Two iconic professionals often come together in work, but it’s not common that they merge in their personal lives as well. It’s rare when the two are award-winning winemakers and rarer still when both are Canadian. Such is the case with Peter Gamble and Ann Sperling, husband and wife.
Peter is an internationally known wine consultant and winemaker. He was the founding executive director of Canada’s Vintners Quality Alliance. He has worked with many of Niagara’s wineries over the years and currently is working with Nova Scotia’s Benjamin Bridge winery for what I consider the best bubbly this country has ever produced (you may recall I wrote about their bubbly awhile back).
With almost three decades in the biz, growing, making and consulting about wine, you may recognize Ann most recently as the chief winemaker for Southbrook Farms in Niagara. She was formerly with Malivoire and Cedar Creek in B.C. She is considered a leading force in the movement towards organic and biodynamic wine making in Canada.
Together, they also own vineyards in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley and Mendoza Argentina, where they create vinous delights as well.
I’ve known and admired both of these folks for many, many years, so when the opportunity sprung up to meet with them together and taste some of their new creations, how could I say no?
First up were the bubblies. The 2008 Sperling Vineyards Sparkling Brut ($39.95) from BC, made from Pinot Blanc, spent 36 months on its lees (dead yeast) which gives this wine lots of depth, structure and complexity with toasted, apply, nutty nuances. Only 1,200 bottles were produced! Next were Benjamin Bridge’s gorgeous sparklers. The 2007 Brut Reserve ($74.95), created from 38 per cent Chardonnay, 33 per cent Pinot Noir and 29 per cent Seyval, offers up vibrant citrus, toasted brioche, pear, apple and lovely yeasty notes. Rich and long, it’s delicious. Elegance, richness and complexity are all about the superb 2004 Blanc de Blancs ($280). This 100 per cent Chardonnay fizz sports toasted, buttery, slatey, citric fruit, minerality and great length. Fabulous! I finished this round with the 2011 Sperling Vineyards Speritz ($13/375 mL), a delicate, crisp Moscato-based crackler, somewhat similar to Moscato d’Asti from Italy, that smacked of peach blossom, honey suckle and crisp apple sauce with an interesting dry, clean finish.
A standalone still white, the 2011 Sperling Vineyards Old Vine Riesling ($34.95), planted in 1978, with its braising, lime acidity and minerality was lovely and reminded me of Germany’s Mosel region wines.
Finishing off the tasting were a couple of Malbecs from the couple’s Mendoza property in Argentina. The wine is called “Versado” meaning “well-versed” in English and, in their capable hands, the varietal is taken to a whole new dimension compared with others of its kind.
The 2012 ($25.95) is rich and unctuous with lots of smoky blackberry and plum, coffee, chocolate and spice. Beautifully structured! The 2010 Reserva ($59.95), awesome in its complexity, is chock full of toasted dark fruit, cedar, coffee, cocoa and a just touch of pencil lead. Full, elegant, long and sexy!
Versado is in the LCBO system (Vintages) now and, from what I understand, the rest of the wines will be released within the next month or two in limited quantities.
Do yourself a favour and get ahold of some if you can. Both Peter and Ann are exceptional winemakers and you simply cannot go wrong with anything they create, either individually or together.
You can check out BC’s Sperling Vineyards at sperlingvineyards.com, Nova Scotia’s Benjamin Bridge at benjaminbridge.com and Argentina’s Versado at versadowine.com.
NOTE: My new, award-winning, comic, wine mystery novel Pinot Envy is now available online, at select bookstores or through my office. Makes a great Christmas gift!
Edward Finstein a.k.a. The Wine Doctor — wine writer, educator, judge, consultant
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