Yet, there Fort Berens lies, thumbing its nose at the non-believers, and producing quality Pinot Noir of all things. Yes, this finicky grape seems quite at home here in Lillooet which lies in the rain shadow of the Coastal Mountains about 120 km east of Whistler and 167 km northwest of Kamloops.
If you know anything about Lillooet, you will know it regularly battles the deep south Okanagan Valley’s Osoyoos for the honour of being Canada’s hot spot and being in the Coastal Mountain system’s rain shadow means it receives a measly 349 mm of rain a year. In contrast, North Vancouver (across the mountains and on the south coast by 240 km) gets 2522 mm and Vancouver 1457 mm.
Lillooet itself seems to lie between 250-420m in altitude depending on where one is, so this contributes along with the deep diurnal shifts (the difference between night and daytime temperatures) to make the grapes happy and allow them to retain acidity levels.
All of these factors have combined to produce a unique microclimate that favours grape growing when combined with the local gravelly glacial rock, sand and loam soils.
I’d noted these wines in the local VQA shop, but it took my friend from San Francisco (@corkzillasf) to buy one first.
The Fort Berens 2012 Pinot is a fresh medium ruby – almost akin to pomegranate juice – and the nose has medium intensity of cherry and strawberry, crushed herbs and a little moss. The palate is dry but with a fruity presence, a delicate body and flavours of more red fruit and with rosemary and sage. The finish came up slightly short but the tannins are ripe and ready to drink.
While not complex, this is a pleasant and tasty WSET Good Pinot Noir that Ben and Tanya agreed was one of the better BC versions they’d tried in the Great White North.