Photo: JoieFarm's Heidi Noble
This fall’s release of red wines includes many from the 2014
In my view, these are the best B.C. reds since 2009 – and that
is not to dismiss the superbly balanced 2012s.
I suspect that Heidi Noble, the owner and winemaker at Naramata’s
JoieFarm Winery, would agree with me. “2014 was by all accounts a perfect
vintage – dry, hot and long,” she writes in a cover letter with the four reds
she has released. “Our red grapes hung on the vine comfortably until mid-Octobe3r
when they were perfectly, and gradually, sugar-ripe [with the] phenolics fully
developed, and juicy acidity preserved by warm days and cool nights, the
hallmark of our cool-climate desert terroir.”
She suggests that her 2014 Reserve Pinot Noir “is the most
powerful and elegant Pinot I have ever made.” In fact, both the reserve and the
regular Pinot Noirs are arguably the best I can remember tasting from this
The other two releases are a 2014 Gamay and a 2014 PTG (Pass-Tous-Grains),
a blend of Gamay and Pinot Noir in the tradition of Burgundy.
Virtually every B.C. winery is has become serious about
Pinot Noir. JoieFarm (and several other producers in the Okanagan and
Similkameen) also have embraced Gamay Noir, a variety that once struggled to
survive in Burgundy.
The story is told well in Wine Grapes
, the excellent 1,242-page tome by Jancis Robinson,
Julia Harding and José Vouillamoz.
“Gamay Noir is a very old Burgundian variety whose name
first appeared in an official ban promulgated by Duc Philippe le Hardi in Dijon
on 31 July 1395,” they write.
The duke thought the variety “very bad and disloyal.” He
suggested that “it is very harmful to human creatures, so much so that many people
who had it in the past were infested by serious diseases, as we’ve heard;
because said wine of said plant of said nature is full of horrible and
That effort to ban the variety was not successful. According
to Robinson et al, it was ordered banned again in 1567, 1725 and 1731, “underlining
the poor reputation that this variety today has only partially overcome.”
I am inclined to think that Beaujolais producers damage the
reputation of Gamay each year by making Beaujolais Nouveau. It is hard to take
the wine seriously. And it is hard to believe that it leads anyone to taste
Morgon or Fleurie, or any of the other Beaujolais crus. These are complex wines
from good vineyards.
JoieFarm’s Gamay Noir certainly is a match for Beaujolais Villages
wines and, in great years like 2014, rises to a Beaujolais cru level. I don’t
think anyone consuming it is likely to suffer disease – at least not related to
How the grapes are vinified indicates how seriously JoieFarm
takes this variety. The grapes are picked by hand. A sorting table is used to make
a selection of the best berries. A portion of the grapes are fermented in small
500 litre open top fermenters. The wines are deliberately fermented in small
batches. This allows the winemaker to used several yeast strains, to handle the
wine gently and to control temperatures, all in aid of preserving freshness of
flavour. The wine was aged for 10 months in French oak – a mix of barriques,
puncheons and one 30 hectolitre cask. That is a remarkable amount of detailed attention
for a $26 wine.
Here are my notes on the wines.
JoieFarm Gamay 2014
($26 for 400 cases). The grapes come from Deep Roots Vineyard. The wine begins
with aromas of cherries and plums with a toasty hint from the oak. On the
palate, it is a juicy wine packed with cherry flavours, with a note of sage and
pepper on the finish. 90.
JoieFarm PTG 2014
($26 for 792 cases). This is 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Gamay Noir. The Pinot Noir grapes
are from two Naramata vineyards and one Penticton while the Gamay again is from
Deep Roots (which also makes a fine Gamay Noir at its own winery). The
winemaking and barrel treatment was similar to the Gamay. The wine begins with
spicy aromas of cherry and raspberry. The red fruit is echoed on the palate,
along with plum. The wine is juicy and has good weight, with a backbone of ripe
JoieFarm Pinot Noir
($26 for 507 cases). The winemaker has combined four clones of Pinot
Noir from four vineyards to make a wine with power. It has a deep colour, with dramatic
forest floor aromas mixed with cherry and spice. The wine is bold on the
palate, with flavours of plum and cherry. Decant this wine to unlock all the
JoieFarm “En Famille”
Reserve Pinot Noir 2014
($40 for 299 cases). The winery says this is a
selection of the 12 best barrels. The wine is dark, signaling its intensity and
concentration. It begins with aromas of raspberry and cherry with spice and
toasty oak. This is echoed on the palate, along with a hint of vanilla. The
firm tannins suggest potential to age. The winery says it will “age gracefully”
for at least five to seven years. 93.