Thursday, April 6, 2023

Wesbert Winery has breathed life into a boutique Naramata property

Photo: Pieter Coetzer
When they were shopping for an Okanagan winery, Dr. Wessel Joubert and his partner, Pieter Coetzer, drove past a closed winery on Naramata Road three times before deciding to buy it. The property now operates as Wesbert Winery, offering an extensive portfolio that shows the new owners have overcome the property’s chequered past.
The original winery on this property, 3 Mile Estate Winery, opened in 2011, only to fail in 2014. The property was taken over by an Edmonton businessman who renamed it Quidni Estate Winery. It failed in 2017, to re-open in 2020 with the current owners and a new name. Wessel and Pieter, along with their families, emigrated from South Africa in 2016. “It is a better lifestyle,” Pieter says. “It is safer here. We did not see a future in South Africa for us.”
A doctor, Wessel practises in Alberta. Pieter, who was a hospitality manager in South Africa, applies that experience to managing the winery’s tasting room, looking after vineyards and making wines. “He always wanted a winery,” Pieter says of his partner. “One day, he told me he had signed me up for the short courses at Okanagan College in the wine industry. He said he wanted to have a winery in five years time. None of us were in the industry at all. The idea was initially I would do one of the courses at Okanagan College and then work in the industry a bit; go back for the winter; do the same the next year. After I had done all of the courses and gained a bit of knowledge, then we would start looking for a place to buy.”
In 2019, Pieter enrolled in a viticulture course. He was staying in a bed and breakfast on Naramata Road when Wessel decided to visit the Okanagan. “We saw this property was for sale,” Pieter recalls. “We did not think much about it. A month later, we drove by it again and saw a sold sign. Two months later, we drove by again and the winery was back on the market.” This time, they decided to buy it. “It is small enough that we can do most of it ourselves,” Pieter says. “It has a good location on the bench, with three guest suites for extra income. We decided to jump for it. We re-opened the guest suites in 2019 and the wine shop in 2020, with four wines and a lot of Covid-19.” Pieter says now that the slow wine touring summer in 2020 gave the new owners a chance to figure out how to run a winery. “It also gave the local community a chance to come and see who we are and what we can offer. We now have many regulars coming back, having a bottle of wine on the patio.”
The new owners hired a vineyard management company to revive the winery’s 2½ -acre vineyard, which was overgrown with a tangle of weeds and vines. However, Pieter was able to salvage about 60% of what should have been a normal harvest. He now has control over the vineyard, which is planted to Gamay, Gewürztraminer and Viognier, which a modest number of Pinot Gris and Cabernet Franc vines. “At first, we bought whatever grapes we could so we could have something to sell,” Pieter says. “That is how we ended up with about 15 wines in our third year. We will slowly and surely see what is working and what does not sell, and reduce the portfolio.” In 2020, the winery purchased a second vineyard on the Naramata Bench from Kettle Valley Winery. Some 4.3 acres in size, it grows Syrah, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot.
The first Wesbert wines were made by consulting winemaker Pascal Madevon. Subsequently, Sal D’Angelo and his son, Chris, have helped Pieter master winemaking. “We are gaining experience,” Pieter told me in an interview last September. “I seem to be doing not too bad.” That was shown when a Wesbert Syrah 2020 was judged the red wine of the year at last year’s All-Canadian Wine Championships. Many of Wesbert’s wines are named for family members. Here are notes on wine I tasted last September. While many may now be sold out, the solid quality that the third winery at this Naramata Road location will succeed.
Wesbert Des Sparkling White 2021 ($29.95). This is a blend of Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer. This is a juicy, fruity wine with aromas and flavours of apple and melon. 88.
Wesbert Sparkling Rosé 2021 ($29.95). This is a Charmat method sparkling made with Merlot grapes. It has an appealing pink hue, active bubbles, along with aromas and flavours of strawberry and rhubarb. 89.
Wesbert Bettie’s Meritage White 2021 ($33.95). This is a blend of co-fermented Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon. It begins with grassy, citrus aromas leading to flavours of lemon and lime. The finish is crisply dry. 90.
Wesbert Adelaide White 2019 ($20). This is a blend of 29% Gewürztraminer and 71% Viognier. The wine has the classic full texture of Viognier, with aromas and flavours of pear and nectarine. 91.
Wesbert Gewürztraminer 2021 ($21.99). This is a refreshing, dry Gewürztraminer with spice and lychee aromas and flavours. 90.
Wesbert Viognier 2021 ($24.95). The winery sourced fruit from Osoyoos as well as from the Naramata Bench, combining the richness of the South Okanagan with the freshness of Naramata. The result is a juicy wine with apricots and orange zest on the palate. 90.
Wesbert Rosé 2021 ($27.95). Made with Merlot grapes, this wine has an attractive rose hue, with aromas and flavours of strawberry. A touch of residual sugar gives the wine a juicy finish. 90. Wesbert Gamay 2020 ($29.95). This wine has a surprisingly brooding personality for a Gamay, with aromas of dark fruits and pepper and flavours of dark cherry. 89.
Wesbert Merlot 2019 ($35). This medium-bodied wine has aromas and flavours of blueberry and dark cherry. 90.
Wesbert Syrah 2020 ($32.95). This is a luscious wine with spicy aromas and flavours of plum and dark cherry. The wine was aged 12 months in French and American oak barrels. 92.
Wesbert Pinotage 2020 ($29.95). This is a fruity wine with aromas and flavours of cherry and pomegranate. 9o.
Wesbert Pinotage Reserve 2020 ($39.95). This is a full-bodied wine with floral perfume on the nose and with generous flavours of cherry, pomegranate and blackberry. 92.
Wesbert Wise Guy Reserve 2020 ($44.95). This is a blend of 65% Merlot and 35% Cabernet Franc. The wine was aged 17 months in oak (25% new). It has aromas and flavours of black cherry, plum and spice. 92.
Wesbert Old Timer’s Red Blend 2018 ($39.95). This is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Pinot Noir. It was aged one year in barrel. The additional bottle age has given the wine a rich texture and layers of fruit flavours ranging from cherry to ripe strawberry. 92.

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