After the initial euphoria had subsided we began to ask questions: “is Cabernet Franc the “it” grape?” “is Golden Mile the special spot in the Okanagan?”, “was it the 2006 vintage that was the key?”
We stayed vigilant looking for varieties, vineyards and vintages that shared this collision of contrasting styles. We have five sites throughout the south with a variety of micro climates, exposures, geology and elevations. An entire year passed and sadly only the Cabernet Franc from the same tiny plot in Golden Mile showed us the unique attributes we were looking for. In 2008 we continued the search, with perhaps more reserved expectations. At harvest we started to see grapes that lifted hopes and spirits and hinted at what we were looking for. Along with our darling Cabernet Franc, some Merlot from a small portion of the same Golden Mile vineyard and some Syrah from a second vineyard further south in the Golden Mile both showed some exciting potential. These two discoveries meant that two new Equinoxe siblings were born.
Fast forwarding to the present we have learned many things in our search: certain varieties never seem to capture the essence of this new world/old world dichotomy that we seek; sometimes young vines produce grapes that achieve terrific results, rivalling those of old vines. One more lesson we’ve learned for certain is that only single varietal wines are transparent enough to let this story be told.
Intriguingly the same grape variety or site does not appear to produce these results in every vintage. However there are some vineyards that, so far, year after year seem to have the best success rate, our Feuille d’Or vineyard in Golden Mile is certainly one of these.
Our trials and experience has also brought us a deeper understanding and greater respect for the South Okanagan Valley. With a latitude north of the 49th parallel the growing season is quite short. The South Okanagan is also a desert climate (with less than eight inches of annual rainfall in Osoyoos): it is very hot during the day (hotter than Napa valley during the summer months in fact) and quite cool at night. To round out this unique area the air is extremely clear and clean. When we look at the soil in our vineyards we find a huge variety of soil types: some sites are very high in white silica sand while others are quite gravelly and rocky, some sites even show traces of schist and shale. With all these contrasting terroir elements working together it is not surprising that the true expression of the region is a harmonious contrast of old and new world wine styles.