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  • Joie To The World

    Long timel readers may recall that I make an annual pilgrimage to the Okanagan Valley of BC to sip my way through the tasting rooms and vineyards of my favourite part of Canada’s wine country.

    This year was no different, when I narrowly avoided a day of Aunt Ethel’s dry turkey by taking a quick flight to Penticton for the Thanksgiving long weekend.

    The JoieFarm Winery is located on the Naramata Bench just outside Penticton.  The Naramata Bench is perched on the eastern slopes of Okanagan Lake, and comes with the storied pedigree of the highest concentration of wineries in the entire Okanagan Valley.

    The cool breeze off the lake in the summer and moderating influence in the winter makes the Naramata Bench an ideal terroir, as evidenced by the dozens of wineries squeezed in side-by-side.  Just when I think I have visited every winery in the area, a new one pops up in after converting from an apple orchard to a vineyard, or less frequently, a hitherto undeveloped nook or cranny.

    The story of JoieFarm Winery begins with the proprietress, a classically-trained chef and sommellier who purchased the 5-acre farm back in 2003, originally developing the property as a cooking school and guesthouse.

    The cooking school quickly became the premier culinary centre in the Okanagan Valley, but ever the overachiever, the chef-turned-teacher began producing wine from the local grapes, which were soon famed for their high quality.

    JoieFarm Winery specializes in the wines of Alsace and Burgundy, and is famous for their highly aromatic whites, especially the Muscat, Riesling, and Gewürztraminer.

    While Muscat grapes are commonly used to produce a sweeter wine, JoieFarm has used a long fermentation to consume all the residual sugars to produce a completely dry expression of the wine, with a perfumed floral scent on the nose, followed by a burst of tropical fruits on the tongue.

    The farm-to-table picnic area beside the tasting room was offering up a locally produced cheese and charcuterie board while I was visiting the winery, so I enjoyed the wine paired with a thirst-inducing brined cheese and spicy chorizo.

    A delightful benefit of the winery owner (and chief winemaker) starting her career as a professional chef and later running a cooking school is that the small appetizer plates available in the picnic area changed daily based on the availability of fresh local ingredients, and were on par with the cuisine of the finest restaurants.

    My travel companion preferred the Riesling, made in the slightly sweeter Spätlese style made famous by German winemakers.  Riesling is an extremely versatile grape, pairing well with countless foods due to its high acidty, which was perfectly balanced by the natural sugars present in the wine.

    The white wines from JoieFarm are typically around $25 range, while the reds are closer to $35.  My favourite was the Pinot Noir, undisputed champion of the world-renowned Burgundy wine region of France, and grown the world over.

    Pinot Noir is known as the heartbreak grape due to its challenges in the vineyard.  Many a winemaker has shed a tear when finding their thin-skinned Pinot Noir grapes cracking in the sun, succumbing to mildew, or failing to flourish because the diurnal temperature swings were not quite perfect.

    Most at home in cool climates like Burgundy, Pinot Noir has thrived in Canada, in no small part because our wine growing areas are at a similar latitude to Burgundy.  Loving well-drained and rocky limestone soils, the slopes of Okanagan Lake provide the perfect terroir for Pinot Noir, producing a bold and complex bouquet with a silky finish.

    The JoieFarm Pinot Noir was bursting with violet aromas, with tar and cocoa notes on the tongue, followed by a long and juicy raspberry and rich fruit finish.  All those long hours tending the vines paid off in spades, producing a wine with subtle complexities and bursting with freshness.

    Many people like to pair their wines with food, but I find Pinot Noir to be such a complex wine that I prefer to sip it slowly without food, or perhaps just a tiny amount of a hard cheese, in order to enjoy the intricate and layered characteristics of the bouquet and mouth feel.

    To bring a little joy to your own world, look for a bottle from the JoieFarm Winery, available at well-stocked booze merchants in BC and Alberta, including Star Liquor right here in Chestermere.