At JoieFarm we crush about 230 tons of grapes each vintage. We have 70 acres of vines under our care and management; including our 5 acre estate site in Naramata planted to Gewürztraminer and Muscat. Our vineyard sites are a combination of owned and leased farmland, with a further 6 dedicated families farming for us long-term to our specifications.
The focus with all of our vineyard sites is to achieve balanced vines through well-timed and site-specific canopy management. This approach allows us to take advantage of the constant breeze and moderating effect of Lake Okanagan. Our viticultural strategy maintains a long-term vision with respect to the health and sustainability of our vineyards. This approach is dynamic; always dictated by ever-changing vintage conditions.
An important aspect of canopy management is early shoot positioning which allows us to achieve an open and breezy canopy as well as a regulated open “fruiting zone”. The “vertical shoot positioning” (VSP) training system, along with properly timed leaf removal, allows us and our growers to use minimal, but well-timed controls in the vineyard for mildew; replacing the need for constant chemical spray cycles. In our own vineyard we try to use a bacterial control to dominate powdery mildew, instead of fungicide. We also employ a philosophy of late hedging in the vineyards to control vigor. Cutting the top of the vine too early encourages the vine to produce unnecessary lateral green growth that sucks energy away from the ripening grapes.
At JoieFarm we irrigate to the absolute minimum, watering only at the beginning of the growing season to top up our water table and during times of extreme heat stress. We encourage our growers to deficit irrigate in order to encourage the vines to send their roots deeps into the soil in search of nutrients and water and away from vulnerable surface rooting. We spend a good deal of time on soil reparation on our own property.
Soil that is high in organic matter is able to avoid erosion and sustain diverse life at a microbial level. A lack of soil life means the soil will lose its capacity to directly trap, mineralize and store adequate levels of nutrients. By utilizing a grape hoe for weeds under the vines, alternating our mowing schedule in the vine rows and composting our winery waste and spreading it back into the vineyard we are able to remediate and continually replenish our soils.
Every March we inter-plant our rows with a diverse, drought-resistant cover crop of red and white clover, mustards, vetch and flowers, all which are nitrogen fixing plants. Our cover crop also serves to attract beneficial insects that will eat vine predators as well as providing an easy feast for cutworms who might otherwise feast on the young buds of the vine in April. Throughout the summer, inter-row cover cropping is also an excellent way to keep vigor down in the vine itself. It is a way to promote cluster growth and ripening instead of an overgrowth of shoots and vines. Our cover crop also lowers the temperature of the vineyard floor in a hot year.
Since planting our vineyards in 2007 and 2012 and from working with over 35 different vineyard sites over the past 14 years, we have learned that viticulture is not a textbook practice; it is a practice of constant observation. In order to farm most effectively, we walk our vineyard sites frequently so that we can respond immediately when a problem is in its beginning stage rather than waiting until it becomes full-blown. This dedication to site-specific problem solving, coupled with constant research and reading, allows us to achieve a balance between respecting old-world agricultural approaches and being open to modern technology which makes vineyard work easier and often more effective.