In July, historic Covert Farms will hold a dinner to mark proprietor Gene Covert’s 10th anniversary as a wine grower.
Covert Farms was established in 1959 on the plateau just south of McIntyre Bluff by George Covert, a Californian who came to the Okanagan to grow tomatoes, onions, tree fruits and, ultimately, grapes. The vineyard was large enough in the early 1980s that a mechanical harvester was tested (with indifferent results, for the early harvesters mangled the vines). Except for six hectares (15 acres) of table grapes, vines were pulled out in 1988 to make way for new apple varieties.
Wine grapes returned, beginning in 2005. Gene Covert, a third-generation owner of the farm, planted the five Bordeaux reds as well as Zinfandel, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Roussanne.
Farming is in Gene’s blood. Born in 1971, he is grandson of the farm’s founder. He joined the family business after getting a degree in physical geography. His wife, Shelly, an Edmonton-born teacher, runs the farm’s market which sells organically-grown produce directly to the public.
The 243-hectare (600-acre) Covert Farms property, which is in the lee of McIntyre Bluff north of Oliver, achieved organic certification in 2010 and is believed to be the largest organic farm in the Okanagan. That includes the grapes on the winery’s 12-hectare (30-acre) vineyard along with fruits, vegetables and more than 15 varieties of tomatoes.
The winery’s appeal encompasses the farm’s many other attractions, ranging from farm festivals, guided tours and shopping at the farm market or picking your own produce. There is a hiking trail to the top of McIntyre Bluff. New since 2013 is a growing agricultural museum called the Covert Farms Agricultural Preservation Society.
The current releases include two limited production grand reserve wines, available primarily at the winery or in six-bottle lots through the winery’s website.
Here are notes on the wines.
Covert Farm Family Estate Rosé 2013 ($18.25). This wine begins with an appealing cherry hue. It has aromas of cherries with an undertone of pomegranate and sweet tobacco. It may sound like an odd descriptor for a rosé but it sets up a savoury complexity which carries through to the palate with cherry and strawberry flavours. This is 75% Merlot, 21% Pinot Noir and 4% Syrah, co-fermented and aged on the lees. Note the wine also has a year of bottle age. With a dry finish, this is a rosé to pair with grilled salmon. 90.
Covert Farm Family Estate Amicitia Red 2012($24.34). This is a blend of 40% Merlot, and 12% each of Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Syrah, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a bold, ripe red (14.6% alcohol), with aromas of spice, plum and black currant. On the palate, the flavours recall a rich, spicy Christmas fruitcake, with notes of plum, fig, black cherry and vanilla. The long ripe tannins give the wine an almost silky finish, but with enough structure to age. 92.
Covert Farm Family Estate Zinfandel Grand Reserve 2012 ($41.65 for 50 cases). “On occasion, an exceptional example shines through in a season,” Gene Covert writes. “Zinfandel was one of those bright stars in 2012.” The winery cropped the variety very low, harvesting 1.15 tons an acre. The grapes were fermented 22 days in open-top fermenters and then aged 12 months in French oak. This is a wine that begins with aromas of blackberry and graphite, going on to layers of flavour – blackberry, black cherry, figs, plums and chocolate. 92.
Covert Farm Family Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Grand Reserve 2012 ($51.22 for 50 cases). This was another star in the 2012 vintage. Again, the crop was extremely low, just 1.08 tons an acre. The grapes were fermented 27 days in open top fermenters. The wine was aged 13 months in French oak. This is a powerful and concentrated wine (14.1% alcohol, with aromas of cassis, black cherry and leather. On the palate there are savoury flavours of fruit, cocoa and spice with a lovely core of sweet fruit on the mid-palate. This will keep improving with cellaring at least for 10 years. 9
Location: North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
John Schreiner is Canada's most prolific writer of books on wine. Since his first book in 1984, The World of Canadian Wine, he has written 15, including multiple editions of The Wineries of British Columba, British Columbia Wine Country and John Schreiner's Okanagan Wine Tour Guide.