Severine Pinte, Rasoul Salehi

Earlier this week, I was invited to Le Vieux Pin’s Equinoxe Master Class at the Sutton Place Hotel. This hour-long seminar given by winemakers Severine Pinte and Rasoul Salehi provided a good overview of five of the Oliver, BC winery’s varietals.

Le Vieux Pin Master Class-2

The name Equinoxe is derived from “equal day, equal night”. The winery seeks to find balance in its wines throughout the product line. Equinoxe wines fall within Le Vieux Pin’s higher range varietals. The winery continues to experiment, finding ways to achieve the best growing results while maintaining high standards each release year.

With so many contrasting terroir elements working together in this area of the Okanagan, the result is a contrast of both old and new world wine styles. The Equinoxe tier was born in 2006 from a single parcel of then-14-year-old Cabernet Franc vines in the La Feuille D’or vineyard on the Golden Mile.

Equinoxe’s 2009 Chardonnay was grown in a very hot year in the Okanagan. This resulted in high acidity in the 72 cases that were released. The wine is fermented in the barrel and is aged for six months in 100% new French Oak. This chardonnay was a bit sharper than what I’m accustomed to.

Le Vieux Pin Master Class-1

Le Vieux Pin’s first commercial release was the 2008 Syrah, using grapes from a three year old vineyard. Grown in the Golden Mile area of the South Okanagan, this Syrah reminds me of a classic Chilean Syrah. We sampled a 2009 Syrah as well. The difference between the two is the terroir. 2009’s grapes were grown in more sand, causing the water to go down into the soil very quickly, resulting in silkier tannins than its 2008 sibling. The 2009 has a peppery, fruity taste, aged 18 months in French oak.

The 2008 Syrah on the other hand has more structure and its minerality is stronger due to the grapes grown in gravel, shale, and clay. This wine is very aromatic with white peppercorn and red licorice on the nose. Le Vieux Pin likes to concentrate on Syrah rather than try to produce Pinot, Gamay, and other grapes not optimal for the Okanagan climate.

Le Vieux Pin’s Equinoxe 2008 Merlot comes from 16 year old vines on the south end of the Golden Mile, its rich tannins coming from the massive rocks and gravel terroir. This merlot finishes with dominant tannins. I enjoyed the plum and dark berries, finishing with espresso notes.

The 2007 Cabernet Franc is where it all started. The grapes are de-stemmed by hand and grown in clay and rock in a cooler climate. Low yield offers grapes the time to ripen, giving this wine its creamy vanilla finish and bright floral nose. In fact, the Cab Franc was my favourite of the six wines we sampled. It contains good tannin structure with hints of cinnamon and dark cherries. I could easily see this wine shared with a roast chicken and seasonal root veggies.

After the class was through, Severine and Rasoul answered several questions ranging from production quantities to the current status of bill C-311, removing federal restrictions barring people from moving wine from one province to another when purchased for personal use. This was a great peek into both the winery’s background and winemaking methods.

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