Canadians Peter Gamble and Ann Sperling are more than your average ‘flying winemakers,’ they’re also a super-duo of our local wine scene. Wine Access magazine has referred to them as “the power couple of Canadian winemaking.” They both have a great respect for viticulture and distinctive terroirs, and they like to spend a good deal of time on the ground in the vineyards where they consult.
Gamble is one of the foremost winemaking consultants based in Canada, consulting with several wineries new and established to assist them on ways to improve their vines and varietals or on their property and what they could plant for optimum results. He is behind the award winning wines of Benjamin Bridge Winery in Nova Scotia. His 2012 Nova 7, at $24.95 and only 6.5%abv, is a proprietary blend of aromatic whites including Muscat giving a uniquely Nova Scotian lightly sparkling, off-dry white wine that is very refreshing. Ann comes from a line of grape growers in the Okanagan Valley and she puts the dynamic in biodynamic, pioneering this approach in Niagara and bringing the tenets of sustainable winegrowing to all her vineyards as Director Winemaking and Viticulture at Southbrook Vineyards in Niagara and her own Sperling Vineyards in the Okanagan Valley.
Like some of the famous French winemakers of Bordeaux who were hired by overseas wineries to help them increase the quality and production of their wines, Sperling and Gamble are also ‘flying winemakers’ owning Versado Winery located in the heart of the old town of Chacras de Coria, now a neighbourhood of Mendoza, Argentina. Their pride at Versado is the Malbec grape. They have two versions available here in Canada: Versado Reserva Ancient Malbec 2012 LCBO Vintages # 316984 at 14.2%abv and $59.95; and Versado Malbec at $24.95.
It has a dense colour and is full bodied and firm. I would decant for an hour and then serve with a roast of beef or venison. Aromas of blackberry with vanilla, some spice and cedar notes; with a mineral thread and good acidity to balance the tannins, it has a silky mouth-feel finishing firmly with a chocolate note. Tony Aspler, scored this one 93 points in 2016.
Sperling’s wines at Southbrook include several lines of red and white wines including Whimsy and Triomphe, each specializing in either a blend of grape varietals or new wines that they bring to market every couple of years. They have various price points starting at $15.95 representing good value to a range of customer tastes. Sperling was one of the early Ontario pioneers preparing vineyards to meet organic and biodynamic standards, and this has resulted in high quality wines being produced under her care as she has worked at several Niagara wineries over the years.
At Sperling Vineyards in the Okanagan, Old Vines Riesling VQA 2014 at $35 is a National Wine Awards of Canada 2016, Silver Medal winner. The rootstock was planted in 1978 and has rooted deeply, accessing limestone soil structures giving a minerality that courses through the vines and bunches with aromas of apricot and citrus. On the palate it begins with bright citrus flavours, settles into the minerality, and finishes with apricot again.
This dynamic duo produce wines that are very interesting to experience or to give as Christmas gifts.