Monday, October 3, 2016

JoieFarm's reds from great 2014 vintage

Photo: JoieFarm's Heidi Noble

This fall’s release of red wines includes many from the 2014 vintage.

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 winery.

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 significant bitterness.”

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 wine.
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 tannins. 90.

JoieFarm Pinot Noir 2014 ($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 flavours. 91.

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.


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