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Fort Berens Estate Winery

Our Vineyard

Hot sunny days, cool nights and the nearby cloud-catching Coast Mountains make Lillooet an ideal climate for growing grapes.

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Our varietals:

We planted our first vines in 2009. We currently have 20-acres planted and in full production. Currently, we are growing the following estate varietals:

Whites: Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Riesling
Reds: Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Franc

We chose to plant these varietals based on advice from industry experts Harry McWatters and Richard Cleave and by studying results from former Lillooet Mayor Christ’l Roshard and her husband Doug Robson’s experimental vineyard in Lillooet. We factored in learnings from The Lillooet Grape Project including weather tracking data, average heat units and the growing season to help us select these varietals.

While we were planting our vines, we also started production in 2009 with grapes purchased from the Okanagan. We now have three vintages produced from grapes from our Estate vineyard in Lillooet. In 2014, the vineyard will be in full production, equivalent to around 4,500 to 5,000 cases of wine. In order to continue our planned growth in production, we continue to buy a small amount of grapes from selected growers in the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys.

Our soils:

Our soils are a result of deposits made during the last ice-age from about 100,000 years ago through about 10,000 years ago, at a time when glaciers dominated the valley. The Fraser River bench is a composite of gravely soil, loam, river rock and sand, with excellent drainage and rather poor organic material content - a great combination for vines, which like to work hard to produce excellent quality fruit.

The climate:

The climate is very similar to the traditional grape growing regions in the Okanagan with long, hot, dry summers. Often, the Lillooet-Lytton area is the ‘hot spot’ in Canada. We differ in that our nights are cooler, making our average summer temperatures slightly lower than the Okanagan, but at the same time preserving the fresh crisp acidity in our wines that we like so well. Our location in Lillooet is positioned opposite the largest gap in the Coast Mountain range where Cayoosh Creek runs down to meet the Fraser River. This has the advantage of giving us additional sunlight hours and heat from mid-September through early November, when the sun sets in this valley. This gap extends our growing season in this important period for ripening our grapes

Our vineyard philosophy:

Megan de Villiers; Vineyard Manager

Megan is originally from South Africa and earned a bachelor’s degree in viticulture at the University of Stellenbosch through the Cape Institute for Agricultural Training, including cellar technology and plant production. A green thumb with a head for academics, Megan also took a number of business courses including law, business management, economics and financial accounting.  Before moving to Lillooet with her winemaker partner Danny, Megan worked at vineyards on Vancouver’s coastal islands and the Okanagan.