Monday, May 2, 2016

JoieFarm's Heidi Noble conquers 2015

Photo: JoieFarm's Heidi Noble

As a rising number of 2015 wines are being released, the vintage is gaining acclaim for having produced big ripe wines full of flavour.

Some might argue that 2014 was an even stronger vintage. The growing season was not quite as hot and the wines perhaps were more naturally balanced. As it happens, there are still plenty of 2014 whites in the market and the superb 2014 reds are just starting to be released. There is plenty of opportunity to taste and compare.

The 2015s just released by JoieFarm Wines – wines from the earliest harvest on record - certainly are as strong as any of the winery’s previous vintages. Proprietor and winemaker Heidi Noble notes that the wines “were made naturally – they were not acidulated, their alcohols are natural, they were not diluted.” That is quite an accomplishment in a year when winemakers had to scramble to pick and ferment the rapidly maturing grapes before acid dropped too much or potential alcohol was too high.

It was a particularly difficult for Heidi. “2015 vintage was the most challenging vintage of my winemaking career,” she writes in her commentary on the season. “It was early, it was hot, it was big.”

Several events combined to make it tough. “I was tired, had separated from my husband and business partner of 14 years, and I had bought our winery (about to produce its twelfth vintage),” she writes.

During that spring, she released the 2014 vintage, restructured JoieFarm and renovated the farm house to create the winery’s first public tasting room. She and her staff dealt with enthusiastic crowds of visitors, drawn by the wines and by the wood-fired pizzas.

Shortly before vintage, both her long-time winemaker and her lead cellar hand left JoieFarm to work at other wineries. Then an early avalanche of grapes began arriving.

“As exhausted as I was while simultaneously full of adrenaline,” Heidi writes, “by a stroke of deeper universal energies that I never knew existed, I threw it into 5th gear for the umpteenth time. Moved by the passion to make wine, and with everything to prove, I put my head down and my five feet of terror went into winemaking ‘beast mode’.”

I happened to drop in at the JoieFarm crush pad on the first day of the 2015 vintage. I can attest that Heidi looked a little tired. However, the remaining staff in the winery and the tasting room rallied around their leader.

“For fifty-right days, we gracefully, as a unified team, took down 230 tons of the ripest, most phenolically mature and tasty grapes I had ever experienced while continuing to welcome guests to the farm well into October,” Heidi writes.

“It was a perfect vintage if you were on your game,” she continues. “We performed multiple picks on the same sites: picking for acid, picking for flavour, picking for complexity. I co-fermented, I blended, I did everything in my power and used every arrow in my winemaking quiver to deal with the potential hazards of a hot, early vintage.”

Anyone who tastes these wine will agree that they are, as Heidi puts it, “the product of one lady and her new team who took on the challenge of a difficult vintage and won.”

Here are my notes on the wines.

JoieFarm A Noble Blend 2015 ($23.90 for 6,000 cases plus 320 kegs and 120 1.5 litre magnums). This aromatic but dry white is a blend of 47% Gewürztraminer, 32% Riesling, 10% Auxerrois, 8% Pinot Blanc, 2% Muscat and 1% Schönburger. While the wine has seven grams of residual sugar, that is nicely balanced with 8.7 grams of acidity. The result is a wine that begins with lifted aromas of fruit and spice. On the palate, there are flavours of citrus, green apple, melon, melon and lychee with a lingering finish of herbs and spice. 91.

JoieFarm Muscat 2015 ($22.90 for 460 cases).  The floral and spicy Muscat aromas jump from the glass. On the palate, the lemon and lime flavours are made more intense by the slight residual sweetness, which is nicely balanced with refreshing acidity. The finish is fresh and juicy and quite persistent. This remarkable wine is the perfect aperitif. Pairing it with food is always an option but I would suggest that these pure flavours are best enjoyed on their own. 92.

JoieFarm Unoaked Chardonnay 2015 ($22.90 for 600 cases). This wine begins with aromas of citrus and pineapple leading to flavours of apple. The wine has good weight with a backbone of minerals. There is an elusive mildly bitter note on the dry finish. 90.

JoieFarm Pinot Blanc 2015 ($22.90 for 560 cases). This fresh, racy wine begins with an appealing aroma of apple and apple peelings mingled with a hint of banana. On the palate, there is a vibrant tension between the fruit and the acidity. The wine has flavours of green apple and grapefruit, with a juicy refreshing crispness on the finish. 92.

JoieFarm Rosé 2015 ($20.90 for 3,200 cases). A blend of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Gamay, this wine has grown in 10 years to be one of British Columbia’s best-selling rosé wines. For a start, the light strawberry colour is appealing in the glass. The wine has aromas of strawberry and raspberry. Those fruits, along with tangy cherry and cranberry, are reflected on the palate. Crisp and dry, this is a rosé for picnics and lunches all summer long. 90.

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