The third release from Joie Wines is an exciting quintette
By John Schreiner
April 30, 2007
In their first two vintages, Heidi Noble and Michael Dinn of Joie Wines released just two whites and one rosé – and won acclaim for them all.
Their fans will be delighted that they have released five wines from the 2006 vintage while also making substantially more wine than in their first two years.
Joie’s fan club will be equally pleased to hear that the couple has begun to plant a vineyard and build a winery on the five-acre Naramata Road property that they bought in 2002. The couple have been making their wines so far at other wineries and selling them through the licenses of those wineries. It is a clever strategy for getting established in the wine business without a lot of capital up front.
They tested the wine market cautiously in 2005, releasing a grand total of 800 cases, all with purchased grapes. The wines created a sensation, allowing the couple to triple production in the 2005 vintage and then double it again to 5,000 cases from the 2006 vintage.
Even Noble and Dinn are surprised at how their wines have been embraced. Their plan is to level off at 7,000 cases a year but they will find themselves under pressure to make more, as long as the wines keep tasting as good as they have tasted.
Their progress has been impressive, given that they can be described as wine industry novices.
Michael was born in Victoria in 1967. He began working in restaurants while at Simon Fraser University for a history degree that “qualified me for everything and nothing.” Advised he needed to know wines to rise in the restaurant pecking order, he found a job at a London wine bar during a post-graduation European tour. Briefly, he considering being a screen writer until he began studying wine seriously when he got back to Vancouver in 1994. When a new wine school opened, he was in the first class for sommelier training, and was soon looking after wines in some of Vancouver’s top restaurants. By 2000, he decided he wanted to live in the Okanagan and make wine.
Heidi was born in Toronto in 1974 and grew up in Edmonton. She got her first part-time job as a cook when she was 14, loved it, and continued to moonlight in restaurant kitchens while at university. Her degrees are equally tangential to making wine – a degree in philosophy (she was the gold medalist in the class) and another in western literature. Then she returned to her first love, spending two years at the renowned Stratford school for chefs. Ultimately, she ended up in Vancouver, first in a high-end restaurant, then a high-end catering operation, before taking the sommelier program and meeting Michael.
For a few years after buying their Naramata property (then an orchard), the couple made ends meet by commuting from Vancouver wine jobs to their Naramata, where they ran a summertime cooking school. The school is closed this year while vines are being planted and a winery is built. However, Heidi has just released a book, Menus from an Orchard Table, with the menus, recipes and wine pairings of the school’s first four years.
They have taken an unconventional approach by releasing only whites and rosé wines so far (although a barrel-aged red is on the way).
They make the style of wines they prefer to drink and that, in their view, suite the west coast cuisine with which both are so familiar.
These are the latest from Joie:
A Noble Blend 2006: ($20.90). This aromatic blend is not so much a play on Heidi Noble’s name as it is on Edilzwicker, the Alsace blend that inspires the wine. One translation of Edilzwicker is noble blend. Joie’s Noble Blend is a delicious and satisfying blend of Gewurztraminer (34%), Kerner (20%), Pinot Blanc (23%), Ehrenfelser (11%) and Riesling (2%). The wine shows ravishing tropical aromas. On the palate, there is layer upon layer of fruit flavour – ripe pineapple, apricots, pears, strawberries, lichee. The finish is very long. 91 points.
Chardonnay 2006: ($19.90). This is an unoaked Chardonnay made in the style of Chablis or Macon, with a full texture on the palate and a dry finish. The wine begins with delicate citrus, honey and apple aromas, delivering flavours of ripe apples, pears, muskmelons. 88.
Rosé 2006 ($18.90). Long-time fans of delicious dry rosé wines from the south of France, Noble and Dinn set out, successfully, to make a comparable Okanagan rosé. This vintage is a blend of Pinot Noir (47%), Gamay (43%), and Pinot Gris (10%). The first two contribute the colour and the toothsome flavours of strawberries and raspberries and cherries while the Pinot Gris adds some acidity, helpfully balancing the wine which is slightly off-dry. Noble and Dinn contend that rosé is among the most versatile of wines to pair with food. 90
Riesling 2006 ($19.90). This is Joie’s first release of Riesling. When Noble and Dinn were working out a style, they sat down to a blend tasting of nearly two dozen other Rieslings. “The greatest examples we know of originate in Germany and it was the Germans who brought the first Riesling to the Okanagan Valley,” they explain. Accordingly, this is a juicy wine, with flavours of pink grapefruit and minerals. It is a tasty wine although it may be sweeter than it need be. 86
Muscat 2006 ($18.90). This is another first, opportunistically made when the couple was able buy enough Muscat grapes to make about 160 cases. Nearly all has been sold to a couple of restaurants, including Vij’s. It is a lovely delicate wine, with a floral aroma, flavours of white peaches touch up with spice, and only 10.5% alcohol. The wine made me think of a very nice kiss on the cheek. 88
The bottom line: Joie continues to impress.