Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Fort Berens: new winemaker with spring releases









Photo: Winemaker James Cambridge


The spring wine release from Fort Berens Estate Winery comes with the announcement of a “new” winemaker.

James Cambridge joins the Lillooet winery for the second time in his career. He first made the wines for Fort Berens in 2012 and is described as the  winery’s “foundational” winemaker.

“He produced our exceptional 2012 vintage under trying conditions,” co-proprietor Rolf de Bruin writes. At the time, Fort Berens had not yet completed a processing facility. Even so, the 2012 Riesling that James made garnered a Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Fort Berens.


James left Fort Berens in 2013 to make wine at Backyard Vineyards near Langley. Now, on his return to Lillooet, he will be working in a thoroughly modern winery with fruit from a well-managed vineyard.

An Ontario native, James is a graduate of Niagara College, where he finished at the top of his class in the enology and viticulture program. He started his career with Henry of Pelham and the Creekside Estate Winery in Ontario. Since coming to the Okanagan, he has made wine at Summerhill Pyramid Winery, Le Vieux Pin and LaStella wineries, as well as Fort Berens Estate Winery.

James succeeds the two young South Africans, winemaker Danny Hattingh and his viticulturist partner Megan DeVillieres. After five years at Fort Berens, they left to travel.

“We are thankful to both Danny and Megan for their contributions to our team, our winery and to our wine region,” Rolf writes. They produced “such amazing wines over the years.”  

Now marking its 10th anniversary, Fort Berens this year will complete doubling the size of its vineyards to 38 planted acres. The winery has also begun buying grapes from other emerging vineyards in the area.

“This means that we will continue our transition from sourcing grapes in the Okanagan, Similkameen and Thompson appellations,” Rolf writes. The winery’s goal is that its fruit should be entirely from the Lillooet appellation which was declared last year.

Here are notes on the wines.

Fort Berens Riesling 2018 ($17.99 for 1,164 cases). This juicy, off-dry but well-balanced wine begins with aromas of apple and citrus, followed by flavours of peach, like and grapefruit. Bright acidity gives the wine a zesty, refreshing finish. 90.

Fort Berens Dry Riesling 2018 ($18.99 for 394 cases). The wine begins with aromas of lemon and lime, leading to flavours of citrus and green apples around a spine of minerals. I recommend cellaring this wine for another year to allow the development of all the latent characteristics of a fine Riesling. 91.

Fort Berens Pinot Gris 2018 ($17.99). This wine was fermented cool in stainless steel. A quarter was fermented with indigenous yeast, adding complexity to the finished blend. The wine begins with aromas of pear, apple and peach that are echoed on the palate. The finish is crisp and refreshing. 91.

Fort Berens Chardonnay 2017 ($18.99 for 578 cases). A portion of this was fermented in stainless steel; a smaller portion was fermented in barrels (new and used), some with cultured yeast and some with indigenous yeast. The wines were then blended into barrels and aged eight months. The result is a delicious fruit-forward wine with aromas of pear, nectarine and citrus, echoed in the lively fruit flavours on the palate.  The finish is dry. 91.

Fort Berens Rosé 2018 ($17.99 for 896 cases). This wine is a blend of 66% Pinot Noir, 27% Gamay, with a splash of Muscat. It has aromas and flavours of raspberry and cranberry, with a touch of residual sugar to add texture. The hue is fashionably pale. 90.






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