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Fort Berens Estate Winery


Fort Berens Estate Winery Riesling Wins Best White Wine at Pacific Rim Wine Competition

Riesling 2018 GOLD – Best in Class & Best White Pacific Rim Wine Competition 2019 Riesling Reserve 2017 GOLD – National Wine Awards 2018 Riesling 2017 GOLD – British Columbia Lieutenant Governor’s Wine Awards 2018 Riesling 2016 GOLD – Los Angeles International Wine Competition 2017 GOLD – Pacific Rim Wine Competition 2017 Dry Riesling 2016 GOLD – Los Angeles International Wine Competition 2017 GOLD – Pacific Rim Wine Competition 2017 Riesling 2015 Double Gold - San Francisco International Wine Competition 2016 Riesling 2013 GOLD – Pacific Rim Wine Competition 2014 Riesling 2012 LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR’S AWARD for Excellence in British Columbia Wines, 2014 GOLD & BEST IN CLASS (91 points) – Los Angeles International Wine & Spirits Competition 2013 Riesling 2011 GOLD and BEST IN CLASS – Pacific Rim Wine Competition 2012] LILLOOET, BC – The Riesling 2018 from Fort Berens Estate Winery in Lillooet has just received top honours.  It was named Best White Wine at the 2019 Pacific Rim Wine Competition. After winning Best in Class for the Riesling category, it went on to be awarded the Best White Wine in the entire competition.

Rolf de Bruin, co-founder and co-owner of Fort Berens shared, “We are honoured and humbled to see our Riesling recognized with this outstanding award from such a prestigious international wine competition. We could not be more proud that this Lillooet Riesling was judged to be the top of its class in this international wine competition. In addition to the Best White Wine award for the Riesling 2018, we were also awarded a Double Gold for the 2018 Riesling Reserve at this competition.”

Since 1985, the Pacific Rim Wine Competition has held a two-day, blind-tasting event with an esteemed panel of international judges representing all aspects of the wine industry. The judges evaluate the wines and award medals accordingly. This competition celebrates high-quality wines of all styles, from all regions of the world. The 2019 competition featured 1,000 wines from wineries around the world.

While there were many Canadian wineries that received a variety of medals in the competition, the Fort Berens Riesling 2018 was the only Canadian wine to be included in the list of the top 5 wines of the competition.

Rolf explained, “As the first winery in Lillooet, we see it as our duty to showcase the region and our unique terroir. From early days, we knew that the Riesling grape was able to express the Lillooet terroir. Our 2012 Riesling won the very prestigious 2014 Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in British Columbia Wines. Since that time, our Rieslings have been awarded numerous prizes along the way. See the sidebar for a list of all Gold medals awarded to Fort Berens Riesling. These outstanding results reaffirm that Riesling is one of the signature grapes for our winery and the Lillooet region. The region experiences huge diurnal variations during late summer and early fall. These swings from high daytime temperatures to cool nights preserve the fresh fruit qualities of our grapes. The retained acidity allows for superb balancing of residual sugar at a number of different points, whether the wine is dry, off-dry or medium sweet. The versatility of the Riesling grape combined with the excellent growing conditions in Lillooet, create an award-winning combination.”

Fort Berens was awarded a number of medals at the 2019 Pacific Rim Wine Competition, including:

Riesling 2018 – Gold, Best in Class, Best White Wine

Riesling Reserve 2018 – Double Gold

Rosé 2018 – Double Gold

Cabernet Franc Reserve 2016 – Gold

Chardonnay 2017 – Silver

Pinot Gris 2018 – Bronze

Pinot Noir 2016 – Bronze

Fort Berens wines are available for sale at the winery, online, and at fine liquor stores and restaurants around BC. 

For the full list of winners visit:

Fort Berens Estate Winery is a culmination of the dreams, vision and pioneering spirit of several entrepreneurs – Heleen Pannekoek, Rolf de Bruin, Hugh Agro, Sean Harvey, Jason Neal, John McConnell, Tara Christie, Raymond Rae, Joseph Neal, Dan Barnholden and Patrick & Caroline Downey. The owners of Fort Berens share a common belief in the incredible winemaking potential of the area and a shared vision to make Fort Berens into one of Canada’s leading producers of fine wine. With its vineyards on sagebrush covered benchland along the Fraser River at the base of towering mountains, Fort Berens embraces the spirit of Lillooet. Discover Fort Berens Estate Winery, Lillooet’s first winery, in BC’s newest wine region and explore 150 years of pioneering spirit. For more information, call 1.877.956.7768, visit, or follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Rolf de Bruin
January 23, 2017 | Rolf de Bruin

2016 Vintage Report

2016 Vintage Overview

As we reflect back, we are very happy with our 2016 vintage. The season started very early with some consistently warm days, lots of rain, followed by warm, dry weather. The longer season and lots of rain at the right time helped produce a bigger crop than we saw in 2015. The summer was hot, without excessive heat spikes, which allowed the heavy crop of grapes time to ripen beautifully, resulting in nicely developed phenolics and good acidity.

Our 2016 whites, which will be released in spring 2017, are fruit-forward, complex and aromatic. Our estate-grown Pinot Gris is by far the best we’ve ever produced. For the first time, we’ll have our traditional, slightly off-dry Riesling and we’re excited to introduce a new drier-style Riesling. Our 2016 reds, which will be released in the fall of 2018, will be beautifully balanced. They will be bigger with lots of fruit characteristics, while remaining very approachable and very drinkable. We’re very pleased with our Pinot Noir and anticipate it being a real highlight of this vintage. We’re also thrilled with how the barrel fractions are tasting for our 2016 Red Gold.

With the great growth of grapes, new techniques in the cellar and the expertise from our hardworking vineyard and winemaking teams, we are expecting some of our best wines from this vintage. Not only are we proud of the quality of this vintage, we are fortunate that the heavier crops means we’ll have more wine available to keep your wine cellars full! 2016 is going to be a fabulous vintage and we can’t wait to share it with you.

2016 Vintage Report – An In-Depth Review

Our 2016 vintage had an early start with a consistently warm March, April and May in Lillooet. This led to a strong start after budbreak where the canopy developed quickly. Most of the early stages of development after budbreak were 2-3 weeks ahead of normal.

June & early July were hot and dry. From mid-July onward, we had a number of rain events followed by warm, dry weather. The increased precipitation lead to a higher vigor in canopy than normal and continued growth of our cover crop. Normally, vigor is reduced starting mid-July and the cover crop dries up. While the unusually green vineyard was a beautiful sight, it did demand more attention to keep the canopy in check. With the warmer days and the steady wind, disease pressure was not higher than normal. The summer did not have any excessive heat spikes, like we normally see, which meant that the vines did not shut down due to heat shock at any point during the summer.

Sugar development after veraison was very strong. Temperatures decreased in September during a cooler and cloudy week, which allowed the phenolics to develop without the sugars increasing a lot. Harvest started on September 14th which is consistent with prior years. The quality of the grapes ranged from very good to outstanding, with a great balance in the fruit.

The 2016 vintage was similar to our vintage in 2014, so we had a better sense of how to gauge what was happening in the vineyard and how to manage it better.

What happens in the vineyard is only part of the equation. In the cellar, we applied some new techniques based on our experimental trials from prior years. We continue to create experiments in the cellar that help us learn which techniques really work well with grapes from our Lillooet terroir.

We had a great winemaking team for our 2016 vintage. It was not uncommon for them to work 12-18 hour days. To make great wine, we need to have great people on our team. We were very thankful for these great people that set 2am wake-up calls to do pump-overs and punch-downs. It’s this commitment to excellence that helped us create a vintage we are very proud of.

Highlights from our 2016 Vintage:

  • Our estate 2016 Pinot Gris is by far the best we have ever produced. Our winemaker Danny used a different type of yeast to bring more fruit-forwardness to the Pinot Gris and some increased aromatics. A small fraction was barrel fermented for about a month in new American Oak barrels. This gives the wine more layers. It is more fruit forward with more intense aromatics.
  • Learning from some experiments done with our 2015 Chardonnay, almost 25% of our 2016 Chardonnay was naturally fermented. This spontaneous fermentation uses natural yeast in the vineyard, in the air and in the tanks rather than commercial yeast. This natural fermentation increased the length of the fermentation time, which resulted in a broader flavour profile with more depth and complexity in the wine.
  • Our 2016 White Gold features Chardonnay grapes aged in 60% new oak barrels, resulting in tropical fruit notes that dominate the wine. So even those that don’t like oak-aged Chardonnay will be in for a pleasant treat.
  • Our 2016 Pinot Noir grapes did exceptionally well in the vineyard. Because we didn’t get the scorching heat in the summer, the flavour development was really great. All of our Pinot Noir was made with natural, spontaneous fermentation. In addition, about 25-30% of the grapes were whole-cluster fermented. This resulted in more layers of flavours and more depth to the wine.
  • Our 2016 reds will be beautifully balanced. Because they are not too light or too full, they will be very approachable, very drinkable, with lots of fruit characteristics.
  • The fractions of our 2016 Red Gold are barrel fermenting at this point. In mid-2017, we will begin the blending process. We are committed to a good aging program with our Red Gold, so they will be bottled and bottled aged for another year before release.

Time Posted: Jan 23, 2017 at 9:56 PM