Thursday, July 30, 2015

JoieFarm puts "the magic" back

Photo: Heidi Noble of JoieFarm Winery

This has been a year of major change at JoieFarm Winery.

Founding partners Michael Dinn and Heidi Noble went their separate ways, with Heidi taking over full ownership of the winery. Michael is now a partner in a Vancouver wine agency.

The most obvious consequence of the ownership change has been the opening of a tasting room and a picnic area.

“I have successfully opened the farm in Naramata back up after 10 years of being closed to the public!” Heidi writes in a covering letter that accompanied the current releases. “We are thrilled to be offering hospitality again and reconnecting directly with our customers. The magic is back on our farm.”

The picnic area is somewhat more elaborate than that term suggests. “Our guests are able to join us on the lawn surrounded by our vineyard to enjoy a casual bite of wood-fired Neapolitan-style pizza, house-made charcuterie boards, and oysters with a glass or civilized bottle of wine,” Heidi writes.

By offering food and hospitality at the winery, Heidi has revived her longstanding interest in food. Born in Toronto in 1974, she began cooking as a teenager. “I had my first kitchen job at 14,” she once told me. “I loved it. So I worked after school and all through the summer while I was in high school.”

A gold medal student at the University of Western Ontario, she earned degrees in both philosophy and literature but turned down an academic scholarship to enrol in the renowned Stratford chef’s school. By the time she was 25, she was running the kitchen for a Vancouver caterer until, after a decade in food service, she switched careers. She completed a sommelier diploma and began working for a wine agency.

When she and Michael opened JoieFarm in 2005, she operated a cooking school for several years, in part because the winery needed the cash flow while getting established.

Over the years, several wineries, like JoieFarm, have succeeded without public tasting rooms. But when a winery reaches the size of JoieFarm, it makes good sense to open an onsite wine shop. That is where the most profitable sales are made. As well, the interaction between the winery owner and the customers reinforces consumer loyalty.

Here are notes on the current JoieFarm releases.

JoieFarm A Noble Blend 2014 ($23.90 for 5,328 cases). This is a blend of six grapes: 38% Gewurztraminer, 30% Riesling, 16% Pinot Auxerrois, 9% Muscat, 8% Pinot Blanc and 1% Schönburger. This aromatic wine shows aromas of spice melon and mango, with flavours of cantaloupe and lychee and a hint of lime on the finish. A touch of residual sugar lifts the aromatics but the final balance is dry. 91.

JoieFarm Riesling 2013 ($22.90 for 1,100 cases). This wine begins its appeal with a light gold hue and herbal aromas with an emerging hint of petrol. Yes, this is a correct development of Riesling wines as they age. On the palate, there are flavours of grapefruit, lime and apple. The wine’s 17 grams of residual sugar create a generous texture. The sugar, however, is balanced superbly with 9.2 grams of acidity. The wine, which has a good spine of minerals, is refreshing and the finish lasts and lasts. 92.

JoieFarm Muscat 2014 ($22.90 for 396 cases). This wine is made with Moscato Giallo grapes from the two-acre block in JoieFarm’s own vineyard. The wine begins with an intensely spicy aroma of nutmeg and cloves. The spice carries through the palate, along with flavours of guava and lime. The wine’s moderate alcohol (11.4%) gives it an appealing delicacy. It is balanced to have a dry and persistent finish. With its ability to refresh the palate, this is a superb aperitif wine. 92.

JoieFarm Pinot Blanc 2014 ($22.90 for 330 cases). This wine, made with grapes from a 27-year-old vineyard, makes a great statement for taking seriously a varietal sometimes overlooked by consumers. This wine, with its aromas and flavours of apple and melon, is generous on the palate. The vibrant acidity gives it a crisp, dry and food-friendly finish. 91.

JoieFarm Plein de Vie Brut 2014 ($N/A). The winery has published neither the specifications not the price of this wine. Reading between the lines in the other winery literature, I think this is a blend of Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. The wine is only available at the newly opened wine shop. It is an uncomplicated and refreshing sparkling wine with aromas and flavours of cherries. The finish is dry. 88.

JoieFarm Unoaked Chardonnay 2014 ($22.90 for 443 cases). The winery also maintains that its unoaked Chardonnay is inspired by Chablis – even in a year like 2014 when the vintage produced a ripe, muscular wine. It begins with aromas of apricot, peach and ripe pineapple, with a hint of honey. On the palate, the wine is a juicy fruit bomb with a touch of warmth from the 14.2% alcohol. Not a Chablis but a wine to stand up to a charcuterie platter. 89.

JoieFarm Rosé 2014 ($20.90 for 3,145 cases). This is 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Gamay. The destemmed grapes were allowed to soak in their juice for three or four days, extracting a comparatively intense colour for a rosé, along with a bit of tannin for the wine’s backbone. The wine begins with aromas of strawberry, cranberry and cherry. There is a rich medley of berry flavours and a firm, dry finish. 90.

JoieFarm “En Famille” Reserve Chardonnay 2012 ($29.90 for 275 cases). The wine begins with a light golden hue and aromas of honey, quince and a hint of toasty oak. On the palate, there are mouth-filling flavours of butterscotch, marmalade, vanilla and ripe pineapple. This is a ripe and rich Chardonnay. 90.

JoieFarm “En Famille” Reserve Gewürztraminer 2012 ($27.90 for 208 cases). This memorable Gewürztraminer will transport you to Alsace and the Grand Cru wines from the leading producers there. This rich and powerful wine begins with aromas of spice and lychee. The generous tropical fruit flavours give the wine great length while the 14% alcohol enhances the unctuous texture. This is a tour de force. 93.

JoieFarm “En Famille” Reserve Pinot Noir 2012 ($39.90 for 215 cases). The winery’s notes on this wine describe it as the “most masculine style that we have made to date.” It is certainly a bold wine, with aromas of cherries, spice and chocolate that are echoed on the palate, along with savoury “forest floor” notes. Eight months in oak and 18 months of bottle aging have helped the wine develop a velvet texture. 92.  

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