The wines of Southbrook
Visiting wine country in Ontario, Canada, part 2


First stop in Ontario wine country was at Southbrook Vineyards, where I visited with founding winemaker Ann Sperling (above right) and winemaker Brian Hamilton (above left). 

The vineyard was originally planted in 2003/4 by someone from an investment banking background. They thought it would be a great place to raise their family, and did a crash winemaking course at CCOV, and then did a business plan. This is when they realized that if they entered the wine game, their lifestyle would have to change. So they sold.

Bill Redelmeier, the current owner, bought the vineyard. His wine cultural background is a European one, even though he’s Canadian, and together with Ann, decided that this would be a good site for Cabernet Sauvignon, a variety that is often considered too late ripening for Niagara. Vineyard manager Scott Jones was interested in pursuing a different way of wine growing, and Ann’s previous gig was at Malivoire, where the vineyards were organically managed. They felt that moving towards biodynamics was a good way of growing the kinds of wines that Bill was interested in.

Southbrook from the air

The Four Mile Creek sub-appellation is one of the warmest in the Niagara peninsula, and so it can do both Chardonnay and Bordeaux varieties on the same site. The Southbrook estate is sizeable, with 75 acres, of which 65 are planted to vines. There’s also a second site, with another 75 acres, of which 15 are set aside for conservation. In addition, Southbrook have started to work with small family operated farms with an interest in organics.

Brian Hamilton started working with Ann at Malivoire 11 years ago, where he stayed for two and a half years. Since then, he has worked at Landmark (Sonoma) and Tawse, before rejoining Ann at Southbrook.

A demonstration of different biodynamic preparations

Ann hails from British Colombia, where her family have had a vineyard since the 1930s. As a child, she saw the vineyards being converted from native vines to vinifera, and she grew up with wine talk at the dinner table. She entered the wine industry in 1985, and in 1995 moved over from BC to Ontario. She’s married to Peter Gamble, the talented winemaker at Ravine.


Southbrook has a number of tiers in their range. I tried wines from two of these: Whimsy (small lots with appeal to wine geeks, $35 Canadian a bottle) and Poetica (high-end, $50 Canadian a bottle). The latter actually has poems on the labels. Triomphe is another line (around $20 Canadian a bottle), as is Connect ($14 a bottle).

Southbrook Whimsy! Cabernet Franc ‘101’ 2010 VQA Niagara on the Lake, Canada
Attractive sweet cherry and berry nose with some herbiness. Sophisticated and restrained with ripe fruit characters. Ripe palate has sweet cherries and a bit of grainy, chalky structure. Savoury twist on the finish. 90/100

Southbrook Whimsy! Cabernet Franc ‘201’ 2010 VQA Niagara on the Lake, Canada
Warm, spicy edge to the sweet berry fruits. Some grippy structure and a nice graininess under the sweet cherry and berry fruit. Nice weight. 91/100

Southbrook Whimsy! Cabernet Sauvignon ‘Lot 1’ 2010 VQA Niagara on the Lake, Canada
Lovely sweet ripe, focused blackcurrant and blackberry fruit. Supple, smooth, ripe and with a bit of spice and grip. 89/100

Southbrook Whimsy! Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 VQA Niagara on the Lake, Canada
Gravel, chalk, spice and tar savoury notes alongside some sweet black fruits. Smooth palate has classy blackcurrant fruit and some chalky, gravelly notes. Classically European in style, and beginning to evolve. 91/100

Southbank Poetica Chardonnay 2011 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Canada
Rounded, supple, smooth and quite richly textured with sweet melon and peach fruit. Very rounded in the mouth with a silky, mealy character. 89/100

Southbank Poetica Chardonnay 2010 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Canada
Smooth, ripe, nutty and mealy. Very smooth mouthfeel with peach and pear fruit. Quite oaky with a very soft texture. 90/100

Southbank Poetica Chardonnay 2009 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Canada
A cool vintage. Ripe, textured pear and apricot fruit with a lovely depth of flavour. Great concentration here. Lemon and apricot, great balance. 92/100

Southbank Poetica Red 2010 VQA Niagara on the Lake, Canada
51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Cabernet Franc, 15% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot. Bright and sweetly fruited with nice structure under the spicy black fruits. Attractive purity and a bit of grippy structure. 92/100

Southbank Poetica Cabernet Merlot 2007 Niagara on the Lake, Canada
46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Cabernet Franc, 23% Merlot. First significant harvest from the vines, before biodynamic certification. Ripe and dense with vivid blackcurrant fruit and nice grippy structure. Sweet, vivid, concentrated and grippy. 91/100


Pearl Morissette
Hidden Bench

Closson Chase
Huff Estates
Rosehall Run
Norman Hardie

Wines tasted 07/13  
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