Shelora Sheldan column

JoieFarm Winery on the Naramata Bench

Reinventing joy at JoieFarm

Tenacity and resolve are some of the hallmarks of the hospitality industry. It’s never been more evident than during these past few months when restaurants and wineries have had to pick themselves up by their bootstraps and generate new ways of income. Take-out menus, from simple to elevated offerings, have proven very successful, and with recent restaurant re-openings, the take-out component remains intact so far, along with limited sit-down service. With only fifty-percent capacity allowed now, it makes sound business sense. The alternative I guess would be to charge 55% more, and who would be dining out with that kind of price tag?

One Vancouver restaurant has implemented a limited dine-in service where guests pre-purchase tickets for a three-course menu at a set time. The practicality of this is to not only anticipate food costs but to eliminate the toxic habit of reservation no-shows. It’s a bold and important move that addresses the vicarious position of what small independent restaurants have to do right now to stay in business.

B.C. wineries also have had to muster muscle with online sales promotions, free local and province-wide delivery, and curbside pick-up options — and it’s been key to staying afloat and top of mind.

As an aside, according to BC Liquor Stores our collective response to lockdown has been an increase in alcohol consumption — up by 40% — and many wineries have garnered an increased fan base because of it.

Now that tasting rooms are starting to reopen with stringent COVID-19 protocols in place, wineries continue to reimagine their business models, not only to keep everyone safe but to entice customers back to the wineries. Limiting the amount of customers through the door is very different, and this learning curve extends to both wineries and visitors. Booking systems for an appointment are the standard for crowd control, along with pre-poured flights and physical distancing.

Virtual tastings can be viewed online and pre-ordered food offerings and other incentives are coming to a winery near you. You’ll have to get used to planning a winery adventure, either online or through your phone. And as the summer unfolds, taking your chances by driving up to a winery, unannounced, will most likely lead to disappointment and delays.

Fortified with resolve, Heidi Noble of JoieFarm Winery on the Naramata Bench has pivoted her tasting room offerings into a series of wine and culinary “experiences” in wine country. No stranger to the hospitality industry, her skill set runs deep as a chef, farmer, teacher, winemaker, mother and “boss lady” and has focused her sights on fun, safely, this year.

Viewed as “throwing a party everyday” the three new offerings are set throughout the farm’s idyllic setting of orchard, farm and vineyard with sloping views out to the lake. Fans can rejoice that’s she’s teamed up again with pizza pie champ, Christopher Royal of Pizzeria Tratto. He’ll be back at the wood-fired oven Thursday to Monday throughout the season, with a menu curated towards Joie’s food-friendly wines.

To start things off, if you want a pie and cold bottle of rosé to take to the beach, just call the winery and Bryan, their concierge, will have your order ready for you to pick up at the front gate. For a casual outdoor wine tasting at the winery, pre-booked and prepaid experiences are conducted around a vintage Airstream trailer on the crush pad.

Overlooking the estate vineyard, five wines are pre-poured for a limited amount of guests at 30-minute intervals. Joie’s crack tasting room staff will guide you through the flight expressing Joie’s penchant for aromatic Germanic and Burgundian varietals, and the historical culinary roots of JoieFarm. Guests can then parlay their stay with a pizza pronto, delivered to the crush pad for you to enjoy set around a rustic farmhouse table in the herb garden. You can choose from six styles of pie including the return of the luscious tarte flambé, an Alsatian-inspired number with pancetta bacon, sweet onion, fior de latte, fromage blanc and a hint of nutmeg – a perfect match for JoieFarm’s reisling. The popular Bee Sting, with a kiss of honey, is being replaced this year with the Murder Hornet, a white pie with spicy 'Nduja sausage, soppressata, fior de latte, smoked caciocavallo and sun-dried tomatoes. Expect seasonal specials throughout the summer, along with a few salady dishes.

For wine tasters that can’t make the trip to the farm, the Picnique Collection of six of the most popular Joie wines can be enjoyed at home, along with a set of videos to enhance the experience hosted by Noble and members of her core team.

The ultimate pull-out-all-the-stops experience is the, Book Your Blanket, all-inclusive. The two-hour bespoke package, for up to four people, includes a VIP tasting, a private space on Joie’s beautiful Picnique lawn in the orchard with a bottle of chilled rose, two Tratto pizzas of your choice and a six-pack of summer wines.

Other fun stuff includes the release on June 17 of the Joie Noble Blend flagship wine in 250 ml. cans — perfect for any beach picnic.

With fewer people allowed per visit, it lets the staff slow down and be more present to walk guests through the wines. Herein lies the silver lining. If you’ve ever been squeezed into a tasting room lineup or worked a busy tasting room (which I did last year) it’s more about get-em-in-get-em-out as quickly as possible. It’s exhausting and really no fun for the staff or the guests. Welcome these unrushed experiences. Book them safely at joiefarm.com

With fork and pen in hand, and a passion for culinary adventure, Shelora Sheldan, a Penticton writer, cook and traveller, goes in search of the delectable.