Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Return to Okanagan Roots

Although Sperling Vineyards only produced their first vintage in 2008, there is a long and storied history to the land and family behind the "new" vineyard. Sperling Vineyards may take its name from winemaker Ann Sperling but the 45-acre Sperling vineyard, Pioneer Ranch, has been in the family for over a century. The family's Okanagan narrative began in the late 1800's when Ann's great-grandfather, Giovanni Casorso,  left Italy and ventured to work with the Okanagan Mission - a new agricultural community in what would become known the Okanagan Valley.

The family has been growing grapes since the 1920's and their plantings over the years tell a good part of grape growing history in the Okanagan. Starting with the hybrid and labrusca grapes that were prevalent in days of yore, those vines eventually yielded to quality wine and Sovereign Coronation grapes (the latter being a table grape developed in a local breeding program). In more recent years, the vineyard has been converted to largely Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay - although the property still includes a 45-year old planting of Maréchal Foch and some of the oldest Riesling vines in the valley - 35 years and counting.

While Ann's family has been operating Pioneer Ranch for decades, Ann herself has learned the wine trade and honed her skills working and consulting for a wide range of wineries from the Okanagan to Ontario to Nova Scotia (with acclaimed sparkling wine house, Benjamin Bridge). She even has an interest in an Argentine venture to add to her busy schedule.

1618.  2011 Sperling Vineyards - The Market White (VQA Okanagan Valley)

With Ann's return to her roots in the Okanagan, her attention has been directed primarily at the white varieties that have become synonymous with the northern Okanagan. While Sperling offers a number of varietal wines, The Market White is a blend of primarily Pinot Blanc and Bacchus. I couldn't find an exact breakdown of the varieties incorporated in the 2011 version; however, I see that the 2012 vintage also includes a good chuck of Gewürztraminer and a touch of old vine Perle of Csaba (a variety of Muscat). I haven't seen any confirmation of those additional grapes in the 2011 though.

Regardless of the wine's make-up, it was deemed tasty enough to make Wine Diva's Annual Under $20 Top 100 Wines for 2012.

The off-dry notes might have been a touch much for our stuff and roasted pork but that's all the more reason to have added a bit of spice to the seasoning on the meat and accompanied the dish with a hefty pepper jelly.

Although I've certainly been aware of Ann's return to the Okanagan, this is the first of her wines to be added to The List. I doubt it will be the last. Indeed, I'll run across some of her handiwork when the BC Wine Appreciation Society hosts a tasting with Clos du Soleil in June. As if she doesn't have enough on her plate, Ann is winemaker for this award winning winery as well. "Welcome back," I say.

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