Lillooet winery takes third place win in prestigious national competition
A winery in the small town of Lillooet is making it big nationally with its red and white wines.
Fort Beren’s Estate Winery has been named number three on the list of Top 10 Small Wineries in the country in the 2022 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada.
“This achievement is the result of the hard work, dedication, determination and passion of an incredible team of winemakers and grape growers,” co-owner Rolf de Bruin said in a media release issued, Aug. 3.
With its vineyards on sagebrush covered bench land along the Fraser River, the winery embraces the spirit of Lillooet.
A highly experienced team, exceptional quality grapes, and a unique natural environment are all attributed to the national third place standing.
The 21st annual wine competition, often referred to as “The Nationals”, featured around 1,890 wines from more than 250 wineries across Canada.
“This award is a great encouragement for our winemaking and viticultural team,” de Bruin said. “We are so proud.”
Winemaker and viticulturist Alex Nel joined the winery January, 2021, to lead the vineyard and winemaking team.
De Bruin credits much of the recent success to Nel.
With a degree in viticulture and oenology, Nel spent a decade as a winemaker in the Western Cape of South Africa where he produced one of the Top 50 wines in the 2021 Decanter World Wine Awards, according the winery.
He worked in different countries in a range of vineyards and wineries in different regions before arriving at Fort Berens.
“When I joined Fort Berens we tasted through a lot of prior vintages with several standout wines,” Nel said in the release. “The wines expressed bright fruit acidity that naturally develops in the unique area, with big diurnal temperature differences.”
Nel said the vineyards are separate from others and therefore virus free with minimal exposure to disease resulting in quality grapes.
“I believe in each variety being treated with respect to show it's true Lillooet terroir,” he said. “White wines are made with no oxygen exposure and extended lees contact for added mouthfeel, resulting in wines that are aromatic and fresh.
“Further refining of the extraction process on reds with increased skin maceration and barrel maturation adds finesse and elegance.”
Nel said the team will continue to work toward world class recognition.
Fort Berens’ received a number of other awards from The Nationals including a platinum medal for their Pinot Noir 2020 and three gold medals for their Merlot Reserve 2019, Merlot 2019 and Small Log Gruner Veltliner 2021.
Taking silver was the Cabernet Franc Reserve 2019 and the Pinot Gris 2021.
Lillooet is a new and emerging wine region in BC’s growing wine industry.
Fort Berens is the first winery in Lillooet and features close to 40 planted acres of vineyards.
“We are deeply honoured to share these results,” de Bruin said. “To be named the number three small winery in Canada is incredibly exciting. We are so grateful to everyone that joined us along the way and shared this journey with us.”
You purchase any of these award-winning wines at the tasting room in Lillooet or visit their online store here.
Their wines are also available at select government and private liquor stores, select grocery stores, and restaurants around B.C.
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