I always appreciate seminars held with winemakers and winery principals to discuss their wines. In this case, it was with winemaker Severine Pinte and General Manager Rasoul Salehi from Le Vieux Pin in the Chateau Belair Boardroom of the Sutton Place Hotel. Le Vieux Pin is one of my favourite wineries in the Okanagan. They consistently deliver high quality red and white wines.
Brief Equinoxe History
They have several vineyards in the southern Okanagan. Their Equinoxe tier of wines started from a single parcel of Cabernet Franc vines in the La Feuille D’Or vineyard on the Golden Mile. The grapes were hand-sorted and destemmed before naturally fermenting in older French oak barrels, producing according to Le Vieux Pin a wine with ripe New World fruit and with Old World structure and elegance. This balance is what they aim to achieve with their Equinoxe line of wines. Equinoxe; Equal Day and Equal Night; Equal Old World and Equal New World.
In the pursuit of this high quality of wine, Le Vieux Pin has sought out vineyards that really express the terroir and the grape variety. In some cases, certain vineyard stock, e.g. Pinot Noir, has been removed and re-grafted with other grape varieties, e.g. Sauvignon Blanc, in that elusive search for the best expression of a grape’s qualities.
Our Master Class Wine Lineup
In this Master Class, we were treated to the following wines:
- Equinoxe Chardonnay 2009
- Equinoxe Syrah 2008
- Equinoxe Syrah 2009
- Equinoxe Merlot 2008
- Equinoxe Cabernet Franc 2007
Most of the wines as you can see are from 2008 and 2009, which had two completely different weather scenarios. In 2008 it was a cool year during the growing season, followed by a warm Indian summer, while in 2009 there was a very cold winter (Dec 2009) which damaged the vines, while the 2009 summer was very hot. Differences between the two Syrahs are evident for these 2 vintages.
Equinoxe Chardonnay 2009. This wine comes from 39-year-old vines along the Golden Mile, with a soil of clay and schist. Although 2009 was very hot, the clay helped retain water and let the vines mature naturally during the summer. This wine was medium minus lemon in colour with a green tingle. Ripe tropical fruit, honey, baby powder, sweet spice and soft vanilla aromas greeted your nose. Medium minus in body, dry with light spice and long length. Primarily lemon on the palate but also some stone fruit and honey. Slightly puckering and cinnamon spice on the finish. Oak pops at the very end. This is a very elegant wine that I can highly recommend.
Equinoxe Syrah 2008. Common knowledge is that older wines produce more quality, nuanced grapes. But this is not always the case. The grapes for this wine come from 3-year-old vines, which is the soonest that you can produce a viable wine. The vineyard has gravel, shale and clay. Rasoul pointed out for them the clay in the soil adds more structure to the wine than a sandy soil. The gravel and shale may provide a mineral component to the wine. The 2008 Syrah was very deep ruby in colour with legs appearing on the glass. Nice flowery/violet aromas, along with ripe red currants, raspberries and hint of smoky oak on the nose. A full-bodied wine, with soft ripe blueberries and violets upfront with raspberry and pepper showing up mid-palate to the finish. Very integrated vanilla to support the fruit. This wine is dry but tastes off-dry due to the robust fruit. Long length with a tart finish.
Equinoxe Syrah 2009. This Syrah comes from 2 vineyards, both different from the 2008 vintage. The two vineyards for this wine are sandy, which gives good drainage and tends to produce silky wines with a flowery component. This wine was medium ruby in the glass. Bay leaf (I think…), black pepper, ripe dark fruit, with a hint of cinnamon and meatiness on the nose. Medium-plus body, round with a light mouthfeel. White pepper, ripe blueberries, cherries and cranberry came through on the palate. After a bit of time airing in the glass, a nutmeg flavour shows up. I always like to try a wine a few times to see if new aromas and flavours appear with more air. Quite dry finish with medium plus length. This wine has a bit more tannins and structure than the 2008 vintage. This was my favourite wine of the Master Class, followed by the Chardonnay.
Equinoxe Merlot 2008. This wine has made a big splash around the world in part to Jean-Georges in New York City talking about this wine during a television interview. It has also found a big following in Switzerland. The vineyard for this wine comes with clay mixed with silt and gravel. This wine was medium translucent garnet in colour. Light intensity of aromas with dark fruit and some vanilla. Medium body and light mouthfeel. Ripe plum flavour with a pepperiness that builds in your mouth. Dry with medium tannins. Medium length.
Equinoxe Cabernet Franc 2007. This would be the 2nd vintage for the Cabernet Franc that launched the Equinoxe series. Very deep garnet and ruby colours in the glass. A nice nose with cedar and red fruits, and some hints of capsicum and cinnamon. Medium body, soft round mouthfeel. Perfume and vanilla right up front, with sweet cherries and dark fruit flavours. A dry wine but tastes off-dry due to the ripe fruits. Medium length with a hint of tobacco on the finish.
Upcoming Equinoxe Releases and Where to Buy
You can purchase Equinoxe wines directly from the winery in limited quantities and at select restaurants. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about purchases. The upcoming wines for purchase will be:
- Equinoxe Syrah 2009
- Equinoxe Chardonnay 2010
- Equinoxe Merlot 2009
- Equinoxe Cabernet Franc 2009
Overall this was a very worthwhile class as I was able to gain insights into the vintages, the vineyards, and the winemaking methods at Le Vieux Pin. It really does help to make you better understand a wine. I highly recommend you to attend winemaker seminars whenever you can. There are always seminars during the Vancouver (Playhouse) International Wine Festival to attend.
Thank you very much to Severine Pinte and Rasoul Salehi for spending time with me and the other wine trade people to help us better understand and enjoy your wines.
If you purchase some of these fine Equinoxe wines, please share your experience with a comment or two on my blog page. I always look forward to sharing my information with you and learning from your experiences too. Cheers!