Photo: The vineyard at Fort Berens
Now that spring has finally arrived, Lillooet’s Fort Berens Estate Winery can begin planting what it calls its north vineyard.
To be planted over two seasons, it will add 18 acres of vineyard, essentially doubling the acreage the winery has under vine. It confirms the success of the risk undertaken in 2009 when Rolf de Bruin and Heleen Pannekoek, the founders of Fort Berens, pioneered viticulture at Lillooet.
“The expansion of the vineyard reflects our confidence in the Lillooet area growing region our determination to produce wines from our estate and from grapes from other vineyards in the Lillooet region,” they said in a recent note on the winery’s website. It also represents their anticipation that Lillooet is about to be recognized as a sub-appellation under the VQA rules.
This spring, Fort Berens will plant five acres of Cabernet Franc and four acres of Merlot. Next year, the winery intends to plant 3.5 acres of Riesling, another two acres of Merlot, two acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and 1.5 acres of Grüner Veltliner.
The winery has just released two whites and a rosé from the 2017 vintage. “In a lot of ways, this was one of our most challenging vintages,” Rolf writes in a letter accompanying the wines. “After a few abundant vintages, we are now dealing with a smaller vintage. As farmers, we have to deal with the impact of the fluctuations in seasons and other new challenges. … [But] we are very proud of the quality of this vintage.”
Here are notes on the wines.
Fort Berens Riesling 2017 ($17.99 for 864 cases). This wine is slightly off dry but well-balanced, with a full texture and lingering flavours. It begins with aromas of lime and apple, leading to flavours of citrus and apple. The wine has almost 28 grams of residual sugar, which gives it a fleshy texture, but the eight grams of acidity offset the sugar and creates a pleasing tension on the palate. This wine is drinking well but it will age very nicely and develop even more complex flavours and aromas. 91.
Fort Berens Pinot Gris 2017 ($17.99 for 824 cases). The grapes are 80% from the estate vineyard and 20% from a Similkameen vineyard. Fifteen per cent of the juice was fermented in barrel with wild yeast; the rest was fermented in stainless steel. The wine begins with rich aromas of pineapple and mango. On the palate, there are flavours of ripe cantaloupe, pineapple and pear with a touch of minerality. The barrel-fermented portion as well as the 10.5 grams of residual sugar give the wine mouth-filling texture. 90.
Fort Berens Rosé 2017 ($17.99 for 658 cases). This is made with 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Gamay Noir. The Pinot Noir grapes were cold-soaked for three days before being pressed, to achieve the delicate rose petal hue. The wine begins with aromas of strawberries. On the palate, there are flavours of wild strawberries and raspberries. Just a hint of natural sweetness gives the wine a juicy texture. This is a wine with languid summer picnics written all over it – a delightful and satisfying rosé. 91.