Tucked away in a corner of British Columbia that is a well kept secret, Covert Farms evokes an earlier time in North American history; a simpler time, a slower time. Exploring the south Okanagan Valley before the 2013 Wine Bloggers’ Conference began this June, I took some time to savor some of these special treats.
Covert Farms was founded by George Covert, who was a produce broker and business man from Tracy – a now suburban city near San Francisco. In 1959, Tracy was a rural landscape, where George was part owner of a packing company that worked with the fruit growers in the Okanagan. Tired of the grind in California, he packed it in and headed north to see what was so special about the area and the produce grown there. Discovering the land on top of the mesa where Covert Farms now sits, he purchased it on the spot and the rest is history.
Little has changed in the last 50 years, where tomatoes, onion, potatoes, corn and grapes, are still grown, along with cherries, strawberries and – today – wine grapes. Still one of the leaders in organic, sustainable fruit and vegetables, Covert Farms is a major supplier of fresh produce to western Canada as well as locals.
Touring around the farm in an old red truck, you can feel how this piece of land inspires. Tucked away from the prying eyes of the highway, up a hill, you wouldn’t know that it was there. Driving through the farm in an old truck, you can imagine that it’s 1959 and George Covert had just arrived. As I learned about the history of the farm and how they are trying to maintain and encourage sustainable, natural, and local food culture in the Okanagan, we stopped to pick strawberries and sample some of the other fruits that were ripe for the picking in early June.
As the Okanagan was once all fruit trees and farms, taking the land back to the early days with thriving, lush organic crops makes it clear why this place is so special. But we’re here for the wine right?
Covert Farms Family Estate Winery was founded as Dunham & Froese Estate winery in 2005, and part of the 600 acre farm. Today, the organic wines are crafted from 100% estate fruit, and focus on the artisan nature of the farm. The organic fruit is sought after by other winemakers, and display the terroir of the area beautifully.
As I learned on my first trip to the Okanagan in 2012, the aeromatic white wines of the Alsace, northern France and Germany do exceptionally well here. That said, this part of the Southern Okanagan is also a welcoming climate for Bordeaux reds. The Oliver-Osoyoos region is a special area within the Okanagan and can be a bit of a chameleon.
2012 Sav Blanc Semillion – I love the natural pairing of Semillion which softens sav blanc and gives it a lush roundness. This wine was fermented in primarily stainless steel, which a few barrels of neutral oak to balance out the crispness. With creamy lemonade flavors, kiwi and passionfruits, the finish of flinty stone were a refreshing treat on the warm summer day.
2012 Pinot Blanc – Pinot Blanc is a happy grape in the cool climate of the Okanagan, and the tart green apple and pear notes are a refreshing treat as we sit at the farmstand and have a lunch of wild sorrel salad and sandwiches on coconut bread.
The Amacitia red is a Bordeaux style blend, with a bit of zin thrown in for fun. This bold and jammy treat is plush and elegant, while still maintaining the true nature of the farm – fun!
A visit to Covert Farms is a must for anyone in the lower Okanagan. Great food, wonderful hospitality, local produce and quality wines of the region will have you leaving with a smile.