Photo: Rolf de Bruin and Heleen Pennekoek
Rolf de Bruin and Heleen Pannekoek took a risk in 2009 when they planted 20 acres of vines just outside Lillooet for their Fort Berens Estate Winery.
Lillooet is a totally new viticultural area for
British Columbia. The
experience that others have had growing grapes was minimal and on a hobby
scale. De Bruin and Pannekoek, recent immigrants from Holland, had their resources on the line.
Happily, that vineyard has begun to prove itself. Last year, in its second year of production, it produced 48 tons of grapes. This year, with vine growth already three weeks ahead of last year, Rolf expects between 65 and 70 tons of grapes.
“The vineyard is looking better than ever,” Rolf says. One reason, in additional to vine maturity, is that Rolf this year has employed an experienced vineyard manager, Terry Hammond, who had previously worked at Road 13 and Mission Hill.
Rolf has already begun to think about planting another 20 acres, although he will hold off as long as he can to make sure that
has absorbed the lessons from the current vineyard. Fort Berens
In 2012, the winery made about 4,000 cases of wine from its own grapes and from purchased grapes. For example, Rolf buys Cabernet Sauvignon from the Okanagan for the winery’s Meritage because he did not plant that late ripening variety at Lillooet.
This year’s vintage should produce at least 5,000 cases. Rolf needs it all since
has been selling
out its wines each year. Fort
The anticipated rise in production has triggered the decision to move the bulk of the winemaking to Okanagan Crush Pad’s Summerland facility in 2013. Aside from limited production in Lillooet each year,
has been making its wines since 2009 at the Township 7 winery just outside Penticton.
has now outgrown the capacity of Township 7. Fort Berens
The move to OCP also gives
access to the winemaking team at OCP. James Cambridge, who made the 2012
vintage for Fort Berens Fort Berens,
recently moved to Backyard Vineyards in Langley.
“We are sad he has left,” Rolf says. “He was phenomenal in making our 2012 vintage. The 2012 Chardonnay [not yet released] is probably the best I have tasted from all our vintages.”
Here are notes on the current releases.