Joie's Noble Blend. Aptly named in more ways than one, Tim Pawsey photo

Our recent nod to the BC Liquor Stores Alsace promo  just happened to coincide with the release of Joie Farm’s latest crop of whites and ever popular rosé. And, as usually seems to be the case, right out of the gate, the Joie wines are an indication of what to expect for 2011 (overall, a challenging year) from BC’s better producers.

Heidi Noble and Michael Dinn (who moved from Vancouver to the Okanagan to establish Joie a decade ago) have always drawn their inspiration from Alsace, as they feel the varieties are best suited to their goal of making food friendly wines.

Joie Farm A Noble Blend 2011 Once again, the flagship wine is a stunner that blends predominantly Riesling (38 per cent) and Gewurztraminer (33 per cent) with Pinot Blanc (14 per cent), Pinot Auxerrois (11 per cent) and Schoenberger (4 per cent), sourced from nine sites mainly from the central Okanagan. They add up to a seductively rubenesque drop on both the nose and palate, no doubt the result of longer hanging fruit, apropos the cooler (though for some very challenging) 2011 vintage.

Look for fresh floral notes and sweet spice on the nose, followed by distinctive lime citrus and tropical flavours supported by the plush and spicy Gewurz, all wrapped in juicy acidity and layered complexity with a lingering end. Pad Thai, please. It’s a deal at $23.90. **** 1/2

The 'Joie' family in the vineyard on Naramata Bench, image supplied

Those who’ve been around since the arrival of Canadian Free Trade helped resurrect the B.C. wine industry will recall the time when Pinot Blanc was the Okanagan’s most widely planted grape. In fact, the first ever official BC Wine Institute pairing promotion (considered nothing but daring at the time!) featured Salmon and Pinot Blanc (A Marriage Made in BC) at a handful of local restos who were uncharacteristically forward thinking. Acres of Pinot Blanc were yanked in favour of the new Cali-Oz ingenue in town, Chardonnay, as the industry blithely pursued the latest trend.

BC Liquor Stores portfolio manager (and Master of Wine) Barbara Philip has long been a champion of B.C. Pinot Blanc and in recognition of that Joie dedicated their inaugural (2007) release to her.

Joie Farm Pinot Blanc 2011 is also more Alsace inclined. It’s a clean, racy and vibrant expression of the varietal (thanks in great part to its old vines fruit sourced from Kelowna and Naramata) with a backbone of crisp acidity under apple and tropical notes with a hint of mineral. We’d be putting some pork tenderloin on the barbecue, or just kicking back with a glass when the sun comes back; $22.90. ****

Joie Farm 2011 Chardonnay ‘Un-Oaked’ — Here’s another super food wine, that also adds up to a leader in the (quite Chablis-like) style. It’s interesting to watch how unoaked Chardonnay continues to be embraced. And why not? With its breezy, fresh green apple notes on the nose, followed by apple and pear and quiet mineral on the very fresh, clean but lingering palate this wine is entirely food friendly, and more. Joie says ‘oysters.’ No problem with that, ever. But we’re thinking steamed crab and fennel salad would also be just perfect. Definitely cries out for summer on the deck. $22.90 *** 1/2

Joie Farm Riesling 2011 — No shortage of heritage in this wine, made with grapes predominantly from St. Hubertus  old vines, dating from 1976. Tropical notes on top, followed by a deliciously juicy palate packed with citrus, ginger and mineral notes. We wouldn’t be surprised to see it show up on Vij’s list, for a start. $23.99 ***

All wines are available online at joiefarm.com (prices as shown) and at better BC private wine stores.

(More notes to come…)