Meet Founders Rolf de Bruin & Heleen Pannekoek
Fort Berens Estate Winery was established by founders Rolf de Bruin and Heleen Pannekoek in 2009 when the husband and wife team moved to Lillooet with their young family. Together, they planted 20 acres of grapes in Lillooet. They are proud of the team of people that work together to build a premium tourism destination in Lillooet.
The ownership team has since grown and now includes Hugh Agro, Sean Harvey, Jason Neal, John McConnell, Dan Barnholden and Patrick Downey. These passionate people all share a common belief in the incredible winemaking potential of British Columbia’s Fraser Canyon. Rolf and Heleen share the management duties of the Fort Berens Estate Winery. Megan DeVilliers is the Vineyard Manager and Viticulturist and Danny Hattingh is the Winemaker. Together, they look after growing premium grapes and crafting award winning wines. Jodi Pawloski as the Hospitality and Events Director works with her team to deliver a first class customer experience in the tasting room and on the patio. Dylan Foss, the Executive Chef at the Kitchen at Fort Berens, creates inspiring dishes using mostly local, organic ingredients.
Rolf loves Lillooet for the terroir: the rugged mountains, the hot summers and the fertile benches along the Fraser River. “The location with its stunning landscape is our biggest asset,” said Rolf, “people at first are inspired by the landscape and then have the opportunity to taste the terroir in our wines and food.”
A large portion of the success of the Fort Berens Estate Winery can be attributed to the positive relationship between the winery and the community. “The people of Lillooet are great supporters of the winery,” Rolf said, “they bring their friends and family to the winery and bring the wine to their friends and family.” Rolf hopes that the winery has similarly contributed to the community, by creating jobs and buying local. “I hope that, ultimately, the winery has facilitated a positive change within the community,” said Rolf, “we are seeing new people moving to Lillooet, new businesses, more visitors staying in Lillooet and a brighter future for this beautiful place.”
Pioneering. Warm. Trendsetting.
Fort Berens Estate Winery is Lillooet’s first winery. This 65 acre property hosts a commercial scale winery and retail operation that produces award winning wines and local, compelling cuisine. The winery is located in a beautiful and rugged landscape and their building is designed to highlight the natural beauty of the surroundings. The expansive vineyards of Fort Berens are growing on sage-brush covered benchland along the Fraser River at the base of towering mountains. “Fort Berens embraces the spirit of Lillooet,” said Rolf de Bruin, the Manager of Sales and Marketing at Fort Berens Estate Winery. “The alpine breezes, lingering summer sunlight and moderate winters are perfect for growing premium grapes,” he said. The team at Fort Berens Estate Winery are committed to handcrafting award-winning wines that reflect their unique Lillooet terroir.
Fort Berens Estate Winery is a culmination of the dreams, vision and pioneering spirit of several entrepreneurs – Heleen Pannekoek, Rolf de Bruin, Hugh Agro, Sean Harvey, Jason Neal, John McConnell, Dan Barnholden, Joseph Neal and Patrick Downey. The eight 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. “Fort Berens Estate Winery was founded with a pioneering spirit and forged on the road less travelled,” said Rolf.
Residents and tourists alike are encouraged to take a drive to Fort Berens and explore Lillooet’s first winery, sample their latest vintages in the tasting room, and soak up the breathtaking vistas from their patio kitchen while enjoying a farm fresh wine-paired lunch.
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