Photo: Winemaker Andrea Lee
In July 2015, Andrea
Lee returned as chief winemaker at Langley’s
Chaberton Estate Winery where she once had been a cellar hand.
It was a bit of a rush for the petite Summerland native. The
2015 vintage was one of the earliest in British
Columbia. It was a scramble to get ready to receive
the 600 tons of grapes that the winery processed last fall.
“It has been a roller coaster ride,” she said in November.
“As soon as I came, wines had to be cold stabilized. Then I had to put them to
sleep in the finished products cellar. And I also had to bottle 100,000 litres
to make room, to get the capacity for harvest. It was just full on since July.”
She also arrived at a
time when the winery, which opened 25 years ago as Domaine de Chaberton, was
streamlining its image.
The winery dropped “Domaine de” from its labels. The original
owners of the winery, the first in the Fraser
, had emigrated from France
family of founder Claude Violet once had a property there called Domaine de
Chaberton and the name had resonance.
lawyer Eugene Kwan
and Hong Kong
businessman Anthony Cheng, who
bought the winery in 2004, retained the name in respect for the founders. But
after eleven years, they decided that a little updating was in order.
They also reduced a confusing array of labels. Canoe Cove
and North Bluff, which they had created after buying the winery, have now been
dropped. The Chaberton wines now come primarily in three tiers: the House Wine
tier, the Valley tier and the Reserve tier.
On top of that, there is a super-reserve tier called AC for
the pricey, limited release reds that Anthony Cheng and the Chaberton
winemakers blended in several vintages since 2008. Andrea had a hand in making
some of the blending components during her first stint at Chaberton. She was a
cellar hand here during four vintages from 2007 through 2010.
Born in Hong Kong
, she was
nine years old when her parents immigrated to Summerland and opened a Chinese
Andrea did not set out on a wine career when she enrolled at
Simon Fraser University
to study molecular biology and biochemistry
(something “very boring,” she says now). On graduating in 2006, she took a
research internship with a pharmaceutical firm until the company, amid a
business downturn, laid off staff.
She took the opportunity to travel, ending up in New Zealand
until a car accident prevented here from continuing in a vineyard job. She came
back to Summerland and, after recuperating, went to work in the wine shop at
Sumac Ridge Estate Winery and then at Chaberton. To upgrade her wine skills, she enrolled at the University
master’s degree in enology.
On graduating in 2012 she turbocharged her career by making
wine in both hemispheres. She worked with three different Australian wineries,
including Josef Chromy Wines, a distinguished producer in Tasmania. Back in the Okanagan, she made the
2014 wines for two Summerland wineries, Sage Hills Winery and Saxon Winery.
She returned to Chaberton in 2015 when her predecessor
there, Barbara Hall, moved to Burrowing Owl Estate Winery in the south
The current releases from Chaberton have Barbara’s capable
fingers on them even if Andrea finished some of the 2014s.
If Andrea joined just in time for a rushed and hectic
vintage, she also came in a very good vintage, especially for the Fraser Valley
While Chaberton sources grapes from both the Okanagan and the Similkameen, it
also has a 40-acre estate vineyard, by far the single largest vineyard in the Fraser Valley
And it happens that Andrea is something of a Fraser Valley
“That is the beauty of the Fraser Valley
she says while pouring a glass of Chaberton’s superb Dry Bacchus Reserve. “The
sugars do not usually reach more than 20 brix, but it is such a delicate
aromatic wine. The acid is still preserved because we do not get that many heat
degree days. I am very happy that the Fraser Valley
has this flagship grape. I have to say that the Fraser Valley
has not been praised like the Okanagan. It is still up and coming. It is a good
grape variety and it is suitable to growing here, versus the Okanagan.”
Here are notes on the wines.
Reserve 2014 ($15.95). As white wines go, this is the thespian wine that
steals the scene with dramatic aromas and flavours: lychee, lime and
grapefruit. It is balanced to finish dry. The blend is 95% Siegerrebe, 3%
Gewürztraminer and 2% Viognier. 90.
Chaberton Dry Bacchus
($15.00). Made from Fraser
grapes, this wine
is crisply dry on the palate, with intense flavours of lime and lemon. The
tangy finish is refreshing. 90.
Reserve 2014 ($15.00). This is the off-dry version, with just a touch of
residual sugar still well balanced with fresh acidity. It has aromas and
flavours of grapefruit. 89.
Gewürztraminer Reserve 2014
($15.95). The wine has rich aromas of spice and
orange peel, leading to a rich palate, with flavours of tangerine, peach and
apricot. The finish is slightly off-dry. 89.
Reserve 2014 ($15.95). The winery changed the style from the previous
vintage when the Riesling was off-dry. This is dry although the fruit
concentration on the palate has a pleasing sweetness. The wine has floral
aromas and flavours of citrus and peach. 90.
Chaberton Pinot Gris
Reserve 2014 ($15.95). Made with Similkameen grapes, this fleshy wine begins
with fruity aromas that lead to flavours of apple and peach. 89.
Chaberton Valley Chardonnay 2013
($13.30). This unoaked
white is 86% Chardonnay, 14% Viognier. It has aromas of pear and citrus,
leading to flavours of apple, tangerine and vanilla. 89.
Chaberton Valley Gamay 2013
($14.75). The blend here is
85% Gamay Noir, 7% Merlot and 8% Syrah. It is a delicious wine with aromas and
flavours of cherry, strawberry jam and spice. 90.
Chaberton Valley Cab 2013
($15.95). This is 85%
Cabernet Franc, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a quaffable wine with a soft,
juicy texture. It has aromas and flavours of cherry and blackberry. 88.
Chaberton Valley Red 2014
($13.30). Another quaffable
medium-bodied red with a fruity aroma, this wine delivers flavours of black
cherry and liquorice. 88.
Merlot 2012 ($22.60). This wine has
an elegant, seamless texture. It has aromas and flavours of cassis and
blueberries, with a lingering spicy finish.
Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($21.99). This wine, a blend of Naramata and Oliver
grapes, was aged 27 months in French oak. This wine is svelte and elegant in
structure. It begins with aromas of cassis and vanilla and delivers flavours of
black cherry, fig, plum and vanilla. The wine benefits from decanting and will
also benefit from another four or five years of cellaring. 91.
Syrah 2011 ($27). Dark in colour, the wine begins with meaty aromas
incorporating red berries and pepper. On the palate, there are flavours of black
cherry and blackberry crisply wrapped up with notes of black pepper and vanilla
on the finish. The texture is medium to full-bodied, with a long finish. 90.
Chaberton Reserve Meritage 2013 ($24.30). The blend is 50% Cabernet
Sauvignon, 35% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc. The wine, which was aged 16
months in oak, begins with bold, ripe aromas of red fruit. On the palate, there
are flavours of black cherry, plum and cassis with notes of cassis on the
lingering finish. 91.