Sperling 2012 Guy Lafleur “60” Brut $95

I came of age€”barely€”in the 1980’s in Edmonton, which means that if you wanted to source a bottle that blends my love of hockey with my love of wine I’d be looking at a lovely gift of Wayne Gretzky Okanagan Estates Pinot Grigio. And you’d only be out $11.49! But had I been born a few years earlier, “the great one” wouldn’t have been used to describe Gretzky, but Guy Lafleur€”the insanely talented, uber-sylish right-winger who anchored the Montreal Canadians and helped them dominate hockey in the 1970s. And then I would get this bottle as a gift (and honestly, it’s almost making a late in life change of allegiances to secure it).

When I first laid eyes on the bottle I noticed the name Guy Lafleur on the label, but my simple mind assumed that must be the name of of some French viticulturist, who happened to share the same name as one of the sport’s greats, like Michael Bolton in Office Space. Dim of me, I agree, but I was too busy fixating on the year: 2012, meaning there was some gloriously aged bubble on the inside. I then noticed what I assumed was a smudge on the label, but on closer inspection it was sharpie….and then, like Hercule Poirot, it clicked. Guy Lafleur. The man! The 60 on the label refers both to Lafleur’s legendary 60 goal season in 1978 and the 60 months of aging this wine was given.

But as cool as it is to have The Flower being part of this, I can’t overemphasize how great the juice inside this bottle is. Sperling has long been known as one of the absolutely great Riesling purveyors in North America, with old vines that help create bottles with the definition of vibrant acidity and that can age and age and age. But in the last few years they’ve expanded their program into aging sparkling wine with dramatic results. I hosted the BC Wine Institute’s Chef Meets BC Grape competition and one of the sommeliers selected Sperling’s 2011 Brut Reserve and the result was an epiphany: bread-y and yeast-y but still showing waves of freshness after almost a decade. And as cool as that wine is, the Lafleur is even nerdier because Sperling has gone with 100% Pinot Blanc, a unique but inspired choice to age this long.

It still has that trademark acidity, but here the Pinot Blanc lends a citrus skin characteristic that meshes well with the toasty notes that have come from the extensive aging. I’m restraining myself from overindulging in the hockey metaphors (“like Lafleur streaking down the right wing, this wine…”) but it is impressively vibrant so I’ll let you insert you own Lafleur memory to suit. There’s only 500 bottles of this and then it’s gone forever. A really cool collab.