Fort Berens Estate Winery owners Rolf de Bruin, Heleen Pannekoek
On releasing these wines last month, Rolf de Bruin, a
co-proprietor of Fort Berens
, also announced that construction of a new
winery was starting beside the Fort
By the fall of 2014, the winery will be able to move all of
its processing to Lillooet. During the previous five years, Fort Berens
has done most – but not all – of its wines at various Okanagan wineries. It has
outgrown the modest processing facility it now has.
In his note, Rolf says: “The new winery will feature a
stunning tasting room, underground cellars for barrel aging, and a fermentation
room to allow for gentle handling of our wines. We’ll also have facilities to
serve outdoor lunch and cater events and weddings.”
The architecturally-designed building sounds like an
excellent addition to the tourist infrastructure at Lillooet.
Rolf and his wife, Heleen Pannekoek immigrated from Holland
in 2008, trading
an urban lifestyle in banking and finance for wine growing. When they found
that Okanagan land prices were too high, they decided to pioneer commercial
winemaking at Lillooet. There is no question that the Lillooet summers will
ripen grapes. The Lillooet winters are a risk but the Fort Berens
vineyard has, for the most part, been able to thrive. The more established the
vines become, the better their choice looks.
It probably is only a matter of time before other wineries
are opened in this region. Rolf says that Fort Berens
continues “to look for opportunities to work with local famers to establish
more vineyards in our region.”
As well, Fort Berens
is considering joining a market initiative
involving the new Kamloops
and Shuswap wineries to draw wine tourists away from the beaten path.
Here are notes on the wine.
Fort Berens Chardonnay 2012
($18.99 for 275
cases). This is the first Chardonnay winery’s Lillooet vineyard. There is no
question about Lillooet’s ability to ripen fruit. These grapes were picked on
September 20 at 23 Brix, which translates to 14.1% alcohol. About 30% was
fermented in French oak; and a third was aged nine months in French oak. The
result is a complex wine that showcases the vineyard’s ability to produce
appealing fruit flavours. The wine begins with citrus aromas. On the palate, there
are flavours of apple, pineapple and orange peel. The vibrant but well balanced
acidity makes this a lively, refreshing, medium-bodied Chardonnay. 90.
Fort Berens Pinot Noir 2011
($24.99 for 65 cases).
The grapes for this wine came from the first harvest of Pinot Noir in the
winery’s Lillooet vineyard. The yield was extremely low (about one ton of
grapes per acre). As a result, the wine is dark in hue, with dramatic aromas
and flavours of cherry and raspberry, accented with vanilla from 15 months aging
in oak. There is a hint of clove on the finish. The texture is the classically
silken texture of fine Pinot Noir. This wine has been offered exclusively to
the winery’s Discovery Wine Club. This is a good reason for joining. 90.
Fort Berens Cabernet Franc 2011
($25.99 for 251
cases). Two-thirds of the grapes in this wine were grown in the Lillooet
vineyard; the remainder came from Black
. This is a wine with vibrant red berry
aromas and flavours – blackberry, raspberry, cherry. The bright acidity adds to
the brambly flavours and the rustic personality. 88.
Fort Berens Meritage 2011
$27.99 for 743 cases).
This is a blend of Lillooet grapes and fruit from the Sundial Vineyard on Black Sage Road
The wine is 47% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon and 19% Cabernet Franc. It was
aged 12 months in French and American oak barrels and another six months in
bottle before release. Dark in colour, it begins with an appealing aroma of
black cherry, black currant and vanilla.
On the palate, the wine’s long ripe tannins give it a generous richness. The flavours echo the aroma with
added touches of chocolate and spice. 91.