Sunday, March 20, 2016

JoieFarm's Reserve wines are real reserves

Photo: JoieFarm's Heidi Noble

A personal hobbyhorse is the profligate use of the word “reserve” on wine labels.

It suggests that quality of the wine is at least a little special. It strains credibility when a $10 or $12 wine is labelled reserve.

So here is a tip of the hat to Heidi Noble, the proprietress and winemaker at JoieFarm Winery. When she labels a wine “En Famille” Reserve, you can count on it being special. The three reserve whites she released last month are impressive wines.

In the letter accompanying the wines, Heidi writes that: “Normally, our third release in our “En Famille” line-up is the Reserve Pinot Noir. However, as a nod to a difficult Pinot Noir vintage, which had a hot and wet start to the 2013 harvest, we chose not to make a Reserve Pinot. [Rather we chose to] declassify it to make a better regular Pinot Noir in larger quantity.”

In short, reserve means something at JoieFarm.

I have heard one or two explanations for the “En Famille” appendage to the reserves. The one that sticks in my mind is that the winery wants its growers to feel that they are part of the JoieFarm family. Two of the three reserves are made with grapes from grower vineyards.

It is an increasing common practice for wineries to acknowledge the growers it buys from. A winery that takes pride in its growers very likely had growers who go the extra mile to deliver quality fruit.

The Chardonnay comes from the Con Vida vineyard, which Heidi describes as “our most prized 29-year-old vineyard site on the Skaha Bluff.”

The 2014 Viognier, which is offered in lieu of the 2013 Reserve Pinot Noir, is made with grapes from the Trout Creek Vineyard at Summerland. This property is leased and farmed by JoieFarm.

“Since these grapes are farmed by our viticulture team with great care, we decided to make a very special wine with them,” Heidi says. “Frustrated by the difficulty of achieving ripe and lush Viognier at the 50th parallel the year before (Viognier requires the most degree days to ripen of any varietal), we executed a ruthless vineyard program in 2014, cropping the vines to a very low yield by removing the shoulders and bottoms of all the clusters. Our program was a success, achieving very ripe fruit in the vineyard while maintaining brisk natural acidity.”

The 2013 Gewürztraminer is made with grapes grown in JoieFarm’s estate vineyard on the Naramata Bench.

Here are notes on the wines.

JoieFarm “En Famille” Reserve Gewürztraminer 2013 ($27.90 for 208 cases). I agree with the winery’s comparing this stylistically to an Alsatian Grand Cru. The spicy lychee aromas jump from the glass. Rich on the palate, the wine has flavours of grapefruit and quince. The 15 grams of residual sugar is nicely balanced with natural acidity to finish comparatively dry. 91.

JoieFarm “En Famille” Reserve Chardonnay 2013 ($29.90 for 300 cases). This wine was fermented in barrels and puncheons with a combination of wild and Champagne yeast. The wine also aged eight months in oak (mostly second-fill or neutral oak). The result is an elegant wine with aromas of citrus and flavours of tangerine, pineapple and vanilla. There is a touch of honey on an otherwise dry finish; and the fresh acidity adds a note of crispness. The wine is drinking well now but, in the style of Burgundy, it has the structure to develop even more complexity over the next five to seven years. 92.

JoieFarm “En Famille” Reserve Viognier 2014 ($27.90 for 143 cases). The winery describes the 2014 vintage as “stunning.” Here is a lusciously ripe Viognier full of tropical fruit, with 14.6% alcohol so well-balanced that the alcohol is not an issue. The wine begins with aromas of honeysuckle and apricot. On the palate, there are honeyed flavours of apricot, guava and mango with bright acidity to give the wine a lingering and refreshing finish. 92

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