This week we completed our 10th harvest. In light of this milestone harvest, we wanted to pause and provide an update on what has been another successful growing season for us in Lillooet.
A heat spurt at the end of August and early September helped to ripen the grapes, and the sugars started developing rapidly. As the grapes started reaching their optimal sugar levels and ripening, we prepared to start picking grapes. It began on September 14th, which is around the same date as we normally begin harvest. We started with our Pinor Noir for our Rosé, followed by Chardonnay and Pinot Gris in our Dry Creek Vineyard. We then picked Merlot and Cabernet Franc from our new Red Rock Vineyard, followed by Riesling and Cabernet Franc in our Dry Creek Vineyard.
We were very pleased to have the first crop from our Red Rock Vineyard this harvest. The Merlot and Cabernet Franc came from the vines we planted in 2018. It was a very small crop, representing an estimated 2,500 litres of wine in total, but we were excited to have our first crop from this vineyard.
There were no extreme temperature variations in September, so the grapes maintained a gradual ripening process, allowing us to pick each varietal as they reached their optimal levels.
Cropping levels were lower than in prior years, with some varietals coming in with yields 20-40% lower than normal. Lower cropping levels meant we had less fruit to work with, and ultimately we anticipate that this will be one of our smallest crops ever, similar to our 2017 yield.
We had our first frost on October 22nd followed by our first snowfall on October 23rd. The last two years, the first frost day was significantly earlier, October 9th, 2019 and October 3rd, 2018. This additional time before the first frost is really important because it allows the vines time to absorb nutrients after harvest before they shut down for the season. Early frosts don’t set the plants up well for the next season, so we are thrilled that the vines had the opportunity to build up reserves going into next spring.
In addition to our estate grown grapes, we also brought in grapes from other grape growers we work with in the Lillooet-Lytton area as well as from the Okanagan and Similkameen. Our grapes were ahead of the Vernon and West Kelowna grapes by 1-2 weeks, which worked out perfectly so we could pace ourselves nicely. This also allowed us to space things out on the crush pad and in the cellar. In addition, we brought in 5 new tanks this fall, which allowed for more flexibility and helped give us added capacity to ensure a smooth vintage.
We had a great vineyard team this year, led by Chris Marquardt, and a fantastic team that helped us to pick the grapes. We also welcomed Jake to our cellar team as our new cellar master. Jake joined us from Ontario where he worked with Trius Winery. The arrival of our new winemaker, Alex, from South Africa has been delayed a few months as a result of COVID, however we are thrilled to have our previous winemaker Danny back again as our interim winemaker for this vintage. Danny and Alex have been in constant communication throughout crush and we are excited about this new vintage of wines.
Overall, the grapes from this harvest were really nicely balanced. They had a fair amount of acidity and good sugar levels, so we anticipate a new vintage of wines that are fresh, clean, and beautifully fruit-forward. As we look forward, we are very optimistic about our 2020 vintage.
With November just around the corner, it’s almost time for Whistler Cornucopia. Things will look different this year, but there will still be educational and delicious seminars and dinners that are also safe. We are thrilled to be a part of a number of these special events.
- Nov. 6 – Opening Dinner
- Nov. 7 – Chardcore Seminar
- Nov. 7 – Modern Meat Wine-Paired Dinner
- Nov. 15 – BC Pinot Gris: A Mirror of Terroir Seminar
- Nov. 21 – Local Legends Seminar
- Nov. 28 – Araxi Winemaker Dinner
Our tasting room is open daily from 10am – 6pm until the end of October, and then we will begin our winter hours in November. We hope to see you again soon.
Rolf de Bruin
Co-founder and co-owner
Fort Berens Estate Winery
FORT BERENS ESTATE WINERY Ltd
1881 Highway 99 North, PO Box 758, Lillooet, British Columbia
tf: 1-877-956-7768 t: 250-256-7788 f: 250-256-7780
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Wine and beverages samples accepted for review.