April 15th 2014 — LILLOOET, BC – The weather is heating up, the sun is shining and the season is off to a great start for Fort Berens Estate Winery in Lillooet. With some major milestones behind them, including the groundbreaking of their new winery in the fall and winning White Wine of the Year at Cornucopia in November, the team is bursting with excitement as spring blossoms. For Fort Berens, this spring brings new growth to their team, the blossoming of their winery construction project and a bountiful spring release of their favourite and new varietals.
Rolf de Bruin, founder and one of the owners of Fort Berens, announced, “We are absolutely delighted to welcome Megan de Villiers and Danny Hattingh to the Fort Berens team. Megan is our new Vineyard Manager and Danny is our new Winemaker. They are a couple in real life and also in the vineyard and cellar. They have worked together as a winery team for a number of years and join our team with experience from South Africa, the Southern Gulf Islands and the Okanagan. When Heleen and I met with Danny and Megan, we felt an immediate connection with them as we discovered that their journey was not unlike ours. We have all enjoyed many great adventures along the way. While our paths were different, those paths led all of us to Lillooet, and we are so pleased that Megan and Danny are joining us here.”
Megan and their dog Kimbra have already settled in Lillooet and Danny will be joining them in the next few weeks. Megan explained, “We feel like we are very compatible with Rolf, Heleen and the team. We are both ready for this next adventure and to begin exploring Lillooet. Geologically, this area is very different from other areas where we’ve worked, yet the climate is very similar, so we are excited to work in this new area and to see what we can create in this unique geographical pocket. We are both very passionate and motivated as we take on these new challenges in our careers.”
Given the growth that Fort Berens has seen in recent years and their future plans, Danny and Megan are well positioned to help Fort Berens meet their ambitious goals. Winery co-owner Heleen Pannekoek continued, “Hiring Danny and Megan, combined with the building of our new winery, are major steps forward. We have moved from purchasing Okanagan fruit to growing our own grapes. This year, we anticipate 75-80% of our wine will be made with estate grown grapes. In addition, all of our wine will be made in our own onsite cellar and bottled in our own facility.”
Rolf also provided an update on the winery construction process. “We are on track with the building of our new 9,500 square foot building which will include an 1,100 square foot tasting room, overlooking the vineyards with a gorgeous view of the mountains in the background. We anticipate opening the tasting room by the end of July, and we are already working on plans for an official grand opening celebration in September.”
After a few years of working at different wineries, Danny, who is eagerly anticipating the completion of the construction so he can begin making wine in this new state-of-the-art building, is also very excited to work with Megan again. He explained, “We both studied in the same school. We know and trust each other and we can communicate what we need from each other. It’s been said that wine is made in the vineyard and I truly believe this. I want to make wine from the vines and grapes that Megan tends to. We are on the same page and we take a real team approach to the way we grow grapes and make wine. Rolf and Heleen have an amazing vineyard and, along with the other owners, they have a very specific and well thought out plan for the future. There are an additional 20 acres on the Fort Berens property to be planted in the coming years, so we’ll be working hard to learn which varietals, clones and rootstocks are best suited to the area.”
Spring marks a key time of renewal for the team, as they release their latest vintage. Heleen beamed with excitement for their spring releases, “We have finished bottling and are extremely pleased to be launching our latest releases. Our last vintage of wines sold out early, so our shelves have been empty for some time. We are delighted to start showcasing our new vintages, which include our 23 Camels White 2013, 23 Camels Red 2012, Pinot Gris 2013, Riesling 2013 and Pinot Noir Rosé 2013. This vintage marks another important milestone for us, as all of our 2013 white releases are 100% estate grown for the first time in our history.”
“In addition, we continue to expand our portfolio, and we are happy to (re-)introduce a new product, our Late Harvest Riesling 2013. This food friendly wine is a beautiful pre-dinner apéritif and it also pairs perfectly with dessert. Our enhanced product line means we now have a Fort Berens pairing for every course in a multi-course dinner.”
“All of the pieces of our plan are really coming together and we feel like we are in great shape going in to this key season. We are very pleased with our growing team, the progress on the construction of our new winery and our new releases. Our vineyard is in great shape and producing at full capacity, and we are ready and excited for the season”, explained Rolf. With everything in place for spring and the upcoming season, both on the team and in the wineshop, 2014 is looking to be an excellent year filled with important milestones for Fort Berens.
Fort Berens Estate Winery is the first winery in Lillooet, BC. It is located on a sage-brush covered bench at the base of the Fraser Canyon’s snow-capped mountains. For more information, call 1.877.956.7768, visit www.fortberens.ca or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.
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Recently, various wine critics reviewed our wines and this is what they had to say about our wine:
90 points for Cabernet Franc 2011
The grapes for this Franc are from 65% estate fruit with the rest sourced from the Black Sage Vineyard in South Okanagan. The nose shows currants, bramble, anise, stewed herbs, licorice and a basket of red berries and spice. It’s a substantive CF with bold and spicy fruit delivered on a firm tannic backbone with enough acidity to keep it fresh and lively.
Rick VanSickle – September 30th 2013
90 points for Chardonnay 2012
At just over 50 degrees latitude, Fort Berens, in Lillooet, sits at the northern limit of the wine-grape belt. But it’s blessed with clearer skies and drier air than pretty much any other wine district at that boundary. Owners Rolf de Bruin and Heleen Pannekoek had been sourcing chardonnay from the Okanagan to supplement their estate fruit because it takes time for vines to yield much quality fruit. This is their first 100-per-cent all-estate chardonnay. Remarkable, too. Full-bodied and mellow, it shows surprisingly ripe pineapple and stone-fruit flavours, with a buttery texture enlivened by bright acidity. If this were made in California, it would easily fetch twice the price.
Beppi Crosariol – Globe and Mail – September 17th 2013