Friday, November 6, 2015

Fort Berens becomes a hot spot

 Photo: Fort Berens has a grand entrance

Lillooet’s Fort Berens Estate Winery has been on a roll this year.

Its three most recently released reds all have already won gold and silver medals at major American wine competitions.

And now the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association have given the winery two awards – one for excellence in digital marketing and one for “thinking outside the box.”

The latter award seems only too appropriate for founders Rolf de Bruin and Heleen Pannekoek, who pioneered an entirely new British Columbia wine region when they planted their first 20 acres of grapes at Lillooet in 2009.

Since then, they have added six partners to the business. That helped finance a new winery, an attractive building that was an instant landmark in Lillooet. The patio kitchen enabled Fort Berens to serve lunch through the touring season this year. That proved so popular that the winery continued to offer brunch and lunch on weekends into the fall.

In fact, quite a lot of activity has taken place around the winery, adding to Lillooet’s social life and attracting more tourists. That has included music events, art shows and car shows. As Rolf wrote in a recent note: “Fort Berens is becoming the hot spot in town for locals and a key destination point for people in Whistler, Kamloops, Vancouver and beyond.”

“We designed the winery, the approach to our Discovery Club Wine Club, and our Bootcamp series in such a way that we could share with visitors our passion for making great wines and our passion for Lillooet,” Rolf added. “It’s important to us that our guests are left feeling like they are part of the discovery with us. We are thankful that wine lovers recognize and appreciate all that we put into the quality of our wines, our brand and the overall experience that our guests have with us.”  

In the letter accompanying the release of the three newest reds, Rolf also disclosed that Fort Berens will add another red blend to its portfolio. Called Red Gold, the wine is a blend of fruit from Osoyoos, the Similkameen and the estate vineyard. Selected from just the best barrels in the cellar, only 130 cases (plus some large format bottles) of Red Gold 2014 have been produced. It will be released in the fall of 2016.

Here are notes on the current releases:

Fort Berens Pinot Noir 2013 ($24.99 for 524 cases). This vibrant, medium-bodied wine is made from five clones of Pinot Noir grown on the winery’s estate terroir at Lillooet. It has aromas and flavours of cherry and raspberry, with savoury and spicy notes on the finish. The texture juicy and has begun to develop the classic silky finish of Pinot Noir. 88.

Fort Berens Cabernet Franc 2013 ($24.99 for 743 cases). This wine begins with aromas of black cherry, blackberry and plum. These are echoed on the palate, along with a subtle note of oak. Brambly and full-bodied, this is simply a delicious wine. 90.

Fort Berens Meritage 2013 ($22.99 for 1,246 cases). This is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grapes, of which 45% are estate grown and 55% are from the Sundial Vineyard on Black Sage Road. Dark in colour, the wine begins with aromas of dark fruit mingled with notes of toasted oak and graphite. On the palate, the wine is full-bodied, with savoury flavours of black currant and black cherry. The minerality suggested by the aroma follows through to broaden and enrich the palate. Cellar this wine another two or three years so that it can approach its peak. 91


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