Photo: Noble Beast's Julian Bakker
If you share my interest in small new labels of British Columbia wines,
you will welcome Nanaimo-based Noble Beast Wines.
This is the creation Julian and Lisa Bakker, a young couple
who were drawn to wine during a 2003 honeymoon in the Okanagan. As Julian
recounts the story, they did not have much money (like so many newly weds).
Looking for something to do, they discovered that most wineries offered free
“We fell in love with the whole culture surrounding wine,”
A decade later, they are selling two solid wines made with
Okanagan grapes: a 2012 Gewürztraminer and a 2011 Merlot Cabernet blend.
Quantities are small – 150 cases of the Gewürztraminer, slightly less of the red.
There was a 2010 Pinot Noir but it is sold out. That means the wines are hard
to find, aside from the winery’s web site. A good place to start is in
restaurants and private wine stores in Nanaimo.
These are identified on Noble Beast’s web site.
Born in Etobicoke
, Julian has lived in Nanaimo
since 1993. He was 13 then when his
parents moved there from Ontario
(his father was taking an island teaching job). Lisa, who is a nurse, is from Shawnigan Lake
. The couple are dedicated island
residents. Their ambition, once Noble Beast is established, is to buy a small
farm somewhere on Vancouver Island
and plant a
Julian is something of a Renaissance man. A pianist and
guitar player, he has played in rock bands and he continues to be involved in
arts production. He has worked as a freelance photographer. He also has a
master’s degree in geography from the University of Victoria
When he began asking Okanagan winemakers how to get started
in the business, one of them suggested he go to an Okanagan Falls
winery now called Synchromesh Wines. It had been launched in 2010 as a small
custom crush winery and, for a time, functioned as something of a collective
for a group of winemakers.
One of those winemakers was Mark Simpson, a veteran Vancouver beer maker who has
diversified into winemaking for his own label (Siren’s Call) and for several
clients. Mark agreed to take Julian as one of his clients and the first Noble
Ridge vintages were made under the Synchromesh license. Synchromesh has since reduced
its custom crush activities.
This year, Mark moved the business to his own Okanagan Falls
winery, called BC Wine Studio. The
clients that followed him included Julian Bakker and Noble Beast.
Julian’s long term plan is to acquire his own skills at
making wine, which should not be difficult for someone who has already mastered
photography, music and geography. Meanwhile, he can rely on Mark to help him
line up good Okanagan grapes and make the wines.
“The game plan is to get to the 500 case level,” he says. “I
have been pouring my energy into developing the business.”
In 2012, only 200 cases were produced for Noble Beast, of
which only 50 were red. In the 2013 vintage, 150 cases of white wine and 72
cases of red have been produced. The current plan is to grow cautiously to 300
cases in the 2014 vintage. At this point, the portfolio is tightly focussed on
dry Gewürztraminer and a red Bordeaux
The winery’s catchy name has a simple origin. He and Lisa
own a Boston terrier which they call Noble Beast.
Here are notes on the wines.
Gewürztraminer 2012 ($20.50). Made in a European style, the wine begins
with spicy fruit aromas. These lead to grapefruit flavours in a rich texture
and dry finish. 88.
Noble Beast Merlot
Cabernet 2011 ($27). This wine begins with aromas of vanilla and red fruit.
On the palate, there are flavours of black cherry, blackberry and raspberry.
The firm texture suggests this wine will cellar well; with decanting, it is
already approachable. 88-90.