At the start of 2015 vintage in mid-August, I dropped in at JoieFarm Winery to see how owner Heidi Noble was doing.
She was a little stressed. Robert Thielicke, who had been a member of the winemaking team for a number of years, had left a month before this abnormally early and hot 2015 vintage began.
What happened next says volumes for the esprit de corps that the crisis of a very early vintage led to at the winery. “The team rallied around me in a difficult vintage,” Heidi told me this week. “It was a truly wonderful experience, from the sense of what was actually accomplished … and a sense of team building and coming together as a whole.”
This week, JoieFarm began bottling its aromatic whites and rosé from 2015. “I could not be more pleased with what has come out of 2015, as difficult and challenging as it was,” Heidi says.
“We really did make some spectacular wines: very naturally balanced in a difficult vintage, alcohol and acidity-wise,” she says. “We worked really hard, doing multiple picks for flavour and acid – and working doubly hard because the vintage was fast and hot and hard. I had a team in tow that was willing to go the extra effort to continue to make naturally balanced wines which I think has always been the hallmark of my winemaking.”
She has decided not to recruit another winemaker after seeing how JoieFarm staff rose to the challenge. Veteran cellar hand Karl Duda “challenged himself and competently worked by my side to tackle the harvest,” she says. Others into the fray included several people who had been hired earlier in the year to get JoieFarm’s new wine shop open.
These include Tyler Archer, who had come from Painted Rock Winery where he had opened a tasting room earlier. He has actually worked 14 vintages, both in B.C. and in the southern hemisphere.
“That was not necessarily what I hired Tyson for in the spring,” Heidi says. “But he was an invaluable asset to have in such an emergency situation, in terms of how early the crush was. He was able to jump in without very much guidance. Tyson, [tasting room manager] Jennifer Carter and [hospitality director] JJ Skidmore worked through August and September finishing our hospitality season while gracefully tackling harvest on the crush pad alongside myself and Karl as a unified team,” Heidi recounts. As well, the winery’s administrative staff - General Manager Noelle Starzynski, Amy Campbell and Sogol Jalali – all pitched in as needed.
The year was one of the most momentous for the winery since JoieFarm, now making 15,000 cases a year, opened in 2005.
In 2015, Heidi became the sole owner after purchasing the interest of Michael Dinn, the winery’s other founding partner.
Secondly, the winery for the first time opened a tasting room, making the wines much more accessible to the crowds that tour along Naramata Road each season. Thirdly, the winery installed a pizza oven and began selling pizza to visitors.
Heidi says this was like “opening a new business.” However, increasing the winery’s direct-to-consumer sales had become critical.
“With the change of wine legislation in British Columbia, opening the tasting room was certainly the right thing to do,” she says. “More control of direct sales will be necessary for the survival of the smaller BC wineries. As Big Grocery comes into play, it is a tumultuous time in the wine business. In the next 12 to 18 months, with the uncertainty, all you can do as a mature business is to take as much of that control into your own hands through direct sales as you can.”
She goes into the new sales year in good shape. Virtually all of the winery’s 2014 and 2013 wines are sold out. The market will begin to see the 2015s in March.
“The brand couldn’t be stronger,” Heidi says. “There was a lot of revitalization this year within the trade. And certainly the public was thrilled to be able to come and visit the farm.”
Last year, I reviewed a number of Joiefarm wines. However, three that were released in the midst of that hectic vintage ended up being overlooked before Christmas. Since the wines still are available in the market, here are notes.
JoieFarm PTG 2013 ($24). This wine is 55% Gamay and 45% Pinot Noir, made in a style that is called Passe-Tout-Grain in Burgundy – hence the name of the wine. This is a juicy-textured win with aromas and flavours of raspberry and cherry. There is a savoury note on the finish and perhaps even a hint of mocha. 90.
JoieFarm Pinot Noir 2013 ($24 for 718 cases). Four clones of Pinot Noir from two different vineyards were used to make what the wine calls a “fruit forward style for early drinking.” The aromas and flavours of cherry and spice fill the palate. Bright acidity adds a tangy note to the finish. 90.