fruity, with cherries on the nose and palate. The
finish has an appealing note of spice. 88.
Sperling Sper…itz 2015 ($22). This light Frizzante wine with
8% alcohol is inspired by Italy’s Moscato wines. The blend is Perle of Csaba (a
Muscat flavoured variety) and Bacchus. The wine is utterly charming with
refreshing floral and spicy aromatics. The off-dry fruity flavours coat the
Sperling Late Harvest Riesling 2015 ($N/A). The grapes for this wine
were picked at -6◦C. (two degrees
shy of the minimum for Icewine). The result is a wine that is sweet but not
overly so, with a core of juicy flavours of citrus and tropical fruit. The
balance is exquisite. 91.
Sperling Pinot Blanc Icewine 2015 ($50 for 375 ml). This extraordinary
wine won double gold and best Pinot Blanc in competition last year at the
Mondial des Pinots in Switzerland. This pristine and luscious wine has aromas
and flavours of tangerine and ripe apricot, with a lingering finish. Once
again, the balance is exquisite. 98.