Wednesday, April 28, 2010

JoieFarm's 2009 releases portend a good vintage

One of the first producers to release most of its 2009 vintage was JoieFarms in Naramata.

A boutique producer, its wines have been popular since the first vintage in 2004. This year, Michael Dinn and Heidi Noble, who own the winery, released their products early enough that restaurants could stock up for the Olympics. No doubt, that was a clever strategy. From what I have heard, visitors for the games lapped up British Columbia wines.

For a variety of reasons that I will not get into, other events delayed my review of the wines. However, all except the Muscat are still available on the winery’s website as well as at wine shops and restaurants listed on the site as well.

I have now tasted enough wines from the 2009 vintage to conclude that, once again, the Okanagan and the Similkameen have delivered excellent wines. That is remarkable, considering the challenging weather.

Michael and Heidi set the scene well in their vintage comments: “More so than any vintage to date, the story of the 2009 vintage for JoieFarm was almost entirely about extreme weather,” they write. “The 2009 vintage sandwiched a very long hot summer in between the harshest winter of the past 30 years and the earliest autumn frost in recent memory, with little in the way of shoulder seasons in between. Deep cold in December 2008 of -27C for 7 days left many varietals with serious vine death and bud damage on more sensitive varieties.

“The varietals … which proved to be the most winter hardy, according to the Agriculture Canada Summerland Research Station, were Pinot Noir, Gewürztraminer, Riesling and Chardonnay.

“The vintage itself was characterized by a cool late spring (3 weeks later than normal) that morphed into a dry early summer in May which continued all the way through September. JoieFarm began harvesting on September 9 – a full four weeks earlier than normal. The prolonged heat accelerated ripeness and timely vineyard management allowed us to bring in all of our fruit by October 6th.

“That was very fortunate as Autumn came to a screeching halt on October 9th with night-time temperatures falling to -8C for three nights in a row. This deep freeze was particularly untimely as most of the red grapes in the Okanagan were still hanging. The valley’s growing season was over abruptly about four weeks earlier than normal.

“For us the challenging 2009 vintage confirmed many of the choices we have made over the past six vintages, particularly with the suitability of the grape varieties with which we work and the style of the wines that we make. Our focus, exclusively, on the Germanic and Burgundian varieties has been one of our greatest strengths because of their appropriateness to the climate in which we work.”

Michael and Heidi believe that the climate and the growing conditions yield wines of “finesse and delicacy with great natural acidity.” And they see that as a competitive advantage. “The degree to which we, as a region, embrace and explore this advantage is a central question to our regional identity that requires greater exploration in the years to come.”

The bottom line: JoieFarm’s 2009 wines are among the finest ever made by this winery.

JoieFarm A Noble Blend 2009 ($23.90). With a release of 2,990 cases and 450 magnums, this is the winery’s flagship white. It is a blend of Gewürztraminer (60%), Pinot Gris (20%), Auxerrois (12%), and Riesling (3%). The template is a white Alsace blend known as Edelzwicker (which means noble blend). The aromatic aromas (pears, citrus, honey) lead to appealing flavours of ripe pears, peaches and grapefruit, with a refreshing, dry finish and a moderate 12.5% alcohol. 90-92.

JoieFarm Chardonnay 2009 Un-Oaked ($22.90). The winery released 1,210 cases of this refreshingly fruity take on Chardonnay. It begins with clean aromas of fresh apples. On the palate, there are flavours of apples, nectarine and citrus. The winery’s tasting notes even speak of fresh cucumber rind which may suggest over-analysing this appealing wine. Let’s just agree it tastes like more. 88-90.

JoieFarm Riesling 2009 ($22.90). The winery produced 1,213 cases of a delicate, 11% alcohol Riesling. As that alcohol suggests, a fair amount of residual sugar remains in the wine (popping the flavours beautifully) but the lively acidity balances the wine so well that one would think this is a dry Riesling. It begins with herbal and citrus aromas. On the palate, there are flavours of herbs and lime and minerals. The wine is refreshing, with a lingering finish. 90.

JoieFarm Muscat 2009 ($22.90). Only 151 cases were produced and the wine is sold out at the winery. The grapes – Moscato Giallo – are from JoieFarm’s own young vineyard. It begins with quite dramatic aromas of spice and rose petals. On the palate, there are rich flavours of spiced fruit – white peach perhaps. The finish shows the classic bitter bite of the Muscat variety. The wine is bone dry. 88.

JoieFarm Rosé 2009 ($20.90). In this vintage, the winery released 2,378 cases of rosé, a remarkably large production considering that rosé has only come back into fashion a few years ago. In 2004, the winery released just 140 cases of rosé. JoieFarm has been so successful with this wine that it is now its second largest label. This is a blend of Pinot Noir (42%), Gamay (33%), Pinot Meunier (15%) and Pinot Gris (10%). The wine begins with a vibrant rose hue (pomegranate, according to the winery) and an aroma of strawberries and raspberries. On the palate, there are more flavours of strawberries and raspberries, as well as a touch of grapefruit and nectarine. The finish is crisp and refreshing. 90-92


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