Covert Farms Family Estate (300 Covert Place, Oliver)
On the north side of Oliver is a winery unlike any other in the region. It has Highland cattle, Barbados blackbelly sheep, Bresse chickens, Berkshire chicken, and grey geese.
There are even some llamas on-site, according to Covert Farms Family Estate operations manager and executive chef Derek Uhlemann.
“They keep the coyotes away,” he told the Straight by phone.
Gene Covert is the winemaker and his wife, Shelly, is a registered holistic nutritionist at Covert Farms Family Estate. Their goal is to create a natural ecosystem that promotes the production of wine, as well as a wide range of organic foods that are available in stores across Western Canada.
Uhlemann said that Covert, a third-generation farmer, replanted the farm in 2005 because he and his wife wanted to provide a sustainable environment for their kids.
“I like to grow sunflowers next to our vineyard and that attracts a lot of birds and insects, which in turn increases the hawk population,” Uhlemann said. “There’s so many hawks now that we don’t have any bird problems in the vineyard.”
Uhlemann said that Covert Farms wine is created with “minimal intervention”, noting that the hot, dry climate and alluvial soils are ideal for producing “the big reds”. Nowadays, the farm is producing 3,200 cases of wine per year.
“We have two acres of Zinfandel on this property, and that almost accounts for 20 percent of Canada’s production,” he said.
Covert Farms hosts several events, including a farm dinner series, weddings, and a gruelling adventure race called the Freak’n Farmer, which this year takes place on September 24. It was featured last year on The Amazing Race.
“We’ll see up to 500 racers come and do an obstacle course, but they have to do farm tasks,” Uhlemann said. “So they actually have to wash out barrels or dig a hole and put a post into it, or carry watermelons down to the river and feed them to a pig. It’s hilarious and fantastic.”
Signature wine: “The one we hang our hat on is the Amicitia, which is a Bordeaux blend,” Uhlemann said. “It’s consistently won international awards. It’s a big juicy red wine with layers of complexity and subtlety.”