Fort Berens Reserve
With a decade of winemaking under its belt, Fort Berens Winery in Lillooet now has the expertise and premium grapes to launch its highly anticipated highest tier of reserve wines.
I had the chance to taste three of reserves lately and particularly liked the 2017 Riesling Reserve ($23).
Fort Berens made only 213 cases of this limited-edition Riesling, which has all the classic German characteristics of off-dry apple, lime and honey with a unique expression of minerality from the gravel, loam, river rock and sandy soils of Lillooet.
Fort Berens is the only winery in Lillooet, which is along the Fraser River in the Fraser Canyon.
While it may be considered out of the way for B.C. winemaking, the climate is similar to the Okanagan.
The 2016 Cabernet Franc Reserve ($32) is full-bodied with soft and ripe tannins and opens with cherry flavours that morph to herbs.
Plum and cherry aromas and flavours make the 2016 Meritage Reserve ($32) jammy and the oak aging added some smoke, wood and spice characteristics.
Fort Berens’ regular line is up also very good with the release of the 2016 Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Meritage priced a little lower at $26 each and expressing varietal complexity. Fort Berens is also in expansion mode. It has added to the original 20-acre Dry Creek Vineyard planted in 2009 and has created a new Red Rock Vineyard in May with four acres of Merlot and five acres of Cabernet Franc.
Planting will continue next year with three-and-a-half acres of additional Merlot, some Cabernet Sauvignon and a new varietal for the winery – Gruner Veltliner.
This summer, Fort Berens also found out a new geographical indication for Lillooet was approved.
So, beginning with the new vintage, it can use the Lillooet VQA (Vintners’ Quality Alliance) designation for its wines.
It’s testament to Lillooet’s history and future potential as a grape-growing region.
Besides Fort Berens’ vineyards, there are four additional vineyards in the region – Frugal, Winches Spur, Roshard and Fraser Bench – which all supply Fort Berens.
Fort Berens will soon have company in Lillooet with Cliff & Gorge about to become the second winery in town with its first vintages being released with the opening of its tasting room in spring 2019.
A pre-release party for the wine documentary SOMM3 will be thrown Monday at 6 p.m. at Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus theatre.
This is the third film in the series using the SOMM term, short for sommelier, the designation earned by wine professionals.
The original SOMM is the most-viewed wine film on Netflix. SOMM3 will start streaming soon. Madeline Puckett, the Seattle-based author of Wine Folly: Magnum Edition and founder of the The crop of new releases from Fort Berens Winery in Lillooet includes, for the first time, a special reserve tier of wines. WineFolly.com website, narrated SOMM3 and will be at the Kelowna screening.
The film follows the adventures of Decanter magazine editor Steven Spurrier, master sommelier Fred Dame and famous wine critic Jancis Robinson.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a wine-related event without something to drink, so several small wineries will be pouring samples during the 6 to 7 p.m. reception.
Chef Michael Buffet of Start Fresh Kitchen will be providing the small bites.
Proceeds from the $38 tickets will benefit Start Fresh’s culinary and farming employment programs. SOMM3 screening starts at 7 p.m. Tickets at StartFreshKitchen.ca. This wine was literally made just weeks ago. It’s the 2018 Cailleteau Gamay Nouveau from West Kelowna’s Quails’ Gate Winery.
And it will be released Thursday night, 6 to 8 p.m., at a French-inspired party at the winery featuring contortionists, magicians, passed canapes and, of course, tasting the Cailleteau.
The Cailleteau is made from red Gamay, the same grapes the French use to make Beaujolais Nouveau, the fun and fresh wine that’s released worldwide on the third Thursday of November every year as a harbinger of the vintage’s quality.
Tickets to the party are $15 for Quails’ Gate Wine Club members and $25 for everybody else at QuailsGate.com.
Steve MacNaull is The Okanagan Weekend’s business and wine reporter and columnist. Reach him at email@example.com.
Wine author and blogger Madeline Puckette, narrator of SOMM3, will be in Kelowna on Monday for a screening of the wine film, preceded, of course, by some wine tasting and appetizers.