Covert Farms is not a secret place. It’s just tucked in a hidden valley about 500 feet above the town of Oliver, BC, waiting to be discovered.
After passing through a neighborhood off Hwy 97, you climb the hill for about 1.5 km, and at the point you wonder where the heck you’re going, suddenly the farm’s driveway appears.
There are new vineyards on the left, older vineyards on the right, and glowing stands of trees cutting a sharp line between fields. I love the look of wind-breaks in the late afternoon
The barn-like winery is nestled between a picket fence-enclosed playground and a hill where animals were grazing.
As it happened, we arrived late in the day during the Spring wine festival and the 2nd Annual Pig-Out wine event had finished an hour before. A few winery owners and reps sat on the patio, laughing and drinking wine.
We didn’t mind missing the chance to pig out on pork. We were here to try Covert Farms first release of zinfandel.
In 1961 George Covert sold his tomato packing partnership in Tracy, California and moved his family to the Okanagan Valley to start a new life on this 650 acre spread. They grew tomatoes, onion, potatoes, corn as well as grapes, but mostly of the hybrid kind.
Mike Covert took over after his father George died, but when Mike died suddenly in 1996, his son Gene became the boss. Gene and his wife Shelly planted more grapes and co-founded the winery in 2005 as Dunham & Froese – a partnership with Kirby and Crystal Froese. When the Froeses moved to Saskatchewan, the Coverts became full owners and changed the name.
So if you hadn’t heard of Covert Farms wine until now, that may be the reason.
Since we’d been coming to Oliver, we’d probably driven past the Covert Farms sign fifty times, each time mentally noting a plan to visit.
Today, the zinfandel drew us there. Being from California, Bill and I like our zin, and finding zin producers in the Okanagan has become an obsession of mine.
Inside the rustic, recently revamped tasting room, our host Reilly (see above) gave us a tour of Covert Farms wines.
The 2012 Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon is a perfect aperitif wine, being all candied tropical fruit and sunny aromas. What I like about the blend is the touch of sweetness the semillon adds to keep the sauvignon acid bite in check. We brought a bottle home and found it to be great with food – or solo.
The 2012 Pinot Blanc was super tropical, with bright pineapple, mango and grapefruit notes. Its mouthfeel feels round and soft, rather like a chardonnay. That was intentional, Reilly said, as they used a yeast that’s good for fermenting chardonnays, as well as giving the wine extended time on the lees. We took home a bottle and drank it with sushi, and it was excellent.
The 2012 Rosé is a rosy-nosed wine packed with strawberries, cherries, and white pepper. Very dry with hefty tannins.
At last, we reached the point of tasting the new 2011 Zinfandel, just released that week. The wine includes 11% cabernet sauvignon, which is below the amount required to call it a blend. California zins are often cut with a heavier red wine, like petite sirah, to give it more backbone. In the case of this wine, it needed the extra punch.
The color is transparent red and the body is light, even accounting for the cabernet. Its aromas are of bright red raspberries and black cherry, and in the mouth the fruit turns candied with a briary edge. Mid palate shows black pepper and warm dust. The finish is acidic and rather hot, even though the bottle only states 14.6%. In many ways the Covert is typical of a California zin circa 1994, before they became overheated monster versions of themselves. We brought a bottle home and will report with further notations.
The Bluff 2010 is obviously named for the McIntyre Bluff the farm sits under. It’s a big, brawny Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot with very broad shoulders. Full of cassis and black fruit with notes of sweet oak, it finishes dry with chalky tannins. A candidate for the decanter, it could lie down for several years to smooth out.
Covert Farms wines are very small production and available only at the winery and in private stores. So it pays to join the wine club and have the wine delivered.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Covert Farms also offers a farm club with fresh produce deliveries in the South Okanagan. If we actually lived in Oliver, I’d sign up for that. But being weekenders, we will head up there after June 1st to pick our own produce. Reilly said they’ll hand us a map and turn us loose in the fields that are ripe. Fresh organic strawberries, here we come!
After bidding goodbye to Reilly and his girlfriend/co-worker Lou, we took a little drive around the property. The main farm yard extends to what is essentially a little village of farm workers houses. Most of the fields were empty in early May but in the distance we could see tractors tilling the land.
Covert Farms is an amazing place, especially to take the kids. And if you don’t want to pick your own, can simply pick up produce as well as coffee and muffins at their shop, Pancho’s Country Market.
We are so going back there.
See Tasting Room Confidential for more of Mari’s wine writing.