A DAY SPENT IN ABBOTSFORD OVER THE LOVE OF WINE.
Sometimes when I finish up these days spent shooting our blog features, I have to pinch myself because I feel so lucky. Highstreet has something special going in terms of tapping into all the local love and talent that this backyard has to offer. How else would one want to start a Thursday but listening to the story of Vern Siemens, farmer, winemaker and proprietor of Mt. Lehman Winery at his 80 acre winery overlooking Mount Baker?
“All of this really started as a hobby and a means to beautify the farm,” Vern shares, “we had visited Napa and a bell went off.” His love of wine would now become a serious hobby. “We do it all here – grow, harvest, crush, make the wine – we bring friends to bottle and they all leave with a case,” Vern divulges. “Most wineries have a wine maker. I am the winemaker here (self-taught at that). That’s the fun part. Not taking it too seriously allows me flexibility. If I don’t like a barrel, I dump it. I couldn’t do that if I were motivated by business.”
Right when this all seems like a wildly amazing dream, the philosophy of this self made winemaker keeps up the delightful surprise. When questioned about irrigation, Vern tells us, “We don’t use irrigation. We follow the dry farming method which allows you to reap what you sow. My philosophy is about guiding the grapes and then letting nature do its thing. Some winemaker’s philosophies are rooted in science and some in art. I am definitely on the artist side. I do everything naturally, there’s nothing added so you don’t get the headaches that some of the commercial operations have a challenge with. Just like in regions such as Bordeaux or Burgundy – you can drink a lot of wine and never have a headache in the morning.”
Overlooking the many acres of rolling hills and impeccably mowed lawn, we learn Vern himself does most of the mowing. With Vern’s business life as a Calgary developer, it’s no wonder he says “I love to chill out and enjoy the hands-on work of a farmer.”
Planted acreage: “15-17 acres of planted grapes.”
Opinion on Fraser Valley as a grape growing region: “We have cleaner grapes here than in the Okanagan. Just like our fruit – strawberries, blueberries etc., it makes for delicious wine.”
Most inspirational wine region: “New Zealand for its small, undiscovered wineries.”
Favourite varietal: “Pinot Noir. It’s complex, finicky and wild but I love the challenge.”
Dog’s name: “Pinot (of course!)”
Self-taught and a passion for the authenticity is something Vern has in common with our next hosts, which took us to the home of the Braber family. Greeted with warm hospitality into Nick and Susan’s home, we got to spend some time admiring their wine cellar. And what a cellar it was! Something right out of an old world European winery. The meticulous details and passion for the craft of creating this special place showed at every corner. The marble and every stone was hand chosen by the couple. The door that flanks the storage of the wine cellar was handmade taking four months of solid work. To keep to the integrity of old world methods, there was no welding done with the creation of the door and the burnished look was created by burning cinnamon to the iron. Even the front door leading to the cellar was a treasure found in England purchased 8-9 years before the cellar was built. How is that for vision?
Ending our day, Nick tells us “wine is meant to be shared” and generously gives us a bottle for our team to enjoy. What a blessed day to learn of these hidden gems in our own backyard.
Photo Credit: Tanya Goehring