Photo: Winemaker Bertus Albertyn
By mid-September, Maverick Estate Winery, a
new producer on Highway 97 between Oliver and Osoyoos, will release its first
Ho hum, you say! Another new Okanagan
Pay attention to this one. The winemaker,
and one of the partners, is Bertus Albertyn, who also makes the wine at
Burrowing Owl Vineyards.
But don’t look to Maverick to be a
Burrowing Owl clone. He is deliberately styling the wines differently here.
They are more Old World, says Bertus, who began his winemaking career in South Africa.
The whites, for example, all have a portion of barrel-fermented wine in the
The initial releases, available from the
winery’s website and later in private wine stores, are all whites. The red is
still aging in a large oak vat, with bottling planned for late this year or
early next year.
As well, a cuvée is being laid down for a
sparkling wine. Maverick’s young vineyard, on the hillside that rises west of
the highway, will be harvested exclusively for sparkling wine this year.
A second vineyard near Osoyoos will be
planted next year. Bertus is considering planting, among other varieties, Pinot
Gris and Chenin Blanc. The latter varietal, too rare in the Okanagan, is a
leading white in South
How the South Africans involved in this
winery got to the Okanagan is quite a journey. The following is Maverick’s
profile in the current edition of John
Schreiner’s Okanagan Wine Tour Guide.
Photo below: Schalk de Witt
The origins of this winery go back to
Uniondale, a small agriculture town in South Africa, and the friendship
between the town’s bank manager and its doctor. Schalk De Witt, the doctor, has
a daughter, Elzaan. One of her playmates when she was five was Bertus Albertyn,
the bank manager’s seven-year-old son. She also got a medical degree, at Stellenbosch University,
after her father moved to Canada
in 1990. Meanwhile, Bertus became a winemaker. They met again during a De Witt
family vacation in South
Africa, fell in love and married.
Meanwhile, Schalk (rhymes with skulk) had
invested in two Okanagan properties for vineyard. Having a winemaker in the
family triggered the launch of Maverick. “When Bertus came into the picture,
obviously, that was the way to go,” Schalk says. “There is more profit in
making wine than in selling grapes.”
A 1976 medical graduate from Stellenbosch University,
Schalk brought his family to Canada
because they feared civil war in apartheid South Africa. He drove through the
southern Okanagan on the way to a locum’s posting in Castlegar and was
immediately attracted. “Even the natural vegetation—the sagebrush and the
antelope brush—reminded me of the drier areas of South Africa,” he says. Toward the
end of a long career in general practice in Alberta, he began searching for property. In
2006 he purchased 19.4 hectares (48 acres) of raw land adjacent to the Osoyoos
Larose vineyard near Osoyoos. Three years later, he purchased a former organic
farm beside the highway and tapped his son-in-law’s expertise to plant three
hectares (7 ½ acres) of vines in 2011.
When Bertus, born in 1978, finished his
enology degree at Stellenbosch
University, he started at
a large wine cooperative before joining Avondale Estate in 1994 as winemaker.
He came to the Okanagan early in 2009 because Elzaan was establishing her
practice in Osoyoos and he became Burrowing Owl Winery’s winemaker that
October. Since Maverick plans to make 2,500 cases a year at most, Bertus
continues his career at the larger winery. He made only about 500 cases in
total for Maverick in 2011.
The Highway 97 vineyard is planted to
Pinot Noir, Shiraz,
Sauvignon Blanc and a little Chardonnay. The other property, which has just
enough water to support six hectares (15 acres) of vines, will be planted in
2012 with similar varieties. “Personally, I prefer the Burgundian and Rhône
varieties,” explains Bertus, who plans to include sparkling wines in the
Here are notes on the wines being released.
Prices are approximate.
2011 ($16). This is approximately 80%
Gewürztraminer and 20% Sauvignon Blanc, making for an interesting blend. The
Gewürztraminer contributes flavours of tropical fruits while the Sauvignon
Blanc adds lime and a backbone of fresh acidity. The zesty, dry finish includes
a spicy Muscat
note, reflecting the Gewürztraminer. 90.
Blanc 2011 ($18). This flinty Sancerre style
Sauvignon Blanc, some of it barrel-fermented, shows the grassy/nettles aromas
and flavours of the varietal, with a crisply dry finish. The structure suggests
that this might be an age-worthy white (two or three years), in contrast to the
floral New Zealand
Gris 2011 ($19). Bertus had never made Pinot Gris
in South Africa.
Here, it is the Okanagan’s number one white, as well as a flagship wine at
Burrowing Owl. Gold in hue, this wine has aromas of pears and apricots, and
delivers flavours of citrus along with stone fruit. The wine has a dry,
lingering finish. 90.
2011 ($24). This wine, still in the oak vat in
which it was fermented, is not yet bottled and likely will not be released
until 2012. It is a blend of 65% Shiraz
and 35% Cabernet Sauvignon. It is a bold wine, with pepper on the aroma and the
palate, along with flavours of black cherry and chocolate. 90.