March 15, 2009

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Paul Masson left a legacy of sparkling wine in the Santa Cruz Mountains. He introduced his first sparkling wine labeled “champagne” in 1892 under the Almaden label and eventually became known as the “Champagne King of California.” Barry Jackson, the owner and winemaker of Equinox, is the lone holdover methode champenoise artisan sparkling wine producer in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The style is a synthesis of Santa Cruz Mountain fruit picked at 20º to 21º Brix (enhanced by barrel fermentation and barrel aged) and bottle fermentation with extended aging (a minimum en tirage of 4 years) on the yeast. The wines are finished with minimal or zero dosage to better display the marriage of the cuvée and the yeast character from the extended en tirage. Dosage is often used to cover up flaws in cheap sparkling wine. The first Equinox sparkling wine was produced in 1989. Currently, Jackson produces 5,000 cases of both still and sparkling wine, much of it under contract. I tasted three Equinox sparkling wines, all of which were quite impressive. These are highly unique artisan wines that take considerable skill and time to craft.

1998 Equinox Blanc de Blanc

12.5% alc., 200 cases, unreleased. Sourced from Meley Vineyard in Bonny Doon. · The nose is very exotic revealing banana, lemon and vanilla. Rich, full and creamy with tropical flavors.

1997 Equinox Blanc de Blanc

12.5% alc., <300 cases, $50. 100% Chardonnay sourced from Trout Gulch Vineyard. · Aged en tirage 10 years. Lemon, toast, brioche and ripe pear with bright acidity.

1992 Equinox Blanc de Blanc

12.5% alc., 25 cases, unreleased. Chardonnay sourced from Trout Gulch Vineyard. · An incredible wine featuring scents of brioche, buttered toast and yeast. Citrus flavors form the core with hints of apple and nuts. The finish is very tight and cleansing.

Equinox is located in an industrial warehouse center near the Surf City Vintner complex in Santa Cruz. Call Barry Jackson at 831-338-2646 to schedule a tasting or order wine. The website is www.equinoxwine.com. Several vintages are currently available.

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