Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Class of 2012 – Maverick Estate Winery

Photo: Winemaker Bertus Albertyn

By mid-September, Maverick Estate Winery, a new producer on Highway 97 between Oliver and Osoyoos, will release its first wines.

Ho hum, you say! Another new Okanagan winery.

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 blends.

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 Africa.

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 Maverick portfolio.


Here are notes on the wines being released. Prices are approximate.

Origin 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.

Sauvignon 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 style. 90.

Pinot 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.

Rubicon 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.

29686 Highway 97
Oliver, BC V0H 1T0
T 250.495.4595


At September 26, 2012 at 9:54 AM , Blogger Jyl Chegwin said...

Looking forward to tasting Maverick Wines. Congratulations Bertus.

At November 28, 2012 at 7:09 PM , Blogger Cheryl Norstrom said...

I had the pleasure of having my first glass of Maverick wine this summer! It was amazing! I can't wait to come visit for another glass in the new wine tasting room in the Spring of 2013! Congratulations!

At November 28, 2012 at 7:10 PM , Blogger Cheryl Norstrom said...

I had the pleasure of having my first glass of Maverick wine this summer! It was amazing! I can't wait to come visit for another glass in the 'wine tasting room' in the Spring of 2013! Congratulations!


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