Covert Farms Family Estate 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 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 a 30 acre vineyard that includes the five Bordeaux reds as well as Syrah, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Roussanne and Zinfandel.
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 600-acre Covert Farms property, which is in the lee of McIntyre Bluff north of Oliver, achieved organic certification in 2010 and the 142 acres of certified organic fruit, berries, vegetables and wine grapes is the largest organic farm in the Okanagan.
The winery’s appeal encompasses the farms 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.
Over the Christmas holidays we were able to try Covert Farm Family Estate Amicitia Red 2012. This is a blend of 40% Merlot, and 12% each of Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Syrah, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine almost meets the Red Meritage definition (except for the Syrah) “ a blend of two or more of the red “noble” Bordeaux varieties – Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot and the rarer St. Macaire, Gros Verdot and Carmenère. If the blend includes any other grape variety, it is, by definition, not a Meritage. Also, to qualify as a Meritage, no single grape variety can make up more than 90% of the blend. This is a bold, smooth red (14.6% alcohol), with aromas of spice, plum and black currant. On the palate, the flavours matched our 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. From the winemaker: “The wines have pure and natural flavours that emulate their sage and grassland origins.”
In summary Covert Farms is a diverse and prolific winery, their wines are fruit forward and leave no room for ambivalence. The reds are juicy and bold and the whites are crisp and clean. Organic and 100% estate grown, you simply cannot go wrong with these award winning wines!