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Fort Berens Estate Winery

News

 

Rolf de Bruin
 
October 30, 2014 | Rolf de Bruin

Fall News and Updates from the Winery and Vineyard

The summer was a whirlwind adventure for us! We completed construction and opened the doors to our beautiful new winery in July. Shortly after that, we had the incredible honour of welcoming the Lieutenant Governor and about 40 members of the Vancouver Consular Corps to Fort Berens. The dry, hot sun shone brightly in Lillooet as Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon presented us with the prestigious 2014 Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in British Columbia Wines for our 2012 Estate Riesling. This was our first Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Fort Berens and the first for this emerging wine region.

The summer continued with a number of other special events including celebrating a first wedding on our winery patio, holding Discovery Club events and welcoming over 1,000 wine and craft beer lovers to the 5th Annual Lillooet Beer and Wine Festival. In September, we also held our official grand opening celebration for the new winery and raised a new flag to mark the opening of our new fort.

This fall we are off to a busy start. We just bottled our 2013 red vintage in Lillooet, and started our harvest on September 12th. We are quite impressed with the vintage thus far! We have particularly high expectations for this vintage as it is the first time we will produce the wine from start to finish in Lillooet. The 2014 vintage will be estate grown, estate produced and estate bottled. With our new winemaking team and our new facility, we are working with smaller batches and lots of even smaller experiments to make our wines even better. We just set out on a huge learning curve to discover what Lillooet really tastes like.

We’ve recently released our fall releases including our Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Meritage and Chardonnay. We are getting some wonderful feedback and reviews already on these new vintages and we are honoured to report that in the recent BC Wine Awards, we received Gold for our Cabernet Franc and Silver for our Pinot Noir and Meritage.

As we approach the upcoming holiday season, we are open Thursday to Monday from 10am to 4pm. Come in and try our new releases. Maybe you'll find a new favourite for your festive parties and holiday dinners. We also offer a selection of wine and gift items perfect for the wine lover on your list. 

Time Posted: Oct 30, 2014 at 10:22 AM
Rolf de Bruin
 
September 23, 2014 | Rolf de Bruin

PRESS RELEASE: Fort Berens opens new winery

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 23, 2014

LILLOOET, BC. On September 18th, Fort Berens Estate Winery held an official grand opening ceremony to celebrate the opening of their new winery building. To mark this key milestone, Hugh Agro, Heleen Pannekoek and Rolf de Bruin, on behalf of the entire ownership team, raised a new flag at their new winery. Dignitaries, media, staff and key supporters were in attendance for the special ceremony.

Photo Credit: Brad Kasselman/coastphoto.com

Rolf de Bruin explained as part of the grand opening ceremony, “More than 150 years ago, with the discovery of gold in British Columbia, the Hudson’s Bay Company set up a trading post on this very site called Fort Berens. The early pioneers that came to Lillooet during that time came in search of gold. They came from afar and often had no idea of what lay ahead. However, they were determined and willing to work hard to uncover the riches of this uncharted territory. They saw the potential of this land and seized it. While the trading post didn’t last long, the pioneering spirit has been forever instilled on this property. At Fort Berens Estate Winery, we’re also pioneers, much like those who settled the area so many years ago. Only this time, instead of gold mining, we’re discovering a new viticulture region in British Columbia and developing a new culture of grape growing and winemaking. Today we mark the official grand opening of our new winery building. Instead of a traditional ribbon cutting, as a tribute to those that built the Hudson’s Bay fort on this site 150 years ago, we are raising a flag to commemorate our new fort.”

Photo Credit: Brad Kasselman/coastphoto.com

Fort Berens’ new winery building is a 9,500 square foot facility including tasting room, crush pad, wine cellar, warehouse and surrounding guest patio and picnic areas. Toronto-based David Agro and Vancouver-based Richard Newell were collaborating architects on the project and Okanagan-based Greyback Construction built the new winery. The tasting room provides a spectacular view of the coastal mountain range and vineyard, so that people can get a sense of the area while enjoying the wines. It was also designed so that guests can view it as a working winery where they can see the process of creating the wine from grape to bottle. The new winery was completed over a period of about twelve months at a cost of approximately $3.5 million. This takes the committed investment into Fort Berens to $8 million to-date and is reflective of the owners’ confidence in Lillooet as an emerging high-potential winemaking region in BC.

Photo Credit: Brad Kasselman/coastphoto.com

Hugh Agro talked about the potential for Fort Berens, Lillooet and this emerging wine region. “From the beginning, all of us involved in Fort Berens have believed in the potential of this business, this terroir and the Lillooet area. We have taken calculated risks and we have constructed a solid foundation from which to build a celebrated brand worthy of the accolades we receive. We feel like we’re on the right path and we are excited to mark this next step in our journey.”

Heleen Pannekoek described the team’s journey so far “We have grown from humble beginnings, selling 170 cases of wine in 2009. This year we plan to produce 6,000 cases. And this is the first year that we will produce our own wine, on our own property, with our own full time winemaker. On our adventure, we have learned and we have experimented. We’ve discovered things that we can do differently. Ways that we can push the boundaries. And we’ve had some great successes. From our early days, we have received a number of awards for our wine. BC, Canadian and International awards and most recently a Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in British Columbia Wines. These awards show us we are on the right track.”

At the completion of the special ceremony, Rolf summarized, “At Fort Berens, we continue to push the boundaries and mindfully and responsibly search for excellence. We look forward to continuing to learn more about the terroir in Lillooet and we are excited to produce unique wines that highlight the distinct flavours of Lillooet.”

They now have the facility to do precisely this! Congratulations to the team at Fort Berens Estate Winery. It will be exciting to watch for their next milestones!

Photo Credit: Brad Kasselman/coastphoto.com

Fort Berens Estate Winery is a culmination of the dreams, vision and pioneering spirit of seven entrepreneurs – Heleen Pannekoek, Rolf de Bruin, Hugh Agro, Sean Harvey, Jason Neal, John McConnell and Dan Barnholden. The seven 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. Alpine breezes, lingering summer sunlight and moderate winters provide a unique terroir ideal for growing premium grapes. 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 www.FortBerens.ca, or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

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For further information and additional photos, please contact:

Kim Lawton

DogLeg Marketing & Business Solutions

250.488.0878

klawton@DogLegMarketing.ca

 

Time Posted: Sep 23, 2014 at 9:10 AM
Rolf de Bruin
 
July 30, 2014 | Rolf de Bruin

PRESS RELEASE: Fort Berens Receives Prestigious Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in BC Wines!

July 30, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

LILLOOET, BC.  Saturday marked a momentous day for Lillooet’s Fort Berens Estate Winery. The dry, hot sun shone brightly in Lillooet as Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon presented Fort Berens the prestigious 2014 Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in British Columbia Wines for their 2012 Estate Riesling.

In addition to the Lieutenant Governor, there were close to 40 members of the Vancouver Consul Corps, local dignitaries including Mark Strahl, Member of Parliament for Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon, Jacquie Rasmussen, Electoral Area B Alternate Director, Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, Lillooet Mayor and Councillors Dennis Bontron, Marg Lampman and Wendy Parker, media, staff and local residents in attendance at the awards presentation.

The Fort Berens team and a crowd of steadfast supporters all choked back feelings of pride and gratitude as Her Honour presented the award. Rolf de Bruin and Heleen Pannekoek, founders of Fort Berens, accepted the award on behalf of the entire team. Rolf first expressed his heartfelt appreciation for this recognition. “One hundred and fifty years ago, early pioneers came to Lillooet to realize their dreams, and with this award, today we realize one of our own dreams. As we look into the future, we see a landscape with the potential to help achieve many more dreams.”

Heleen continued, “Today we are celebrating a Riesling made exclusively with grapes grown in Lillooet. A Riesling deemed to be among the best wines in British Columbia. The viability of grapes in Lillooet was a key milestone, and this marks a new milestone that proves grapes from Lillooet can be of exceptional quality. We are thrilled to be a part of this growing wine region and we are excited to explore all that this region will produce in the coming years.”

The awards ceremony took place outside on the deck of the gorgeous, new winery that opened up earlier this month. Talk about a special way to commemorate the opening! “We have come a long way, and today’s milestone is another important marker on our journey that still has many exciting times to come,” Heleen explained. At the end of the day, Rolf, Heleen and the team raised a glass to celebrate this milestone. It was a very special day where special memories were created for the Fort Berens team.

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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For further information, please contact:

Kim Lawton

DogLeg Marketing & Business Solutions

250.488.0878

klawton@DogLegMarketing.ca

Time Posted: Jul 30, 2014 at 9:05 AM
Rolf de Bruin
 
June 23, 2014 | Rolf de Bruin

Fort Berens Wins First Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in BC Wines!

We are absolutely thrilled to announce that our 2012 Riesling was just awarded the very prestigious 2014 Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in British Columbia Wines. This award marks the first ever Lieutenant Governor’s Award for our winery and the first for our emerging wine region.

This prestigious award is an important milestone for our growing business and the emerging wine region in Lillooet. We have worked very hard on achieving a level of quality that would be worthy of the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in BC Wines. This award for our 100% estate grown 2012 Riesling shows that the Lillooet region has the capacity to produce grapes of such high quality.

We established Fort Berens as the first winery in Lillooet in 2009. To be just five years along this journey and to win such an honour is incredibly humbling for us. We have been able to form a great team of very passionate and dedicated people. Our winery attracts pioneering spirits seeking new adventures that provide them with a chance to mindfully and responsibly explore uncharted territory. Together, we have discovered a new viticultural region in British Columbia that we continue to explore and develop.

Our 2012 Riesling was one of just 12 wines from BC that received this award. Given that this year was the largest competition in the 12-year history of the Lieutenant Governors awards, with 436 wines submitted from 119 wineries across the province, we are truly honoured.

Although our 2012 Riesling is in short supply, our 2013 Riesling, which is also made from 100% estate-grown grapes, is now available and also receiving wonderful early-praise and recognition including a Gold Medal at the Pacific Rim Wine Competition at the end of April and a Silver Medal at both the 2014 Los Angeles International Wine & Spirits Competition and the 2014 Riverside International Wine Competition.

Her Honour, the Honourable Judith Guichon, will visit our winery on Saturday, July 26th to present this award. Her Honour will be accompanied by 40 members of the Vancouver Consul Corps. For the full list of winners and for more information visit http://goo.gl/x3ORll

2014 is shaping up to be a tremendous year! We are nearing completion of the building of our new winery, which will open later in July. We will need to find a special shelf in the new winery for this prestigious award. Thank you for all of your support and for being a part of this amazing journey with us.

Time Posted: Jun 23, 2014 at 2:51 PM
Heleen Pannekoek
 
May 27, 2014 | Heleen Pannekoek

Are you looking for a nice outdoor job? (CLOSED)

We are looking for a Grounds Maintenance person

The person will be responsible for maintaining the gardens, lawns and non-productive area’s on the Fort Berens property. Activities would include:

  • Weeding, mowing, irrigating, pruning and weed spraying;
  • Repair & maintenance of the landscape equipment and landscape features;

We are looking for someone with:

  • knowledge and experience working with plants,
  • a flexible self starter who is able to work independently and
  • someone that pays a lot of attention to details.

The person needs to be physically fit and able to work outdoors in all kinds of weather.

This job is part-time with seasonal hours, the majority of the work being in the spring and summer. Remuneration will be based on experience.

Please apply by sending your resume to: heleen@fortberens.ca

Time Posted: May 27, 2014 at 12:31 PM
Rolf de Bruin
 
April 17, 2014 | Rolf de Bruin

Job Posting: Discovery Club Coordinator (CLOSED)

Fort Berens Estate Winery’s Discovery Club is growing rapidly, and to better serve our wine club members we’re hiring a Discovery Club Coordinator. This is an exciting opportunity to advance your career in wine industry while having fun. Experience is good, but our priority is finding the right person to join our team and help us deliver exceptional service to Discovery Club Members.

Responsibilities:

The Discover Club Coordinator will be responsible for:

Coordinating wine club shipments to club members
Organizing member-only events in Lillooet and cities across BC
Creating newsletters and club related marketing collateral
Developing phone, web-based, and email campaigns to increase member engagement

This role allows for a flexible work schedule and a home office.

Qualifications:

Proven retail sales or customer service experience
Strong organizational skills with attention to detail
Outstanding verbal and written communication skills
Passionate and knowledgeable about wine
Proficient with office software
Must be at least 21 years of age with valid driver’s license.

This role is best suited to someone with initiative, who demonstrates an entrepreneurial spirit, and who is customer service oriented.

We offer a part time contract that can grow into a full time permanent contract. Compensation package will include salary, sales commission, benefits and wine allowance

How to apply / contact information:
Apply by sending your resume and cover letter before May 4th to:

Email: rolf@fortberens.ca
Fort Berens Estate Winery
Attn. Rolf de Bruin
PO Box 758
Lillooet, BC V0K 1V0
250-256-7788

Location:
1881 Highway 99 north
Lillooet, BC V0K 1V0

About us:
Our vineyard is located in the magnificent Fraser Canyon across the Fraser River from the town of Lillooet. Lillooet is one of the "Hot Spots" in Canada, with a climate that is comparable with the South Okanagan. The Coast Mountains to the west of Lillooet keep rain and clouds away, ensuring that the vines receive plenty of sunshine. In 2009, we planted 20 acres with six varieties: Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. In the future, we will expand with another 20 acres.

We make and sell premium, award winning BC VQA wines. We believe that great wines are grown, not made. 

Time Posted: Apr 17, 2014 at 9:25 AM
Rolf de Bruin
 
April 15, 2014 | Rolf de Bruin

Spring Blossoms at Fort Berens Estate Winery

Press Release

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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High resolution images are available at /About/Trade--Media.

 

Time Posted: Apr 15, 2014 at 3:06 PM
Heleen Pannekoek
 
January 30, 2014 | Heleen Pannekoek

Looking to expand our team (CLOSED)

Vineyard Manager (Filled)

This is an exciting opportunity for the right individual looking to advance their career in viticulture. The priority is finding the right person to join our team and help us grow premium grapes.

Responsibilities:

The Vineyard Manager will be responsible for:

- The labour in and the equipment and management of our20 acre vineyard;
- Building and managing a team of vineyard workers;
- Managing crop levels and costs within the vineyard budget;
- Employee health and safety policies and procedures
- Drafting and executing a sustainable vineyard plan, that delivers premium quality fruit, in co-operation with the wine maker;
- Drafting, updating and executing the Environmental Farm Plan and the BC Sustainable Practices for Vineyards.

The Vineyard Manager must be willing to work non-standard hours, including evenings and weekends, as needed.

Qualifications:

- 5 years experience in vineyard management;
- Intimate knowledge of BC viticulture, sustainable vineyard management and best practices;
- Knowledge of and experience with the operation of vineyard equipment;
- Highly motivated to learn and discover with us in this new viticulture region;
- A leader and team player, able to work and interact with many different players;
 - Physically fit and able to work outdoors throughout the year;
- BC driver’s license; Pesticide Applicator Certificate; First Aid Level I; Forklift certificate.
- Functional knowledge of office software;

Offer:

We offer a permanent full time contract. Salary and benefits will be according to experience.

How to apply / contact information:
Apply by sending your resume and motivation before February 7 to:

Email: heleen@fortberens.ca
Fort Berens Estate Winery
Attn. Heleen Pannekoek
PO Box 758
Lillooet, BC V0K 1V0
250-256-7788

Location:
1881 Highway 99 north
Lillooet, BC V0K 1V0

About us:

Our vineyard is located in the magnificent Fraser Canyon across the Fraser River from the town of Lillooet. Lillooet is one of the "Hot Spots" in Canada, with a climate that is comparable with the South Okanagan. The Coast Mountains to the west of Lillooet keep rain and clouds away, ensuring that the vines receive plenty of sunshine. In 2009, we planted 20 acres with six varieties: Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. In the future, we will expand with another 20 acres.

We make and sell premium, award winning BC VQA wines. We believe that great wines are grown, not made. To support us in growing premium grapes, we are looking for professional leadership in our vineyard. If you are qualified and are looking to live in a beautiful environment with affordable housing, please apply now!

Time Posted: Jan 30, 2014 at 9:05 PM
Rolf de Bruin
 
November 19, 2013 | Rolf de Bruin

Press Release: Fort Berens Chardonnay White Wine of the Year

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 19, 2013

Cornucopia’s White Wine of the Year Award!

LILLOOET, BC.  The Fort Berens Estate Winery team is back from their recent adventure to Whistler with some great news. Their 2012 Chardonnay picked up the distinguished title of “White Wine of the Year” at Cornucopia, an annual celebration of food and wine, which was held in Whistler Nov. 7-17th.

Winery co-owner Heleen Pannekoek, who accepted the award on behalf of the Fort Berens team, is absolutely thrilled. Pannekoek explained, “Winning White Wine of the Year at Cornucopia is a huge honour for our team. We founded the winery in 2009, and to win such an important award so early on in our winemaking career shows us we are on the right path. We were so pleased to learn that our Chardonnay won amongst so many other amazing white wines.”

Pannekoek continued, “This award is very special for us for another reason as well.  Our 2012 Chardonnay is our first 100% estate grown Chardonnay. This award is confirmation that the terroir in Lillooet is well suited to growing top-quality Chardonnay. Our vineyard team has done a fantastic job of nurturing the vines to maturity and that care is reflected in the 2012 vintage.” For more information on the awards, visit http://whistlercornucopia.com/top-25-winners-of-2013/

Heleen’s husband and winery co-founder Rolf de Bruin added, “About 30% of the volume was fermented and aged in new and seasoned French barrels, while the remainder was fermented cool in stainless steel tanks. We created a wine that is vibrant in its fruit profile with a lingering finish that is perfectly paired with scallops or poached salmon.”

Beppi Crosariol from the Globe and Mail, gave this wine 90 points and stated in a recent review, “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.”

Although produced in limited quantities, you can still purchase some of the 2012 Chardonnay from the winery direct, via VQA stores and from select fine wine stores and restaurants. It is reasonably priced at $18.99 a bottle.

Cornucopia is a must-experience wine and food festival held annually in Whistler. It celebrates an exemplary culinary scene and impeccable wines, offering a truly sensory experience, with winery dinners, interactive seminars, gala wine tastings and electric after-parties. For more information, visit www.WhistlerCornucopia.com

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.

Time Posted: Nov 19, 2013 at 10:49 AM
Rolf de Bruin
 
October 25, 2013 | Rolf de Bruin

PRESS RELEASE: Groundbreaking at Fort Berens Estate Winery

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 22, 2013

Reaching a New Milestone!

A groundbreaking event at Fort Berens Estate Winery

LILLOOET, BC.  The Fort Berens Winery team furthered their plans to pioneer a new frontier by officially breaking ground for the building of the first winery in Lillooet. Rolf de Bruin, founder and one of the owners of Fort Berens, recalls the early days in 2009 when they first decided to plant vines on the property. “We hoped that day marked the first in a series of milestones for Fort Berens and Lillooet. We are pleased to be here together today to mark another major milestone.”

Rolf continued, “We are excited to break ground on this new building. It’s been a 3-year process. We needed to first prove the viability of the grape-growing from our vineyard, assemble our ownership team, get our financial and strategic plans in place, and consult with experts in the industry. The design of the building went through a number of iterations over the 3-year process. We talked to experts in this field to help us design the layout and to maximize space and efficiency.”

The new 9,500 square foot building will include a 1,100 square foot tasting room, overlooking the vineyards with a gorgeous view of the mountains in the background. It has been designed to allow visitors to watch the winemaking process and see the internal workings of the winery through the windows as they approach the tasting room. It will also feature a gravity fed fermentation room, barrel chambers, crush pad, wine bar and bistro.

Rolf’s wife and winery co-founder Heleen Pannekoek continued, “Each year, we have seen increased demand for our wine. We produced 4,000 cases in 2012, we estimate 5,000 cases this year and we are planning for 6,000 cases in 2014. Once the new building opens, we will have capability to fully process up to 12,000 cases onsite. This additional capacity will allow for our own future growth in coming years. We also very purposefully built in extra capacity to help facilitate the custom crushing of grapes from other growers in our area. We are very committed to working with others in Lillooet and facilitating more grape and wine production in this area.”

The new winery takes the committed investment into Fort Berens to $7.5 million. It was designed by collaborating architects David Agro from Toronto and Richard Newell from Vancouver and is being built by Okanagan-based Greyback Construction.

Like the importance of understanding the unique terroir in determining which grape varietals to plant, the architects leveraged locally sourced materials to reflect the local terroir. Agro explained, “We are using concrete manufactured in Lillooet and rough-cut Douglas Fir milled across the road from the new winery as primary structural materials.  This combination of elemental materials and a spectacular view of Lillooet will provide a functional, warm and welcoming atmosphere in the tasting room. The concrete lower floor of the building will be sunk into the ground to help mitigate swings in temperature and humidity in the barrel rooms.  The use of materials, the orientation of the building, and an overhanging roof will help make the building as efficient as possible and help manage ongoing energy costs.”

On hand at the milestone groundbreaking event were Fort Berens’ Toronto and Vancouver based co-owners, Hugh Agro, Sean Harvey and John McConnell. Hugh Agro, a pioneer spirit himself with a background in mining and exploration, first started visiting Lillooet in 1993 and immediately took a shine to the area.

In 2010, Hugh joined Rolf and Heleen and shortly after brought on fellow mining colleagues Sean Harvey, John McConnell and Jason Neal to round out the ownership team. “We believe in the long term prospects for agricultural land in British Columbia and we think that there is a bright future growing grapes and making quality wines in the Fraser Canyon”, said Agro.  We’re committed to building a viable business of which the community of Lillooet, our peers in the British Columbia wine industry and we as owners can be proud”, he added. 

Wine industry expert Harry McWatters has been a consultant to the Fort Berens team since the beginning. The thing that has inspired Harry the most about the growth of the winery is the way the local Lillooet community has embraced Fort Berens. “People in the community talk about this being ‘Lillooet’s winery’”, he said. “The way the land is situated in the valley, about 80% of Lillooet’s residents can see the vineyard, so the community is very supportive and interested in this project. It’s that very support that will help Fort Berens continue to make milestone moves like this for their community.”

Christ’l Roshard, former Mayor of Lillooet, was also on hand for the groundbreaking event. She has been championing Lillooet as a viable grape growing region for many years and is thrilled to see the evolution and growth of Fort Berens. She proclaimed, “It’s been a long time since we have had this kind of private capital investment in Lillooet. This investment will help provide sustainable employment for our region and provide a big boost to Lillooet’s growing wine and agri-tourism industry.”

Rolf, who wrapped up the ceremony with a tour of the site, laid out the timeline for the building plans, targeting a goal of the summer of 2014 to open the new tasting room. 

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.

Time Posted: Oct 25, 2013 at 10:05 PM