Severine Pinte, winemaker for Le Vieux Pin and LaStella
A recent tasting of wines from Le Vieux Pin and LaStella
wineries proved to be a mini-tour of recent vintages by Rasoul Salehi, the
passionate spokesman for the sister wineries.
“You know that the trio of super atypical vintages began in
2009 and ended in 2011,” he said.
The 2009 vintage was hot and early, which was fortunate
because nearly all of the fruit was picked or was ready to pick when a hard
freeze on the Thanksgiving weekend ended the growing year abruptly. The next
two vintages started with late springs and were basically cool years, yielding
wines with much lower alcohols that 2009.
“2012 was more typical of the South
,” Rasoul continued. “You got more of that rich and lush
fruit. The grapes were homogenous, where sorting was a formality, as opposed to
2013, where tons of sorting was needed all over the valley. Some varieties,
because of tight clusters and all the rain [in September], developed quite a
bit of gray rot and sour rot. We had some wasp attacks which led to sour rot
and required some sorting; and a little botrytis here and there on the not so
well drained sites. So 2013 needed quite a bit of sorting.”
His comments provide a window on the challenge of Okanagan
viticulture. The quality of the wines from these two producers shows that they
are clearly up to meeting those challenges.
The first three wines tasted were from the splendid 2012
vintage and the others were from 2011. (Some of these wines have been released;
many are being released this spring or even this fall.) All are made by Severine Pinte, the French trained winemaker at both wineries.
The cooler 2011 vintage, which benefitted from a long and
warm autumn, produced some atypical wines, among them a pair of Syrahs with
alcohol levels between 12% and 13%, easily two percent lower than 2009. Rasoul
calls them “Syrah for Pinot Noir lovers” because the wines not as powerful as
in earlier years.
But as his reference suggests, the wines have elegance and
charm – so much so that he thinks the Équinoxe
Syrah may be the best yet from Le Vieux Pin. Without the full range in front of
me, I could not offer such a judgment. But there is no doubt it is an excellent
Cabernet Sauvignon in 2011 needed help in order to taste
ripe. Le Vieux Pin reverted to the old Bordeaux
tradition and “hermitaged” its Cabernet with 20% Syrah. The resulting wine is called
Retouche, or touched up.
is poking fun at what had gone on in Bordeaux
when they ended up on the map after 1855,” Rasoul says, referring to great
classification of the properties. “Global demand surged but they had a series
of weak vintages. The petit châteaux
were bringing wine from Algeria
to blend. The better châteaux
were bringing wine from the Rhone
Hermitage. The term coined was hermitaging the wines of Bordeaux
does not do that any more but in other areas where this practise is not
forbidden, there are many terrific blends of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
It is interesting to note that Merlot showed itself once
more to be a reliable workhorse in the Okanagan, even in a cooler year. The
LaStella Allegretto Merlot 2011 has a robust 14.6% alcohol.
Here are notes on the wines.
Le Vieux Pin Petit Sigma
Blanc 2012 ($19 for 750 cases). This is remarkably complex blend of
Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Pinot Gris, Marsanne and Roussanne. It begins with
fresh and appealing fruity aromas, leading to flavours of tangerine, melon and
apple. The texture is generous and the finish is crisp and refreshing. 90-91.
Le Vieux Pin Ava 2012
($35 for 680 cases) The blend is 61% Viognier,
21% Roussanne and 18% Marsanne. This wine, which will be released in the spring
of 2014, is barrel-aged and closed with cork. It is already an elegantly
polished wine with an intriguing hint of white pepper in the aroma and on the
finish. In between, there are flavours of citrus, melon and apple. The generous
texture gives the wine good weight on the palate. 92.
Le Vieux Pin Équinoxe Chardonnay
2012 ($60 for 75 cases). Destined
for release in April 2014, this wine shows exceptional harmony, with citrus
aromas and with flavours of citrus and apple. The moderate time in barrel has
added a buttery note to the flavour and polish to the texture. 91.
Le Vieux Pin Syrah
2011 ($45 for 374 cases). For release in the spring of 2014, this is an
elegant Rhone-style red with only 12.7% of alcohol. The wine begins with aromas
of white pepper and floral berry aromas. On the palate, there are flavours of
cherry and blackberry. The wine is medium-bodied but the flavours are ripe. 90.
Le Vieux Pin Équinoxe
Syrah 2011 ($80 for 268 cases). This will not be released until October,
2014, even if it is already drinking well. The wine begins with aromas of
menthol, balsam wood and cherries. It has gamey rare meat flavours, along with
notes of cherry, raspberry and blackberry and with white pepper and spice on
the finish. The alcohol is just 12.9%, perhaps enhancing the elegance of the
Le Vieux Pin Retouche 2011
($65 for 62 cases). This will be released in about a year. The wine is mostly
Cabernet Sauvignon that, in the former tradition of Bordeaux, has been “touched up” with 20
percent of Syrah. The wine begins with classic minty Cabernet Sauvignon aromas.
On the palate, the black currant flavours also show a touch of mint. The
addition of Syrah probably accounts for the supple and ripe texture. 91.
LaStella Allegretto Merlot
($50 for 125 cases). With 14.6% alcohol, this is a testament to the
ability of Merlot to get ripe if farmed well. This juicy wine has aromas and
flavours of blueberry and cherry. The fruit and texture are concentrated and
there is enough of backbone of ripe tannin to let the wine develop over the
next five years. 90.
LaStella Fortissimo 2011
($35 for 857 cases). This is the winery’s Tuscan inspired red. The blend is 71%
Merlot, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc and 5% Sangiovese. It has the
“dusty” aroma and dry finish that recalls good Chianti. It has aromas and
flavours of cherry, cranberry and red currant. Aged in Slovenian oak, this wine
has been finished with a rustic elegance that really does echo Tuscany. 91.